Many days I am reduced to the briefest peek in on the world of H5N1 and Fla_Medic, along with Crof, are where I usually peek for the news. One of FM's offerings today was a post on Japan's estimates of the possible effects on the business sector should a severe pandemic occur. I would not be exaggerating to say that I was momentarily stunned, in fact stunned incredulity about sums up my reaction.
From the Daily Yomiuri Online:
Estimates were based on the human suffering figures in government's pandemic relief action plan--revised in October. The plan estimates 25 percent of people would suffer from a new influenza pandemic, with a fatality rate of 2 percent.
I was stunned because I have long admired Japan's approach to the seriousness of the threat posed by a pandemic from H5N1, treating it more as a threat to their nation than a public health issue. As such, they have spent a great deal of energy and funds preparing Japan for the potentials. A few examples are their purchases of Tamiflu, pre-pandemic vaccines, and plans for containment on a national level. Japan has backed up words on paper with concrete actions and embraced some rather radical measures as necessary to their survival.
Given their demonstrated willingness to accept the more severe, but [some would say] less likely, severity assumptions reading 25% ill with a 2% case fatality ratio was counter to everything I had read from their planning assumptions previously.
Several hours passed as I mentally chewed on what could be driving their numbers and then it hit me:
Instead of using ill-informed and wishful thinking figures [as 25% CAR /2% CFR suggest] they quite well may be correct for Japan experiencing a severe pandemic. Japan, having done much already, and plans in place to do much more proactively, will experience a mitigated pandemic while most of the rest of the world will suffer an unmitigated pandemic.
A graphic of a community disease profile between a mitigated vs. unmitigated pandemic [FluWiki]
That graphic, though unproved for a future severe pandemic, speaks volumes in support of Japan's estimates. Doing the "tough stuff" pays off in numbers, both in CAR and CFR.
Lest we forget, those numbers represent people – many in the prime of their lives – which is exactly why Japan takes the threat so seriously, and exactly why they may just hold their numbers down to these percentages that, on their face, seem so unrealistic [and uncharacteristic for Japan].