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DoD Declassifies Flu Pandemic Plan Containing Sobering Assumptions 337

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-the-plan dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Department of Defense has just declassified a copy of its 2009 Concept of Operations Plan for an Influenza Pandemic. Among the Plan's scary yet reasonable assumptions are that in the United States, such a pandemic will kill 2 percent of the infected population, or about 2 million people. The plan also assumes that a vaccine won't be available for at least 4 to 6 months after confirmation of sustained human transmission, and that the weekly vaccine manufacturing capability will only produce 1 percent of the total US vaccine required. State and local governments will be overwhelmed, and civilian mortuary operations will require military augmentation. Measures such as limiting public gatherings, closing schools, social distancing, protective sequestration and masking will be required to limit transmission and reduce illness and death. International and interstate transportation will be restricted to contain the spread of the virus. If a pandemic starts outside the US, it will enter the country at multiple locations and spread quickly to other parts of the country. A related document, CONPLAN 3591-09, was released by DoD in 2010."
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DoD Declassifies Flu Pandemic Plan Containing Sobering Assumptions

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:28AM (#44863057)
    I guess all the Preppers will have the last laugh as they eat their freeze dried food in their bunkers, with gun in lap, waiting for vaccine to become available.
  • I prefer the swine flu over the bird flu. Bacon tastes so much better coming back up.
    • But I can do without eggs and fried chicken.
      A world without bacon would be unbearable. As Homer aptly put it "A wonderful, magical animal." I believe that was in the Odyssey.
  • ...films depicting chaos and societal breakdown aren't that far off, aye?

    • ...films depicting chaos and societal breakdown aren't that far off, aye?

      Yes they are. Look at what happened in the US during the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. It wasn't all pretty, but it certainly wasn't Zombie Apocalypse 17-1/2.

      • by sjames (1099)

        They didn't have to contend with FEMA being run by a horse show judge with connections.

  • really scary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's really scary because I work for an Internet startup. Without any technology to let us communicate and collaborate without being in the same room, we are forced to come into our open plan office every day and be exposed to contagious disease.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:34AM (#44863129)

    I don't find this scary at all. It's the reality of the world we live in. What would be scary is if the people in charge of managing such a crisis didn't have a plan, and instead choose to stick their fingers in their ears and sing "glory glory halleluja" while the country died. Literally. Why do people always seem to think things like this are "scary"? That kind of attitude is what creates truly scary situations: The kind nobody was prepared for and is now ravaging the population unchecked. That is scary. A plan... that's reassuring.

    Or maybe I'm just from some bizarro alternate universe where being prepared is frightening and living in ignorance is bliss.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:41AM (#44863213) Homepage

      What I find scary is the TFA:

      "The first priority of DOD support in the event of a PI is [REDACTED]".

      OK guys, just what exactly are you up to?

      • Ack! My head asplode. I tried to read more of the TFA --

        [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED]

        (I'd go further except I think I'm going to hit the lameness filter soon.)

      • "Defense"
        Glad I could help.

        • by Baby Duck (176251)
          More likely "saving the lives of The President, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Legislators." Or what the GP is worried about, "culling the infected." Why would they bother redacting "Defense"?
      • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:53AM (#44863349)

        What I find scary is the TFA:

        "The first priority of DOD support in the event of a PI is [REDACTED]".

        OK guys, just what exactly are you up to?

        The first priority of the DOD is probably the defense of the nation, ie the preservation of the government and therefore civil order. There are 2 ways to survive a pandemic: a coordinated, controlled response, and fragmentation. The first one requires the government to stay intact, to direct the medical and relief responses. They have to ensure that basic services stay intact, that people still have access to food and clean water, and are protected. The bigger cities probably look like Boston did after the bombing. Society stays intact, and the pandemic is defeated by a coordinated response including medical treatment as well as isolation and quarantine of infected populations. In the second response, everyone goes into survival mode: people hole up and refuse human contact, there will probably be looting as well as some killing. Society erodes, and the pandemic peters out through a lack of transmission: carriers die without passing on the virus to others. I think the first option is by far the better of the 2.

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:05AM (#44863463)

        "The first priority of DOD support in the event of a PI is [REDACTED]".

        They're the military. It's redacted because it's not politically fashionable to say what they'd have to do, but put yourself in their shoes and it's obvious: Protect key government officials by evacuating them in secret while reassuring the public everything is fine and they haven't been disappeared and are now in a secret bunker somewhere.

        Military thinking on this is obvious to the point of being painful: You have to coordinate your response to the crisis, and that means first securing your chain of command, then securing communications, then securing your chain of supplies, and then finally deploying resources into the field to secure key assets.

        That's the response plan because that's what the situation dictates. You don't need a security clearance to figure this out... but confirming that's what they would do could complicate those efforts by a panic'd populace. And that's why it's classified. It's not because they're "up to something", it's because sometimes a little knowledge is a bad thing.

        It's like the Joker said; "You know... You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go 'according to plan.' Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all 'part of the plan'. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!"

