Effect Measure

i-b5ea4b0621040654e9bdfbab53362862-pfawdatepo0.jpgToday marks the second Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, launched by my colleagues over at The Flu Wiki. The good news is that in the year since the first effort to raise the awareness of the blogosphere, much has happened in the way of increased recognition of the pandemic threat. Communities around the world have started to plan for the possibility of a pandemic and the planning process will pay dividends. More good news is that a pandemic strain of H5N1, the leading candidate for a disastrous flu pandemic, has yet to come into the open. The bad news is that there is much, much more that needs to be done if we are to be even moderately prepared; and while no pandemic strain has yet emerged, the signals coming from the virus are louder, more insistent and more widespread than ever (see our recap here). This year has set a record for new human cases, the virus is geographically more widespread in poultry, and an unknown number of hosts, new and old, are harboring it.

The Flu Wiki itself is only 16 months old but has already established itself as a major presence in the world of internet information resources about avian influenza.

Flu Wiki has compiled information online at www.fluwikie.com. This website, assembled entirely by anonymous volunteers, has been hailed as “the best one-stop resource” by Harvard Business Review [Special Report, Preparing for a Pandemic, May 2006] and called the “Encyclopedia Influenzae” by the prestigious journal Science [Netwatch, Vol. 311. no. 5766, p. 1353, 10 March 2006]. Topics include Q&A’s on flu, why you should take action, essential preparations, effects on schools and travel, what to do if healthcare is not available, how to help your neighbors and community, and more. The public is invited to download and use any of this material. (Press Release for Pandemic Flu Awareness Week)

The Flu Wiki’s objective is to harness the information and intellectual resources of the vast distributed parallel network of human brains that is the internet (and you thought it was a series of tubes?) to work collaboratively to solve the complex inter-related problems widespread morbidity and mortality in our communities would bring:

The purpose of the Flu Wiki is to help local communities prepare for and perhaps cope with a possible influenza pandemic. This is a task previously ceded to local, state and national governmental public health agencies. Our goal is to be:

  • a reliable source of information, as neutral as possible, about important facts useful for a public health approach to pandemic influenza
  • a venue for anticipating the vast range of problems that may arise if a pandemic does occur
  • a venue for thinking about implementable solutions to foreseeable problems

No one, in any health department or government agency, knows all the things needed to cope with an influenza pandemic. But it is likely someone knows something about some aspect of each of them and if we can pool and share our knowledge we can advance preparation for and the ability to cope with events. This is not meant to be a substitute for planning, preparation and implementation by civil authorities, but a parallel effort that complements, supports and extends those efforts.

There is also an “offline” campaign to boost awareness in your community.

Volunteers of the Pandemic Flu Awareness Week campaign will be wearing and distributing red ribbons embossed with gold letters– P (for Pandemic) and A (for Awareness); as well as passing out information cards. The public is invited to participate by making and wearing ribbons from instructions available at Flu Wiki Red Ribbon Pandemic Awareness Campaign. Individuals are encouraged to spread the word in their communities.

We hope we will be doing the same thing next year at this time: preparing for, not coping with or recovering from, pandemic influenza. We can’t see the future. But we can prepare in the present. Calmly, rationally, systematically, conscientiously. While we have the luxury.


  1. #1 cougar
    October 9, 2006

    Just this weekend I reviewed my own pandemic plans, assessed my stockpile of food and water, removed expiring items for immediate consumption, considered the coming cold weather, noted changes in my eating and cooking habits, modified food requirements for all of my animals and then revised my plans – somewhat. The basics stayed the same. But the real questions that came up during this process were “What would/should I do if H5N1 exploded in some part of the world and a pandemic seemed imminent? What should my immediate response be? What must I do to REALLY get ready for such a crisis?” So I created a list of activities – prioritized – along with a list of items to purchase and where to buy them, then posted the list next to my computer. Now I can be comfortable knowing that a step-by-step, thoughtfully worked out plan is in place that will bring me up to pandemic preparedness within a few hours of “getting the word.” This exercise has taught me that, not only is it important to create a plan, it is equally important to reassess that plan from time to time, to make sure all aspects of it are still relevant, to make necessary modifications, and in general to refamiliarize yourself with the steps involved. With flu season around the corner, I would encourage everyone to take time out now to review whatever plans you’ve already made and continue to urge those who haven’t made plans to do so. As Revere pointed out, this has been a bad year and it’s not over yet. What winter will bring is anybody’s guess.

