Throughout the Asia-Pacific region there have been multiple deaths from avian bird flu, which is scientifically known as the H5N1 virus. While some nations around the world have downplayed the risks of the virus, a Feb. 26 article in the Monterey County Herald focuses on the ever-present threats it presents, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
Currently, this virus can only be transferred from birds to humans through direct contact, but if a mutation were to occur in the strain that allowed for human-to-human transfer, the impact could be devastating to the region. It’s estimated that a pandemic could incapacitate as much as 40 percent of the work force throughout the region.
At the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters on
This capacity building includes meeting with other nations throughout the region to share information and provide training where it’s needed. Though this may not seem like a topic the military needs to focus on, the second and third order effects of a pandemic may call for military involvement. The working group is conducting multilateral engagements to ensure military forces are prepared to provide necessary support in the event of an outbreak.
The team is identifying and helping other countries in the region to identify shortcomings in the recognition of a pandemic, and its associated responses. Assessments are focusing on surveillance/prevention, preparedness/communication, and response/containment. These assessments are being conducted during various conferences and exercises.
In July, Joint Task Force Homeland Defense will lead Exercise Lightning Rescue, which is an annual event that incorporates the military, nongovernmental agencies, local emergency response teams, and other agencies into a simulated response to a pandemic. This year, international representatives have been invited to observe the exercise in hopes of furthering response capacity throughout the region.