        Chew on that awhile when you're wondering next time why the government classifies so many things; It's not because they're up to no good... it's because people are fucking stupid, and they panic at nothing. The whole point of the government during a crisis is to keep people separated and not in large groups where panic and hysteria can take over. Any crisis. It just so happens, it's a particularly good idea during a pandemic.

        • by EmperorArthur (1113223) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:38AM (#44863769)

          Yeah, I'll bet it's "Put dissidents in FEMA internment camps." Just like in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

          More seriously. While you're probably correct, classifying things for political reasons is almost always a bad thing. This kind of mindset, that normal people can't handle the truth, is what leads to an unaccountable government. Government accountability can only happen with transparency.

      • by Guppy06 (410832)

        We're talking about the Pentagon, not HHS. Worrying about redactable stuff is their job.

        My assumption is that their priority would be maintaining the health and status of nuclear weapons crews.

    • The plan isn't scary. The 2 million deaths from a rapidly spreading flu is scary. Seriously dude, do you have to be so pedantic?

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:44AM (#44863249)

      I don't find this scary at all. It's the reality of the world we live in. What would be scary is if the people in charge of managing such a crisis didn't have a plan, and instead choose to stick their fingers in their ears and sing "glory glory halleluja" while the country died. Literally. Why do people always seem to think things like this are "scary"? That kind of attitude is what creates truly scary situations: The kind nobody was prepared for and is now ravaging the population unchecked. That is scary. A plan... that's reassuring.

      Or maybe I'm just from some bizarro alternate universe where being prepared is frightening and living in ignorance is bliss.

      Luckily there is a large number of people that do work on and plan for such situations. The CDC, National Guard, FEMA, and even state and local emergency management departments. The good thing is that the same basic response is needed for most types of disasters; only a few details differ (containment of pathogen, isolation of infected people, etc). They still have to manage crowd control, logistics and evacuations, etc. The biggest problem isn't the government freaking out and not doing anything. The bigger danger is the general population freaking out and killing other people over things like food or gasoline, even if the pandemic is relatively short-lived. People scare easily, and when people can't go outside or interact with others in person they will flock to the internet, where fear and misinformation would spread faster than the actual virus would. THe government's response doesn't scare me; they train and plan for this all the time. Everyone else's reaction is what scares me.

    • The DoD plan isn't what's scary from a logistical point of view. It's the fact our own government might be forced to shoot people as they flee in panic. Nobody wants to be boxed in against their will. Unfortunately, that's what it might take to contain a nasty pandemic. For example: you live in an apartment complex where 50% of the residence are known to be infected. That means you must quarantine the remaining 50% of the healthy and hope they too won't get infected??? Civil unrest is not something that wil

      • ou live in an apartment complex where 50% of the residence are known to be infected. That means you must quarantine the remaining 50% of the healthy and hope they too won't get infected???

        No, it means you shoot anyone who comes out just long enough to evacuate the surrounding areas... and if it's highly virulent, you drop napalm and call it a day. Something like Ebola would dictate this response.

        On the other hand, if it's not as contagious... maybe a 1 in 8 chance of death... then you have two options: On-site treatment, or you secure the area, and evacuate the person one by one to a treatment facility if they show symptoms. If they don't show symptoms, isolate them from everyone else and wa

        • by durrr (1316311)

          Don't be ridiculous. Assuming a biological attack on said complex you'd seal off the area and then evacuate with normal health hazard protocols(hazmat suits, isolate, remove and discard clothes, belongings, wash people, keep under observation.) And for normal airborn contagion(as in no biological attack, just normal spread pattern) you'd likely not do decontamination and isolation protocols for everyone in the area, you'd track down friends family and coworkers, put them on sickleave and observation and tha

          • You've watched too many zombie movies. You don't just napalm sick people. End of story.

            Do zombie movies really turn people into sociopaths?

    • by jcgam69 (994690)
      The scary part is watching loved ones suffer and die while there's nothing you can do, and waiting for your turn. I agree with you though - the plan itself is not scary.
  • by khb (266593) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:37AM (#44863167)

    While such plans do have potential practical value, isn't the usual thrust "what new pet program do our sponsors want funded?"

    The way we create vaccines is overly calendar time long (but sidesteps questions about safety of new techniques).Also our general anti-viral stocks are low.

    Sponsors from either (or both) camps may be influencing both the generation and now the distribution of the report.

  • A fatality rate of only 1~2% sounds extremely good for an epidemic. At 10% it becomes scary, at 25% the shit's going to hit the fans and 50% of above it's going to be hard to recover.

  • When it happens, It's going to be really bad.

  • by Danathar (267989) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:43AM (#44863233) Journal

    This is all fine and good but what happens AFTER the Pandemic could be just as important.

    After millions of people dying the social upheaval politically would be insane. The current order of things would be put on it's head, and what it settled out to be could be anybody's guess.

    For example, assuming that most infections happened in cities that could dramatically change voting patterns.

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:44AM (#44863245)

    For reference, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 is estimated to have killed anywhere from 3 to 6 percent [wikipedia.org] of world population. It presumably would have been worse in more densly populated areas.

    You'd like to to think we've gotten a bit better at treating the flu in the last century or so. However, I don't think you could seriously argue that 2% is too high for a worst-case scenario. It might be too low.

