Policy Spotlight: Pandemic Flu Response Plan

gas mask

Twin Oaks policy is an interesting beast to study.  Written and revised bit by bit over the past 45 years by all different community members to serve many different purposes, our policy binder is currently a mammoth 290 pages long and is full of wonderful gems. Being excited about reading Stephen King’s The Stand, I decided to kick off the Policy Spotlight series with our plan for avoiding total annihilation in the case of pandemic flu.

Flu Pandemic Response Plan (2009) Planners 9/24/09 (originally posted 5/1/09)

The planners developed a pandemic response plan with help from a CDC report (http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/community/community_mitigation.pdf). The purpose of this plan is not to isolate Twin Oaks completely from hypothetical threats, since we such measures can have serious economic, health, and personal consequences for members of the community. Also, any attempt at isolation is likely to result in requests for exceptions, putting the planners or the health team in the position of having to judge the relative merits of each case. Rather, we intend to respond based on the severity of the pandemic, and focus on keeping individual members healthy when one or more of our members gets sick. Below is our plan.

Flu Symptoms & Transmission
Symptoms of the flu usually include fever, muscle aches,  sore throat, sneezing and/or cough. Occasionally they also include vomiting or diarrhea. A person with the flu is probably contagious when they are experiencing symptoms (especially fever), up to 7 days after onset of symptoms, and about 1 day before onset of symptoms. The incubation period is typically 24 to 48 hours. Some people experience such mild cases of the flu that they never know they are sick or contagious. It is believed that flu is primarily spread through sneezing and coughing, and through touching infected people or surfaces and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

Pre-pandemic plans
Early in a potential pandemic (up through WHO Phase 5), the health team, or other relevant team, will ensure that the community has an adequate supply of common sense supplies to help reduce infection rates, treat infections, and weather a disruption in services should the pandemic become severe. This could include replenishing our stock of face masks, hand sanitizers, medications, health supplies, nonperishable foods, etc. All members will be encouraged to pay extra attention to their hygiene, washing their hands frequently with soap (especially before meals) and covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing (and then washing their hands immediately). All members will be supported in taking non-disruptive actions that help them feel protected from infection (wearing masks, etc). Members who experience flu-like symptoms should notify the health team and/ as soon as possible, and take measures to isolate themselves from other community members while they are sick. If they need it, they should seek medical care. If the strain of flu is showing potentially high mortality rates, then significant others or other people who have been in close contact with the sick person(s) will also be encouraged to isolate themselves, since they may be contagious without realizing it.

During a pre-pandemic situation, the pandemic response plan will be posted so that members will be aware of what measures might be taken in the future should the severity of the outbreak increase. Members will be encouraged to make arrangements that will ease the burden of potential canceling of the tripper system or grounding of vehicles should that become necessary.

Pandemic plans (low mortality)
If the WHO raises the alert level to Phase 6 (pandemic), but the severity of the strain is low (Low mortality; Category one or two on the US Pandemic Severity Index), precautions will be the same as at the pre-pandemic level except: Town trips (trippers) to areas that have high infection rates, or where the local governments have enacted measures to protect their citizens (such as closing schools, canceling events), may be canceled or restricted to medically necessary TORs only. Members wishing to travel to areas that have high infection rates outside of the tripper system (outside work, income areas, VE, or personal) would be encouraged to make only necessary trips, and to voluntarily isolate themselves (ie, staying away from ZK) for 24 to 48 hours after coming home. The food team will be asked to ensure a 12 week food supply. Members who develop flu symptoms will continue to notify the health team, who will be tasked with keeping the community informed and making arrangements for care of sick members, taking them for medical attention when necessary. Extra care will be taken to provide all bathrooms with hand sanitizers, and members will be strongly encouraged to make use of them.

Pandemic plans (high mortality)
If the WHO raises the alert level to Phase 6 (pandemic), and the severity of the strain is high (Medium to high mortality; Category three or above on the US Pandemic Severity Index), the community may take the following additional measures: Members, visitors or guests who develop flu-like symptoms will be taken for medical help as soon as practical. People with the flu may be gathered into one building (ie, Aurora) to facilitate containment and make it easier to care for them. Sick people may be asked to wear masks when uninfected caretakers are around. Caretakers will take extra precautions to avoid carrying the infection outside of the sick house, and will be encouraged to isolate themselves from unexposed members. Visitor periods may be canceled and guests asked not to come to Twin Oaks. Members returning to Twin Oaks from infected areas will be asked to voluntarily isolate themselves for one to two days, or delay their return. Meals at ZK may be canceled, and members asked to stay in their SLGs for meals. Offices and computers may be designated for essential business only. Parties, meetings and other social events may be canceled. Cities and towns where the rate of infection is high may be designated no-travel zones; Twin Oaks vehicles and members will not be permitted there, or may be asked not to return until after the pandemic has run its course. For very widespread infection, vehicles may be grounded except for medical necessity.