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Non-Polio Enterovirus: Emergency Management-Mitigation

Event: Non-Polio Enterovirus

The United States officials in the ministry of health are struggling to cope with the spread of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), which affects the respiratory organs. The government reported the virus for the first time in mid August 2014 and it has affected slightly over one-thousand people to date in at least forty-seven states, including the District of Colombia. The effects of the disease were less serious in the past one month, but the spread is expected to continue for a few more months, with a number of states reporting that the illnesses resulting from the infection are severe.

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The government has reported other seasonal respiratory viruses, including influenza and syncytial virus, which makes it difficult for officials to diagnose EV-D68 virus. The infectious virus is not new in various states, as it always causes illnesses in children yearly. The variety of the virus detected this year was EV-D68 and is hazardous as compared to other types because it causes an infection, especially to children suffering from asthma. CDC is overwhelmed with the specimens received from various parts of the country for testing because of the large outbreak of the virus and the effects it has on children. In this regard, the organization considers investigating the samples from patients with serious respiratory conditions.

The agency has so far tested close to 2500 samples and the results indicate that close to forty percent suffer from diseases linked to the virus while a third of the sample tested positive for other anterovirus other than EV-D68.

The state agency charged with the role of mitigating disasters related to human health is doing everything under its control to resolve the problem. For instance, it has continuously gathered data related to the virus from various states in order to assess and understand the situation better. The aim is to establish the prevalence of EV-D68 in these states and determine the illness it brings. The organization is working with concerned stakeholders to diagnose the virus through capacity building to ensure it identifies and investigates the outbreak appropriately.

Since the virus is manifesting itself in different forms, the agency aspires to offer important information to healthcare experts, policymakers, members of the public and related stakeholders through weekly reports, alerts, websites, social media, podcasts, and presentations. On 14 October 2014, CDC set up an additional laboratory mandated with the role of testing and detecting the virus faster. Members of the public do not have to wait for long to know whether their loved ones are victims because the agency has a real-time lab that offers instantly results upon provision of samples.

Improving on the Situation

Lessons Learned

The ability of any organization or agency to address a disaster depends on the availability of resources, both human and capital and the support it receives from members of the public. Having adequate information about an epidemic is the first step towards handling it and any piece of data is analyzed to gain a deeper understanding. CDC has enough data at its disposal regarding the emergency of the new type of Enterovirus infection. Additionally, the agency boasts of sufficient resources given the fact the government allocates sufficient capital to the ministry, which allows it to recruit the best workers. However, it has failed to deal with the problem sufficiently given the fact the problem recurs yearly and adequate solution has not been found.

In terms of preparedness, the organization is well off, but a major problem exists when it comes to mitigation because the strategies employed have failed to bear fruits. CDC should consider diversifying its mitigation strategies to ensure the virus does not interfere with the normal living of many Americans. Preparing a mitigation plan to deal with the Enterovirus infection is a challenge to the agency in charge, the government, and the local authorities, including community-based organizations.

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The government, through the agency, insists on the application of the scientific methods, which have failed to resolve the problem. Experts tend to suggest some of the strategies that are inconsistent with the civil liberties meaning they infringe on the rights of the individual. While some of these strategies have worked magnificently, a number of them have failed, which suggests an individual should sacrifice that personal rights and freedoms, especially those related to privacy, security, and secrecy whenever his or her health is at risk.

The government agencies have failed to apply the radical measures because they lack legal support, which suggests enactment of a special health law to give the state powers to employ any available strategy to prevent the spread of an epidemic. One of the lessons learned from previous handlings of the epidemics is that the concerned authorities fail to provide adequate information in time to prevent public anxiety (Gostin, & Powers, 2006). Additionally, CDC has never applied a strategy outside the ones suggested under the law, something that has to change in the future to prevent loss of life.

Recommendations

Medical countermeasure where children are vaccinated is just one of the mitigation strategies that the agency should consider applying. Industrialized states put much emphasis on scientific solutions and vaccination is one of them because it is known to reduce morbidity and mortality rates of any disease. Unfortunately, production of important drugs in the country is strongly in the hands of the private sector and forcing them to generate drugs to help in countering the disease is against the principle of free market economy where demand influences supply. The agency does not have a single vaccine that controls the spread of the virus to unaffected people because several factors influence supply, such as intellectual property, regulatory obstacles, insufficient market motivators, restricted manufacturing power, and fear of responsibility among manufacturers.

