Tag Archives: pandemic

How nice to see the New York Times editorial supporting the Global Health Security Agenda and urging the United States Congress to authorize this bill.

A nasty, scary virus.

A nasty, scary virus.

It is important, yes.  There are reminders in the news and incident rates creeping up of neglected diseases as well as viruses most of us don’t know from our childhood, like measles and polio  — but that’s fodder for another blog.

Hugs and praise to the NYT for coming out in favor of investing in prevention of infectious diseases.  Yet I did read the editorial with a sinking feeling of frustration that it cast this Agenda with fear and catastrophe. In worst case scenarios harm from disease can grow to horrific proportions but the reality is slim. Not everyone is at risk and scaring people doesn’t work, or work to the degree that will make  us change our behaviors and practices to make a difference.

Show of hands: Who isn’t exercising enough or is still smoking ,though the public health experts have pounded us over the head with fear campaigns promising that we will die an ugly death if we don’t stop?  Yep, that’s what I thought. We persist, even though research shows that fear theory doesn’t work.

One of my good friends and respected colleagues said neglected tropical diseases lost the marketing battle with its name. It doesn’t instill confidence, does it?

Let’s change things starting with a positive preventative Agenda.  Let’s talk instead about the benefits and value of taking action before we need to go into response mode, rather than attempt to scare the masses. It isn’t correct or fair and, sadly, it misrepresents the benefits of an ounce of prevention.

Dee Bennett

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) created a terrific infographic on pandemic prevention and preparedness. I wanted to share it; we’ve tweeted it, but we need all the coverage we can get of this critical issue.  Click here for the full visual.


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I started working on pandemic threats in 2005 with the outbreak of H5N1 influenza virus (avian influenza) in Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I was a communication technical advisor on a USAID-funded project managed by AED.  We were juggling treatment (while not knowing WHAT the virus really was) and prevention. Much like the early days of HIV and AIDS, the response strategy of the groups involved was first to stop internal hemorrhaging, while tracking the disease epidemiology to reveal a prevention route.

It has only been nine years – a lifetime in the cycle of a virus – and since then there has been H1N1 2009 pandemic influenza…and now we’re watching H7.

Another RWJF’s NewPublicHealth blog on pandemic awareness lists “top five things you didn’t know could spread disease” including sweaty strivers crawling through mud and various obstacle courses in races like “Tough Mudder” — and an unvaccinated child  as the top risk, which seems obvious to those of us on the ground but is not apparent to a growing number of parents.

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But while the experts work to decode and prepare a response to H7, remember to wash your hands regularly, sneeze into your inner elbow, stay home when you’re sick, and follow hospital room behavior:  Any surface may be contaminated.

Thanks to RWJF for letting us remind you that another pandemic could happen, and that individual practices can reduce those odds dramatically.

— Dee Bennett