In our first post on Contingency Planning For Lean Organizations, we made reference to the current situation regarding the H1N1 virus or Swine Flu. We also suggested that history may provide relevant information that can be used to aid in future crisis event planning.
Michael A. Roberto, author of “Know What You Don’t Know” copyright 2009 by Pearson Education Inc., presents a case surrounding the 1976 “swine flu” incident to exemplify how faulty analogies can have devastating effects. In his book, Michael Roberto cites research of Richard Neustadt and Ernest May.
An excerpt from the book, reference pages 77-78, reads as follows:
“In that situation, President Gerald Ford and his advisors drew an erroneous analogy to the infamous flu epidemic of 1918. The faulty analogy led them to dramatically overestimate the seriousness of the problem they faced. As a result, they embarked on a very comprehensive and unnecessary immunization program. Roughly five hundred people experienced a serious side effect that was linked to the immunizations, and twenty five people died.”
This may explain the slow, seemingly uncoordinated, pace of the government to address the current H1N1 outbreak. Many people remain skeptical as to whether the immunization process is safe. This skepticism may be warranted. Again, referencing Michael Roberto’s book “Know What You Don’t Know” (page 78), “More people died from the immunization than from the flu itself.”
The experts of the day advised that this could be another epidemic. Two prior non-swine flu outbreaks, one in 1957 and the other in 1968, caught the government off guard. It is more than noteworthy that an estimated twenty million people were killed world-wide by the virus during the epidemic of 1918.
With mounting pressure from the Centers for Disease Control to avoid history repeating itself and in an effort to be pro-active, immunizations were ordered and given to an estimated forty million people. What would you have done?
For more information we recommend reading “Knowing What You Don’t Know – How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen” by Michael A. Roberto, copyright 2009 by Pearson Education Inc., publishing as Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458 (ISBN: 0-13-156815-9), Pages 202.
Also see Warner, J. “The Sky Is Falling: An analysis of the Swine Flu Affair of 1976.” http://www.harverford.edu/biology/edwards/disease/viral_essays/warnervirus.htm
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