  2. #2 caia
    October 10, 2006

    Revere thank you, for this post and all the work you’ve done and are doing to raise awareness and improve our collective preparedness.

    Btw, do you know why FluWiki chose red for the red ribbon awareness campaign? Was it to convey urgency? Because to me, red ribbons=AIDS awareness, full stop. I don’t think most people would even notice the gold letters, and because they think they know what a red ribbon means, they probably wouldn’t ask.

    (Yeah, I know every ribbon color has been used by now, but to my mind there are three that are so omnipresent that their color is officially taken. Red=AIDS, pink=breast cancer, yellow=support the troops.)

  3. #3 revere
    October 10, 2006

    caia: Thanks. Don’t have any idea about the ribbon color. I think there is a little group of Flu Wickians who have done all the PFAW stuff (not the modes or founders), which is what we wanted. I know about as much as you (or mayube less).

  4. #4 Science Teacher
    October 10, 2006

    caia, I will try to explain how the Pandemic Awareness Red Ribbon Campaign evolved on the FluWiki. It bagan as a ‘backyard’ project of mine that sprouted and grew roots on the wiki. I researched the ribbon colors before I began making them early last summer. There were over 40 organizations that had registered to use a red ribbon for their color. Almost all of these were from medical interest groups, so I thought a pandemic would fit in this red ribbon category as well. My intent was not to impact on the great importance of AIDS awareness, but to spread the message for people to learn about a possible influenza and to get prepared for it. The FluWiki members have been working on this campaign diligently since my first post about it there on August 23, 2006. Here is that first post:

    “I think we need to ignite a wikian grass roots movement within our communities. If you tend the fire carefully, it will hopefully grow and catch the attention of many. I have given up trying to talk with those that do not or are not ready to hear about the pandemic. How do we foster awareness of issues including the possibility of a high CFR? How do we promote awareness and knowledge about prepping and SIP and a better understanding of the potential seriousness of this situation? My own simple step step toward this began early this summer in my own community. To begin, I made up several hundred small red ribbons and and a letter to go with it. I listed some questions in the letter ( things like What items should I prep? How do I store food? etc.). I then listed some websites to find answers. Fluwiki was at the top of my list. I included phone numbers and websites for State, County,City, Village and Town in my local community. People, out of curiousity, will visit these sites, I hope. At the wiki they will find information and opinion that is not always expressed in the MSM. In the process, they will learn and share with others. The red ribbons stand for Pandemic Awareness. I seeded these over a 30 mile area at places like garage sales, craft fairs, kids sporting events and any community events that I could find. So far I have noticed several women in different grocery stores wearing the ribbons. I am also thinking of holding a Q&A meeting at a local library to followup. Someone on another thread said that the wiki could act like a virus. How many of you would be willing to help spread this red ribbon ?virus? into our neighborhoods across the land and sea? Please add your ideas. Thanks! ST ”

  5. #5 caia
    October 10, 2006

    There were over 40 organizations that had registered to use a red ribbon for their color. Almost all of these were from medical interest groups, so I thought a pandemic would fit in this red ribbon category as well.

    Really? I didn’t know that. I suppose it is appropriate. And I’m glad you’re seeing people wearing the ribbons.

    I didn’t mean to knock on your efforts; I was just a bit concerned that there might be some resistance and/or misunderstanding because of how powerful a symbol the red ribbon already is. But if it’s common for other causes to use red ribbons, then I guess that it’s not as much of a barrier as I thought.