    • The 2% number assumes only 30% of the population gets the flu. With the Spanish Flu pandemic, it appears to have ended only once the flu had passed around the world and everyone who could get the illness did so. So, it did not end until every man woman and child had had been infected by the flu, in one form or another.
    • by kamapuaa (555446) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:07AM (#44863487) Homepage

      Another factor is that WWI and medical practices at the time are blamed for making that flu much more deadly. Quoting wikipedia: "In civilian life, natural selection favours a mild strain. Those who get very ill stay home, and those mildly ill continue with their lives, preferentially spreading the mild strain. In the trenches, natural selection was reversed. Soldiers with a mild strain stayed where they were, while the severely ill were sent on crowded trains to crowded field hospitals, spreading the deadlier virus"

    • by Kohath (38547)

      For reference, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 happened 95 years ago. We probably won't be seeing another WWI-style transition where previously relatively isolated populations are suddenly exposed to a whole new world of infectious diseases.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      More densely populated and much, much more mobile. Those guys who flew halfway across the country for a conference? Wonderful, you now have hundreds of distribution vectors spread across the country. Shutting down airports helps a bit but people drive far and once you start trying to quarantine that you're fighting a mass panic and people looking to get the hell out every which back road they can. We suck at fighting viruses, we've been fighting HIV for 30 years now and we're still just slowing them down, a

    • For reference, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 is estimated to have killed anywhere from 3 to 6 percent of world population. It presumably would have been worse in more densly populated areas.

      You know there's wrong, then there's Wikipedia wrong. First, let's get a real authority [cdc.gov] in the mix. 2.5--5% is the number you're looking for; 3% is probably closest to accurate. And no, it wasn't worse in "more [densely] populated areas". It was better. People in urban areas are regularly exposed to more pathogens, which means their immune system is better equipped to handle a new strain or mutation of something previously exposed to than an isolated person would be. The average cold today would kill someon

  • It has to be an emergency or they might not get their funding.

  • such a pandemic will kill 2 percent of the infected population, or about 2 million people.

    thats a pretty generous statement considering 34 million americans go without health insurance. even if they dont seek medical attention, which isnt likely considering the media hype surrounding the condition, we're assuming a nation 36% obese and 74% overweight is nutritionally capable of weathering this. workplace policies that forbid or restrict sick days will also amplify transmisison vectors.

    sequestering people into their homes for a protracted amount of time isnt going to work as we've intended.

    • MREs (very high calories and tastes good) and bottled water. That's all you need to maintain sustenance during a natural disaster. Anything else food-wise is just creature comforts.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      The obese and overweight will be at an advantage, they can go a long time without eating. I on the other hand would be in trouble in short order as I lack those kind of energy reserves.

      Beer provides clean water and many nutrients as well as valuable calories. Its dehydrating properties are far exaggerated. Poptarts are shelf stable, consumable without cooking, highly portable and as a survival food not too terrible at all. The combination seems fine for someone who merely needs to exist for a couple weeks

      • by RussR42 (779993)

        The obese and overweight will be at an advantage,

        They will be at a distinct disadvantage as they contain many calories and move slowly. They will be easy to catch.

  • Centers for Disease and Control would still be running this show, if it were to happen, right? With the military's assistance if needed?
    • DoD always does their own projections. They have to plan for a disaster's affect on their strength and resources. They also have to consider what might happen if another country tries to attack a weakened U.S. -- perhaps because they themselves are desperate for resources. It's a thought experiment they run periodically internally.
    • by necro81 (917438)
      It would ultimately be run from the Executive branch (i.e., the President), who has purview over both DoD and CDC, as well as FEMA, the NIH, the Public Health Corps, etc. The President also has broad powers to respond to domestic emergencies: nationalizing pharma companies to produce vaccines, enforcing quarantines, broadcasting emergency messages, etc.

      One would hope that FEMA and the CDC would be providing a lot of the direction, since pandemics, public health, disasters, and emergency relief are their
    • by wcrowe (94389)

      The military (and just about every other essential agency) have to do their own planning. Only they know their needs and capabilities.

  • Redactions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by intermodal (534361) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:48AM (#44863309) Homepage Journal

    I find it disturbing how many redacted gray boxes are found on something clearly marked "unclassified".

  • Well, yes, huge pandemics are "scary". Stephen King's "The Stand" is based on the premise. But they are also historical realities -- it is possible that there will be a flu pandemic at some point. The fact that the DoD has done some planning for such a scenario is not scary. What would be scary is if they did NOT do any planning.

  • by suprcvic (684521) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:27AM (#44863671)
    Shutting down interstate travel, social distancing, sequestration. Seems like I may need to start stockpiling that water, food and ammo.
  • President "Hello, Blizzard? We've got a pandemic coming up, so need to keep people from personal contact for a while. Would you mind putting some limited-time-only lucrative dungeons up in World of Warcraft?"

  • by edibobb (113989) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:58AM (#44863937) Homepage
    a. When was the Department of Defense put in charge of health matters? Aren't the CDC, NIH, and (of course) NSA supposed to handle that?
    b. Why was the country's response to the flu classified in the first place?

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