Jun 2, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – The global novel H1N1 influenza situation is drawing closer to the status of a true pandemic but is not there yet, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) lead spokesman on the issue said today.”Globally we believe we’re in phase 5 but are getting closer to phase 6,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO assistant director-general for health security and the environment, referring to the WHO’s pandemic alert phases.By the WHO definition, phase 5 means a novel virus is causing sustained community outbreaks in more than one country within one WHO region, in this case the Americas. Phase 6 signals a full pandemic, defined as a novel virus spreading widely in more than one global region. The phases as currently defined do not say anything about the severity of the disease, only its geographic extent.Speaking at a news briefing, Fukuda also said the WHO will come up with ways to describe the severity of the epidemic and provide related guidance so that governments will have more information on how to respond to the situation.Last week, after a number of countries voiced concern that a pandemic declaration would cause undue alarm and disruption in the context of a generally mild disease, Fukuda said the WHO would consider modifying its phase definitions. Today, in the wake of a teleconference with experts yesterday, he signaled that the WHO will stick with the current definitions, but promised the agency would supplement them by finding a way to describe the severity of the disease threat.Transitional countriesFukuda said several countries outside North America, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Chile, and Australia, seem to be moving from having limited H1N1 outbreaks related to travelers and institutions to having widespread community transmission.”However, we still are waiting for evidence of really widespread community activity in these countries, so I think it’s fair to say that they are in transition and are not quite there yet,” he said.He contrasted those countries with the United States, Mexico, and Canada, where the virus is widespread, and most other countries, where cases are limited and mostly linked to travel or to institutional outbreaks.As of today, the WHO has confirmations of 18,365 novel H1N1 cases in 64 countries, with 117 deaths, Fukuda reported. He said the WHO now plans to update its online H1N1 case count on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, instead of 5 days a week.Offering a kind of one-word descriptor that the WHO has generally avoided, he said, “It’s probably fair to call the situation moderate right now. We have some hesitation in calling it mild, for a couple of reasons.”One reason is that while the number of serious and fatal cases appears relatively low, the WHO doesn’t know the true proportion of severe cases, he said. Another reason is that the infection can be fatal in some people, including those with underlying medical problems, pregnant women, and even some who were previously healthy.Creating a severity scaleThe WHO’s decision to assess severity but not change the pandemic phase definitions comes out of a series of telephone consultations yesterday with about 30 experts from 23 countries, Fukuda reported.He said the discussions were fruitful and produced consensus in a number of areas: “The experts urged WHO to continue to use geographic spread as the basis for moving to phase 6, but also said WHO should modify this movement with an assessment of severity, and WHO should provide more tailored guidance to countries, responding to the severity.”Much of the discussion focused on how to assess severity, which has to do not only with the virulence of the virus but also with the vulnerability and resilience of populations, which are likely to vary from country to country, he said.The WHO may come up with something like a 3-point severity scale, Fukuda said. The agency hopes to develop a general severity assessment that will be useful to all countries but link it with detailed guidance to help local authorities assess their own situation and respond appropriately.”One of the things we hope to do is reduce some of the more drastic actions that may be uncalled for, but also provide guidance to countries regarding what steps they can take,” he added. He cited embargoes on pork and the slaughter of pigs, measures used by some countries in the early stages of the epidemic, as examples of uncalled-for actions.In other comments, Fukuda said the novel virus seems to be behaving pretty much the same in the southern hemisphere as it has in the northern hemisphere. In Chile and Australia, for example, most cases have been mild, but some severe cases with respiratory failure have occurred, just as in North America.”Overall, what we’re seeing in the first few countries in the southern hemisphere is similar to what we’re seeing in the northern hemisphere,” he said.He also reported that most of the flu viruses identified recently in Chile have been the novel H1N1 rather than the seasonal flu viruses that normally show up at this time of year.See also: May 26 CIDRAP News story “WHO may redefine pandemic alert phases”
WRBI Area Boys Basketball Scores (2-21)Batesville 63 Jennings County 50South Ripley 59 Rising Sun 51Indy Attucks 97 Milan 65Franklin County 40 Connersville 39Switzerland County 50 Jac-Cen-Del 39Lawrenceburg 75 South Dearborn 37Trinity Lutheran 68 Oldenburg Academy 63Edinburgh 74 South Decatur 59Rushville 74 Greenfield-Central 60Rock Creek Academy 89 Shawe Memorial 41Knightstown 49 Waldron 34Eastern Hancock 51 Morristown 42
In case you missed it, Broward County issued a emergency order late last week requiring people to wear face coverings while on their own property. Guests must do the same.Yes, you read that correctly.Last Friday, county officials issued emergency order 20-22.Section 4A of the document states that residents of single or multi-family homes must enforce mask mandates on their property at all times, including when they have guests over.The clause itself states:Section 4. Responsibility to Ensure Compliance with Applicable Orders. A. Residential Property Residents. All persons who reside on any residential property, whether single family or multi-family, and irrespective of whether they own or rent the property, must ensure that all persons on the residential property, including guests, comply with all applicable guidelines of any Broward County Emergency Order, including the facial covering requirements. Residents who fail to ensure compliance with all applicable Broward County Emergency Orders by such persons shall be subject to the penalties set forth in Section 8-56 of the Broward County Code of Ordinances, with each person present and in violation of an applicable Emergency Order constituting a separate violation.However, Fort Lauderdale resident Chris Nelson is having none of it.Nelson, who is behind the group “ReOpen South Florida,” plans to sue the county over the requirement, which he says is unconstitutional.“What this is saying is the property owner is responsible for telling everybody, any person on that property, including family plus guests, that they have to wear a mask,” Nelson said. “So basically, if I want to have anybody come over to my house, I have to ensure they wear a mask and if I don’t and my neighbor suspects I’m not and calls the cops, I’m subject to a legal fine for not making people in my own house wear a mask. This steps way over the line.”He staged a protest against the county’s beach closures on the 4th of July, and was arrested last week at a Broward County news conference. Officials say Nelson was yelling that he felt the new curfew, face covering mandate, and other actions are an intrusion on citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.Police ordered him to leave, claiming that he was causing a disturbance. Nelson refused to leave at first, but complied when the officer ordered him to place his hands behind his back.Residents who do not follow the mask mandate are “individually liable and subject to civil and criminal penalties” and “each person present in violation of Broward County Emergency Orders constitutes a separate violation subject to a $1,000 fine,” according to a Broward County FAQ page.Nelson goes on to say that Broward County’s order violates constitutional Fourth Amendment rights that protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. He adds that it also violates the right to privacy in peoples’ homes.“They have gone so overboard with violating the Fourth Amendment,” Nelson says. “The Constitution is still in play, even though people act like it’s not. How do they plan to enforce this without breaking the Fourth Amendment?”Rep. Anthony Sabatini plans to file the lawsuit against the county’s order this week and will represent Nelson’s cause.“I just think it’s a blatant violation of due process,” according to Sabatini. “People have a substantive right of association and reasonable expectation of privacy. This is a radical step in the wrong direction.”He believes the ordinance would allow a suspicious neighbor to call the police on anyone they suspect has more than 10 people inside their home without masks, and could give police probable cause to get a search warrant.“It’s such an invasion of privacy,” he says. “The classic case law in privacy is you have the legitimate expectation of privacy inside your own home.”The suit is the latest example of pushback against local governments’ efforts to stop or slow the spread of the coronavirus, as the state continues to report an increase in cases and deaths. Miami-Dade continues to lead the state in both categories, while Broward has the second-highest number of cases and Palm Beach County is second in terms of fatalities.