HHS Seeks Comment on Pandemic Guidances

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is requesting comments from the public and interested stakeholders on three draft guidances: Interim Guidance on the Use and Purchase of Facemasks and Respirators by Individuals and Families for Pandemic Influenza Preparedness; Proposed Guidance on Antiviral Drug Use During an Influenza Pandemic; and Proposed Considerations for Antiviral Drug Stockpiling by Employers In Preparation for an Influenza Pandemic.

Influenza viruses have threatened the health of animal and human populations for centuries, HHS said. A pandemic occurs when a novel strain of influenza virus emerges that has the ability to infect and be easily passed between humans. Because humans have little immunity to the new virus, many people may become ill and a worldwide epidemic, or pandemic, can ensue.

Three human influenza pandemics occurred in the 20th century. In the United States each pandemic led to illness in approximately 30 percent of the population and death in between 2 in 100 and 2 in 1000 of those infected. It is projected that based on this historical experience and given the current United States population, a pandemic today, absent effective control measures, could result in the deaths of 200,000 to 2 million people.

HHS has developed a comprehensive strategy to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic, including:

  • developing and acquiring vaccine and antivirals to prevent and treat illness, planning for use of measures to reduce the spread of the disease by asking ill persons to stay home
  • voluntary quarantine of household members who live with an ill person, closure of child care facilities and dismissal of students from schools
  • decreasing the frequency and duration of close contact among people to slow transmission of infection (social distancing)
  • recommending hygiene measures
  • advising the use of personal protective equipment in certain situations.

For view these guidances, go to http://aspe.hhs.gov/panflu/antiviral-n-masks.shtml.

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