July 22nd, 2006

krazy koati

And when I awoke, I was alone

Singapore is holding another preparedness drill, a two-day exercise practicing response to a flu pandemic. The first day of Exercise Sparrowhawk II tests the ``orange'' level of the Disease Outbreak Response System. At this level the virus is ``increasingly better adapted to humans but may not yet be fully transmissible'', with ``larger clusters appear[ing] in one or two places outside Singapore but a pandemic has not yet been declared. A cluster of cases may also occur in Singapore but human-to-human spread remains localized.'' The response includes temperature screenings at Singapore's entry points, at schools and hospitals, and encouraging temperature-taking at workplaces. Among the participants at one of the schools are several students who had simulated fevers, with the intention that they'd drill schools in health screenings. Part of the exercise is that students rest during recess periods, rather than playing.

They did much the same for the SARS outbreak in 2003. I still have a few ``Singapore's Cool'' stickers showing I passed a screening point, because I would take them off and put them on any convenient surface, and one of them was the door to my laundry room. Between the SARS and exercise screenings somebody must be gathering abroad set of normal population temperature readings; it seems like there ought to be something that could be done with that data, but I can't think of what, except checking whether normal temperature here really is normal. I noticed in the hygiene recommendations they're now suggesting washing hands before and after meals.

Tomorrow the simulated threat level rises to ``red''. At Red, the World Health Organization ``declares that an influenza pandemic has begun. Singapore eventually also affected ... Strategy [sic] is to mitigate the impact of the pandemic''. There are widespread infections, and ``essential services need protection''. It forces the closing of schools (thus its Saturday schedule) and limiting of public gatherings. They're not testing plans for threat level ``black'', a pandemic completely out of control, with widespread death and breakdown of social structures under the crush of the pandemic. I am curious what plan they have in mind for it, and how they test it.

Trivia: During the 1348-49 wave of the Black Death, Florentine historian Giovanni Villani died with an unfinished sentence, translated, ``... in the midst of this pestilence there came to an end ... ''. Source: A Distant Mirror, Barbara W Tuchman.

Currently Reading: An Empire of Wealth, John Steele Gordon.