Avian flu, also known as bird flu, is a type of flu which affects wild birds and is caused by naturally occurring influenza viruses. There are about fifteen different subtypes of avian influenza viruses, but the H5N1 subtype has raised a lot of concern due to its ability to mutate quickly and a tendency to obtain new genes from other viruses that infect different animal species. There have been severe avian flu outbreaks affecting domestic poultry and wild birds mainly in Asia and some parts of the Middle East. Humans are not usually infected by the H5N1 virus, but infection could occur when one comes into contact with infected poultry. About 600 cases of human infection have been recorded since 2003 worldwide, with 60% of these cases leading to death. Though there are few known cases of transmission from one individual to another, there are concerns that the H5N1 virus could mutate into new virus strain that could result in a deadly influenza pandemic (Dowell et al., 2005).
The epidemic control steps I would recommend during phase 5 of an avian flu pandemic alert period include community containment, use of personal protective measures, vaccination of individuals who face an increased exposure risk, and the use of antiviral drugs by targeted populations that are already infected. The use of antiviral drugs by the infected populations would be very important in order to limit the localized clusters of H5N1 influenza infection (Bardiya & Bae, 2005). Community containment, use of personal protective measures, and vaccination of individuals who face an increased exposure risk would be preventive measures aimed at reducing the risk of transmission to uninfected persons, especially those in close contact with already infected persons.
The law plays an important role in dealing with problems arising from various public health issues that may affect the society. The aspect of law arises especially in a pandemic outbreak because of the need to balance individual rights and containment requirements followed during such pandemic outbreaks. The legal authorities I would include in my plan include state and local legal counsels, law enforcement officers, and healthcare attorneys involved in the state. These legal representatives are important in offering advice on how to initiate and carry out community containment and social distancing programs in different areas of the state (Georgia Department of Public Health, 2006). This is very important as it will assist in addressing issues concerned with one’s freedoms that are curtailed in order to prevent transmissions of the flu.
Factors that would determine the success of this plan would be the timely implementation of the primary non-pharmaceutical intervention involving community containment, the use of personal protective measures, immediate use of antiviral treatment of the infected population, and effective use of surveillance and monitoring systems to ensure there is no spread of the infection from the already identified infected clusters. The effective and timely use of this plan will help in preventing a progress of the pandemic into phase 6. This is because this plan addresses all major possible means of human-to-human and contact transmission of the flu to uninfected persons. Community containment, use of personal protective measures, vaccination, and the immediate use of antiviral treatment of the infected population ensure that all identified infected peoplw are treated while those faced with exposure risk are protected from infection (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007).
I think the government’s plan has adequately addressed the major issues that would arise during an avian flu pandemic. It has adhered to the World Health Organization’s guidelines for controlling an influenza pandemic. The plan has used varied mitigation measures ensuring that adequate influenza surveillance is carried out to detect an influenza outbreak and take various preventive and curative measures that address cases of infection arising during pandemic.