Pandemic Influenza and Other Public Health Emergencies
Preparing the Justice System for a Pandemic Influenza and Other Public Health Emergencies
The President, in the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, communicated that "A new strain of influenza virus has been found in birds in Asia, and has shown that it can infect humans. If this virus undergoes further change, it could very well result in the next human pandemic." Among the key aspects of the President's strategy is preparing for a multilevel response by federal, state, and local governments. This preparation will help ensure that the rule of law is upheld and maintained throughout any crisis, whether natural or manmade. A pandemic, with elements of continued crisis and contagion, would present critical challenges to America's law enforcement, courts, and corrections systems.
Local communities and their justice and public safety systems that serve them must be prepared for the possibility of a pandemic influenza, whether it be the H5N1 avian influenza or another natural or manmade public health crisis, including acts of bioterrorism where infectious agents can wreak havoc for extended periods of time. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stated that while HHS is the lead federal agency in responding to the health threat posed by H5N1, states and local communities must be prepared to bear a large portion of the responsibility for local planning and response. HHS estimates that a pandemic would likely come in waves of 6-8 weeks in duration, leading to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss. HHS Secretary Leavitt has testified that thousands of communities may experience the influenza at any one time. Major disruption of infrastructure and economy can be predicted, with many businesses and organizations seeing as much as a 30% or higher absentee rate for staff who cannot report to work due to illness, illness of a loved one, or out of concern for their own safety.
For more information on the pandemic concerns, visit www.PandemicFlu.gov.