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DoD Declassifies Flu Pandemic Plan Containing Sobering Assumptions 337

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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  • really scary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:33AM (#44863111)

    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 ruckc ( 111190 ) * <> on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:34AM (#44863125) Homepage

    Plan for the worst, Hope for the best.

    Sadly, the plan would be the same for a zombie apocalypse.

  • 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".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:53AM (#44863347)

    More sadly is that you are comparing a flu pandemic to a fictional zombie problem which hasn't and most likely never will.

  • 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 @10:58AM (#44863387)

    I'd say 18-24 months for a vaccine, and 12%-14% population loss due to a real influenza pandemic.

    And your credentials, sir? Internet pundit. Okay, how about a citation? Don't have one of those either. Okay. Well thanks, but I think I'll go with the formerly classified document released by actual experts over your knee-jerk "I think it's optimistic, and here's some numbers I think are more realistic!" post.

    Purely for shits and giggles, I went and looked up what unclassified documents [] had to say about the likely timeline. Those numbers look similar to what's been revealed in this document. They, uhh, don't look like your numbers. According to WHO, it would take 5-6 months to produce a vaccine. Not nearly two years. If you were right, we would never have a flu vaccine available, yet every year like clockwork they show up at hospitals and clinics with those reminders to get vaccinated before the season starts. So I'm going to go with the DoD, CDC, and WHO's assessment on that timeframe, thanks.

    However, it's just re-arranging deck chairs on the titanic either way. Our vaccine production, whether optimistic, or pessimistic, won't matter; From start to finish, the entire pandemic would last from 6-8 to perhaps 12 weeks. That's about as long as it takes the vaccine to take effect. In other words, even if we developed a vaccine the same day as patient zero showed up, and completely eliminated the production side of the equation and assumed limitless vaccines available to everyone, and that somehow, by magical fairy dust, everyone got the vaccine that same day... over a third of the population would still get infected and still suffer whatever the casualty rate is. Knock that timetable out by a month and it's everyone. Vaccine is useless.

    In other words, the strategy outlined by the DoD -- containment and isolation, remains the only effective strategy. A vaccine being put in development would be there to prevent secondary infection and to have confidence that it is safe to end quarantine procedure. That's all a vaccine buys you; Some after-action security. Vaccination is not a priority. Even under super-optimal conditions, it's of limited value to us. We could throw billions at the problem trying to create a rapid response infrastructure and it would amount to exactly dick at a huge cost.

    Now as far as your population loss numbers... There's just no way to predict that with confidence. The numbers they quoted are based on a historical evaluation of data over the last 50 years... which seems reasonable from a statistical standpoint... but the Pandemic of 1918 killed over 90% of the population. It was on par with the Black Death. That's pretty much the worst-case scenario -- the average case is much, much more mild. But we do know it can happen... and it's just a gamble as to when.

    So I'm with the CDC and DoD on this; Containment. Isolation. Quarantine. That's our strategy, and given our current level of technology... it's the only viable one.

  • 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"

  • You mean, fictional, SO FAR.

    Consider the progress of biotech. Then give it another 5-10 years, and imagine the biotech equivalent of a script kiddie. Playing with, for example, rabies. Then imagine some angry bio-scriptkiddie releasing an airborne, virulent rabies variant with a very short incubation period.

    No, it's not the hordes of the Living Dead, feasting on human flesh. But the effects might well be similar. . .

  • 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.
  • by confused one ( 671304 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:35AM (#44863741)
    Trying to get people to consider preparation for a never to happen zombie apocalypse is effective in getting some people to incidentally prepare for a pandemic outbreak. If it works, then let it go; more people prepared for the inevitable emergency, the better -- it doesn't matter whether it's zombies, flu, or hurricanes.
  • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:44AM (#44863821)

    No, it's so that we finally have an excuse to go on a shotgun rampage without guilt.

    Plus, we're already all zombies anyway so it doesn't matter much anyway.

  • by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:06PM (#44864025)
    I have non-adults in my family. If I want to protect them during an epidemic, that means keeping the infected away by any means necessary. There's also the likelihood of violent scavengers in the event our precarious food distribution system shuts down, as would happen if areas are quarantined. So instead of violent and infectious undead breaking into the house looking for something to eat, it would be violent and infectious fevered and desperate people, probably armed, breaking into the house looking for something to eat.
  • by H0p313ss ( 811249 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:28PM (#44864225)

    You know you're in trouble when Sealand is the answer to a question.

  • Ebola kills TOO fast. For an honest-to-god Zombie Virus, you want one that deactivates/destroys higher mental functions and possibly ups aggression.

    Which I why my script-kiddie scenario suggested a rabies variant. . .

  • by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:36PM (#44864303)
    Emergency prep teams use zombie and alien drills all the time. Zombie == unknown pandemic and aliens == unknown invasion force. If you run the drill using a real world example, people will tailor to that example and then be unprepared for the unknown incident. With zombies and aliens you get to make up the rules and if someone complains about "there is no way that x would ever be able to do y" you can say "Zombies! Now shut up and accept the scenario."
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:42PM (#44864339) Homepage Journal

    If the quarantine areas also end up in a food shortage, it will also have hungry infected people who don't care if they infect your whole family and leave them to starve as long as they get your food. Some of them may warrant shooting.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:46PM (#44864373) Homepage Journal

    You know you're in trouble when Sealand is the answer to a question.

    You know, that statement seems scientifically sound enough to get it's own title.

    The Sealand Conjecture: anytime "move to Sealand" seems like a wise and/or appropriate response, you're already completely fucked.

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