Be well. Practice big medicine.

Tachycardia with a hint of all-out gallop

HalProfile2009Mar22by Hal Newman

For whatever reason, the national media haven’t quite zero-zeroed in on the realities associated with H1N1, the vax, and high-risk groups. Certainly, the tone of local and regional coverage has shifted from cautionary optimism to creeping negativity.

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Whether the media gets it right or wrong at this point is unlikely to make a dent in the public perception of being at the heart of something wicked this way comes.

If you were to take a pulse of America right now, I believe you’d find it in tachycardia with a hint of all-out gallop as intense fear rides on the cusp of all-out panic.

The indicators for me arrive on the hour in the form of email queries from healthcare professionals, community leaders, and emergency management colleagues wanting to compare notes on what personal steps they can take to protect themselves and their loved ones from H1.

To further confuse and confound, there are mixed messages being sent by federal, state and county health officials to the public they serve, e.g. 1020 State officials understand and share frustration associated with H1N1 vax shortages [Massachusetts].

If you ever wonder how rumor generators get primed, read this piece out of North Dakota and imagine the news being transmitted on a national game of broken telephone: 1020 DoH recommends revax of some individuals against H1N1 [North Dakota].

With so many people with functional limitations [the vulnerable at the moment] mixed into the at-risk groups, this ongoing crisis represents a significant challenge for us all. How do we ensure a fully-inclusive response?

When I’ve tried discussing H1N1 with some of my colleagues, there has been tremendous pushback with an accusation of my ‘having given in to the hype.’ The claims of hype tend to fade as more people we know are affected by a nasty bit of influenza that has a habit of going hard after the very young.

Does H1N1 represent the perfect storm with an even more devastating legacy than that of Katrina? Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and still managed to impact an entire generation, create its own diaspora and continues to have a lingering effect on millions of people. Katrina had a beginning and is still looking for an end.

H1N1 is an ongoing evolving global crisis with nothing to link it to the episodic view we have for emergency management. And unlike all those other crises occurring out there – famine, civil war, genocide, malaria, HIV/AIDS – this one is affecting us right here in our homes. So H1N1 has our rapt attention and even with all eyes on the ‘prize’ we’re still unable to manage this ongoing emergency.

Sometimes it feels as if the professionals would rather not disturb the peace with discussions focused on what happens when the victims of emergencies or the emergencies themselves don’t act in ways predicted by the plan.

Were it only so easy if disasters had neither victims nor responders but only featured rulemakers who could wear funny hats.

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