Friday, January 27, 2006

The Flu Pandemic and Health Coverage

The Flu Pandemic and Health Coverage - (This short essay is in reaction to this news item: ABC News: Now Sen. Clinton Battles Over Health Care COHOES, N.Y. Jan 26, 2006 — "Overhauling the nation's health care system might be the last suggestion you'd expect from Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the New York senator is talking up the issue again."

I believe that an important component in curbing a flu pandemic that few in our media are discussing is the role of our public health system will play. Senator Clinton’s program for overhauling our nation’s health care system is critical to making sure all of us have health coverage.

The media and our politicians continually talk about forced quarantines and flu vaccine, but I don’t believe either will help much in a world-wide flu pandemic, which most scientists believe is going to happen—again. A voluntary quarantine program will work better (some US cities are already planning this) and, because of the specific nature of people-to-people avian flu pandemic (where we won’t know the exact nature of the pandemic flu until it evolves to a fast-moving, people-to-people flu) a vaccine will probably do no good.

What will matter to head off a flu pandemic is a vast improvement in our nation’s health coverage, so that all are seeing a doctor. This is because a flu pandemic will spread from individual to individual very quickly and if everyone is getting health care there will be less chance of unhealthy people further spreading the flu. It’s simple: If you have large gaps in your community (as we have now) of individuals who have no health coverage, they are going to easily going to get the flu and go undetected until they’ve passed the flu along to another.

It’s so tiresome to see the media heap upon Senator Clinton the failure of her previous attempts to convince Americans to have full coverage—and somehow blame her for American’s to get it. I believe that a comprehensive, world-wide network of health coverage is the only way to stave off a flu pandemic. Putting boots on the ground (as Bush suggests) for mandatory quarantines and throwing billions of dollars for a flu vaccine that cannot possible stop the flu before it has mutated into its virulent form is just not going to work.

Making sure that everyone has health coverage so early detection and health care are possible should be an important aspect of the pandemic debate—but we don’t hear that message at all in our media, nor from our politicians.