Epidemics and pandemics occur when a new strain of disease emerges that causes serious illness for those infected, for which there is little-to-no immunity in humans, and which begins to spread easily from person-to-person in a region, country, or across the globe.
These events bring certain assumptions that have been considered in the formation of the Ithaca College Epidemic Response Plan, and which influence the objectives and action items detailed in this section of the site. These guiding assumptions are:
Rapid worldwide spread
- When a pandemic virus emerges, its global spread is considered inevitable
- The entire world population is assumed susceptible
- Countries might, through measures such as border closures and travel restrictions, delay arrival of the virus, but cannot stop it
Overload of health care systems
- Most people have little or no immunity to a pandemic virus. Infection and illness rates soar. A substantial percentage of the world’s population will require some form of medical care.
- Nations are unlikely to have the staff, facilities, equipment and hospital beds needed to cope with large numbers of people who suddenly fall ill
- Death rates are high, largely determined by four factors: the number of people who become infected, the virulence of the virus, the underlying characteristics and vulnerability of affected populations and the effectiveness of preventive measures
- Past pandemics have spread globally in two and sometimes three waves
Universal shortage of medical supplies
- The need for vaccine is likely to outstrip supply
- The need for antiviral drugs is also likely to be inadequate early in a pandemic
- A pandemic can create a shortage of hospital beds, ventilators and other supplies. Surge capacity at non-traditional sites such as schools may be created to cope with demand.
- Difficult decisions will need to be made regarding who gets antiviral drugs and vaccines
Economic and social disruption
- Travel bans, closings of schools and businesses and cancellations of events could have a major impact on communities and citizens
- Care for sick family members and fear of exposure can result in significant worker absenteeism