Definitions and Purpose

An epidemic (from Greek epi- upon + demos people) refers to new cases of a disease in a given human population, during a given period, at a rate that substantially exceeds what is expected. A pandemic is an outbreak that is global (from Greek pan all + demos people). Influenza is a common easily transmissible viral disease, usually characterized by fever, body aches and respiratory symptoms. It occurs in both seasonal epidemics and periodic pandemics. In the United States each year approximately 36,000 people die (half a million worldwide) as a result of seasonal influenza epidemics. Pandemics are usually more deadly. Since the 1500s, there have been three infleunza pandemics documented each century. Three pandemics occurred during the 20th Century, the most severe being the 1918 "Spanish Flu", causing 500,000 deaths in the United States and 20-50 million worldwide. Most infectious disease experts and virologists feel that another influenza pandemic is inevitable. No one, however, can accurately predict or give meaningful odds as to when such an event will occur or how severe it will be. Like earthquakes and hurricanes, informed opinion is nearly unanimous that pandemics will contine to occur. Unlike an earthquake or hurricane, which is a one time event with a reasonably well-defined aftermath, pandemics characteristically continue to wreak havoc for months at a time.

The purpose of this planning document is to describe the Department of State's response to the next influenza pandemic, focusing primarily on measures to protect those U.S. Government employees and eligible family members who are beneficiaries of the Department's Medical Program. Emphasis is placed on mitigation of disease and continuity of operations.

As for planning, "master blueprints" may have drawbacks. Effective crisis management requires flexibility and resilience and can be thwarted by overly rigid plans. The following plan will be an evolving document with several iterations. It is envisioned to be accessed primarly via the web. This document is designed to be a resource for leaders and responders who will need to meet, plan, think together about possible quandaries and pitfalls, intelligently allocate limited resources, and set up robust organizational structures. It will be important to reherse the crisis response outlined in this plan, intellectually and emotionally, to be better prepared for an actual event.

The Department of State Pandemic Influenza Plan is intended to be consistent with and a logical extension of The National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, particularly under the sections addressing sustaining infrastructure, ensuring continuity of operations at essential USG facilities abroad and appropriate protection of USG personnel and civilians in affected countries and regions. This plan is also intended to be consistent with and a logical extension of the 2005 HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan.