Source: Minnesota Department of Health
Quick and continued action during a disease outbreak slows the speed at which the disease spreads and reduces the overall number of those who become ill. Employed during H1N1, these measures worked effectively to mitigate the pandemic.
Phases of Pandemic Intervention
As we prepare for the continued global spread it is helpful to think of a disease outbreak in phases.
National: This is used to prevent the disease entering the U.S. and is only practiced when a disease is geographically isolated. In this case, the Federal Government limited travel from China and screened all inbound travelers. Now that the disease is spreading in multiple countries, we need to expand our approach.
State and Local: When cases are identified, state public health officials work to isolate the patients in order to prevent spread to other individuals. Some states, those with identified cases, are in this phase. Other states, including Minnesota, will move to this phase as cases are identified.
- When our first case is identified we ensure the individual receives care and is isolated. We follow up on all contacts this individual had where transmission was likely. These contacts will be monitored and their movement may be restricted.
Once the disease is spreading in a community to people who are not known contacts, mitigation strategies are used to limit the exposure of community members.
- As always, we will ask ill people to stay at home. This public health recommendation is even more important in the setting of an outbreak of a new communicable disease. Measures that can be used to decrease and slow the spread of the virus in the community involve limiting pubic interactions. This is often referred to as social distancing. It may encompass closing schools, canceling large community events and gatherings, and asking meetings and faith services to be conducted virtually. Some or all of these measures may be used in particular geographic areas.
Once the disease is widespread throughout the state strategies focus on resource management.
- We will continue to encourage self-isolation, good hygiene (hand washing, covering your cough), and we will monitor for community clusters. Our focus moves to management and tracking of scarce resources. We work with health care providers to implement a “Crisis Standard of Care” framework. This framework includes everything from delaying elective surgeries to setting up emergency beds and rationing supplies. In a worse-case scenario this includes rationing of life saving equipment and dealing with mass fatalities.
- Annually, we practice pandemic management of seasonal influenza by encouraging self-isolation and hygiene, tracking cases and clusters and working with health care in monitoring hospital bed availability.
Our response is based upon the current situation or phase we are in. Simultaneously, we are planning for the next phases.