CDC has an option of embracing public health countermeasures because of the shortfalls of medical countermeasures. The agency should carry out surveillance of the virus and develop campaign slogans to encourage members of the public to maintain high standards of hygiene. It can as well employ restrictive interventions when the problem persists, including separating the affected from the healthy individuals, imposing travelling bans to the most affected, instituting quarantines, and isolating the sick.

Even though the public health measures might not work effectively in eliminating the virulent disease, they are likely to slow it down. Utilizing these strategies is productive because they allow public health officials and other concerned parties to establish the medical solutions in the sense that they reduce the rate of spread. However, application of these measures is a challenge to the ministry officials because of the ethical and legal concerns they raise in society. Public health surveillance is the first step towards eradicating any pandemic. This entails collecting crucial data that help in understanding the possible threats of the virus, offering early-warning signs, defining transmission features, and prevalence of the virus (Bioterrorism, 2002).

Some of the strategies employed under this mitigation technique include swift analysis of results, testing of the samples from members of the public, reporting of the virus, case administration treatment, contact examination, and supervision of the new cases. Unfortunately, surveillance entails extracting health related data from patients, visitors, tourists, and vulnerable groups, which poses a threat to personal security and privacy. The law gives an individual the right to uphold personal information and whenever the government wishes to utilize such data, there is no need of hiding identity. However, the agency gives the names of the affected individuals during an outbreak, which predisposes the affected to prejudice and discrimination.

Respiratory infections are easily controlled through maintenance of high standards of hygiene. Children are to be encouraged to wash their hands frequently, disinfecting the playgrounds, using protective equipment, including masks, scarf, eye protectors, and general respiratory hygiene. CDC has to inform the public on all available hygienic measures is important, as well as offering accurate data pertaining to the effectiveness of intervention strategies.

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When CDC reported the epidemic in August, the public lacked information on what to do upon suspecting the virus. Unfortunately, a few people had no data on the symptoms and signs of the illness hence causing panic and anxiety. Some parents went for expensive, but ineffective medication before they were worried of the safety of their children given the fact they relied on the scanty information provided by word of mouth. The issue of distributive justice becomes an issue whenever the respective agency fails to provide information in time since ineffective and imprecise messages have greater impacts on the less fortunate, as they have no alternative sources of information.

The issue of health is personal meaning each person has to make a decision facilitated through provision of accurate information. The messages should be comprehensible, straightforward, unexciting, and reassuring as much as possible. Through experience, the agency should find a mitigation strategy aimed at decreasing social mixing and in the same time, increasing social distance because it is effective in managing the spread of a deadly virus.

Therefore, CDC has an opportunity of applying a similar tactic by liaising with school boards and the ministry of education to close schools indefinitely to bring the situation under control. Similarly, the community should consider reducing significantly interactions in public places, such as childcare institutions, places of work, sports grounds, arts centers, and shopping malls, to contain the influence of the virus (Bayer, & Fairchild, 2002).

Conclusion

Non-Polio Enterovirus infection is a major disaster that has been affecting the United States for several years, but a clear solution is yet to be found. The government has gone a step further to establish an agency that monitors and assesses the situation upon reporting the virus. However, the mitigation strategies that the agency employs are ineffective because they fail to prevent the infection from harming children, especially those living with asthmatic conditions. This paper suggests that closure of public places, including schools and childcare institutions, adopting public health countermeasures, such as surveillance, and applying medical countermeasures, which entail vaccinations, would help resolve the persistent problem in the country.

References

Bayer, R., & Fairchild, A. (2002). The limits of privacy: Surveillance and the control of disease. Healthcare Analysis, 10(1), 19–35.

Bioterrorism, A. (2002). Public, health, and civil liberties. New England Journal of Medicine, 346(17), 1337–1342.

Gostin, L.O., & Powers, M. (2006). What does justice require for the public’s health? Public health ethics and policy imperatives of social justice. Health Affairs, 25(4), 1053–1060.

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