The year is 2025.
Some American travelers returning from Asia die of an unknown, influenza-like illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that the victims were infected with SPARS-CoV, a novel coronavirus.
Nothing is known about this novel coronavirus. There is no rapid diagnostic test. There are no known remedies. And there is no vaccine.
This long-ago sparse outbreak does not spread to a global epidemic.
The CDC finds that spores are transmitted through respiratory droplets and recommends that everyone practice hand hygiene and often disinfected surfaces. Experts suggest that spores have a long incubation period – 7 to 10 days – and can be spread by asymptomatic carriers. Pregnant women and those with underlying conditions such as asthma and emphysema are at a higher risk for complications and death. The WHO begins recommending the separation of social disturbances and suspected cases.
There is hope that the current antiviral drug may help in the treatment of spores, but there have been no randomized controlled trials. The US Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency use authority for this drug to treat SPARS patients. Soon, there is high public demand for the drug and millions of doses are extracted from the Strategic National Stockpile. However, it soon becomes clear that the drug can Cause of serious side effects.
Things become political. Republicans voiced their support of the drug, while Democrats express skepticism. America is more divided and more connected than ever. Rumors and misinformation about the virus and possible treatments are circulated on social media. The economy suffers a setback as the epidemic breaks out. Within a year, the review of a potential vaccine is expedited and tens of millions of doses are promised within a few months. But who among the 125 million people living in America will get the vaccine first?
Communication in the time of Kovid-19
Reading the sparse epidemic scenario is like reading an account of the Kovid-19 epidemic. But the scenario was not an attempt to predict the future. Rather, it was meant to illustrate a wide range of serious challenges that public health communicators may face. The expectation was that by working through these challenges as part of a training exercise, federal, state, and local agencies would be well prepared to respond to similar scenarios in the future.
That future is now. But the many disadvantages of public health mean that teaching equipment is ready to play before our eyes.
And the latter confusion has consequences.
Take Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones for example. Jones has decided not to implement the state-wide facade mandate of Ohio Governor Mike Dwain, released on July 23 – a decision that could cost a life.
“Every week they change how you can hold it, how you can’t. First is to wear a mask, then not to wear a mask. Then a certain type of mask. And how it spreads. It’s on a surface. Is, then. [can] Stay in the air for 10 days. People are confused. I’m confused, ”Jones told CNN’s Briana Keiller in late July.
When emerging medical insights into this epidemic are not clearly communicated, community leaders such as Jones ignore life-saving recommendations.
Public Health Seattle and King County risk communication specialist Drs. Meredith Lee-Vollmer says that with increasing scientific understanding, it is natural for public health recommendations to change over time. But when new information is not clearly communicated, it can destroy public confidence.
“You’re dealing with something that’s unknown and where the information is changing so fast,” Lee-Volmer told CNN. “All experts have to learn when this happens.” He said he needed to say.
“It was really important to let people know that we are still learning.”
Need to invest in preparations
The head of the SPARS pandemic landscape project team at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Safety, Drs. The role of public health communication is often taken for granted, said Monica Shook-Spana. He told CNN that “communication work in public health is usually seen as an adjunct to the ‘actual’ work of the outbreak.”
“Thus, those responsible for public communication and community engagement often struggle to be recognized for the essential role in mitigating the adverse effects of a disease outbreak, including illness and death, but at the same time stigma, trauma, public mistrust. And social fragmentation “stated.
Experts who wrote the sparse epidemic scenario may differ.
“Good resources exist for preparedness,” Scorch-Spana told CNN. “Reducing the Kovid-19 response by the US government, lacked leadership of good crisis at the top, dismissing pre-existing readiness and response expertise within key agencies and substituting science and long-term public health outcomes. Politics and short-term thinking . “
Federal deputation of public health preparedness and response has made it difficult for public health communicators to carry out their important work; Reduced federal funds have jeopardized access to key preparedness resources, like the sparse epidemic scenario.
In 2008, Lee-Vollmer and his team had the money to participate in a week-long pandemic flu training exercise. He received critical practice building field hospitals, established media briefings and responded as if an epidemic was actually occurring.
They also laid the foundation for important relationships with other health departments, when they relied on an actual pandemic flu only a year later.
“When the H1N1 pandemic occurred – it happened a year after that week-long practice – and it really felt like: well, we know what to do,” Lee-Volmer said. “We felt very well prepared because we actually physically went through its footsteps. But there was the ability to do big exercises like that — funding went away a few years ago.”
Lee-Vollmer says his team of emergency experts has been cut by more than half since the H1N1 pandemic, and the lack of federal funds has reduced his county health department’s ability to access critical training resources .
He is grateful that he had the opportunity to work through the SPARS epidemic scenario a year before the onset of this current pandemic. Her county health department experienced the first Kovid-19 case in the US – and the first Kovid-19 death.
Reflecting on what he has learned during this pandemic, Lee-Vollmer says that he has only asked for more federal funding, so that his team has training exercises like the SPARS pandemic scenario. To get access to.
There are countless lessons to be learned from the real world Kovid-19 epidemic. Is among them Importance of remaining vigilanceT Public health preparedness also seems like a distant, imaginary possibility when the threat of an epidemic.
“Emerging infections will continue for a long time until we’re all gone, Fauci said.” So let’s prepare for them. “