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During 90th Anniversary Year, Pandemic Influenza Storybook Stirs Memories and Learning

Published: August 22, 2008

Cover of the Pandemic Influenza Storybook

CDC discovered a wealth of inspiration in the family stories told by pandemic influenza training participants during the last two years. Stories that showed the spirit of survival along with the tragedy of unexpected death has spurred public health professionals to keep preparing for the next influenza pandemic. These stories and more were captured in the Internet-based CDC Pandemic Influenza Storybook just released.

In 2002, CDC launched its highly successful Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) training program. Since that time, two additional modules have been added to the basic CERC course: For Leaders by Leaders and Pandemic Influenza. As part of the CERC Pan Flu course, which began in 2006, attendees were asked to share their pandemic flu stories from 1918, 1957, and 1968. The sharing of these stories enhances these training sessions by "translating" the staggering morbidity and mortality rates from these pandemics into individual events that impacted families for decades.

CERC certified trainers and others charged CDC with compiling some of these stories into an accessible training tool that they could tap into as needed. The latter is the primary reason for the creation of the "Pandemic Influenza Storybook". However, since 2008 marks the 90th anniversary of the 1918 Pandemic Flu event, the online book also serves a fitting commemorative piece. That pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide including an estimated 675,000 people in the United States and it is one of the touchstones for today's public health preparedness initiatives. These first-person and family accounts also help planners re-energize their efforts and fight pandemic flu preparedness fatigue and apathy. Today CDC estimates that in the most severe pandemic a potential 2 million Americans could die.

The Pandemic Influenza Storybook contains 50 stories from 26 states and the book is divided into three sections for the 1918 event and there is a separate section for 1957 stories. CDC is actively seeking 1968 stories.

"Complacency is enemy number one when it comes to preparing for another influenza pandemic," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "These stories, told so eloquently by survivors, family members, and friends from past pandemics, serve as a sobering reminder of the devastating impact that influenza can have and reading them is a must for anyone involved in public health preparedness."

The stories related in the Pandemic Influenza Storybook will move you, some will make you laugh, but all serve as reminders of the primary reason why preparedness is so important—saving human lives. Many of the photos in the storybook were contributed and don't miss the video narratives.

The Pandemic Influenza Storybook is not a closed book. CDC will continue to accept stories and add them to the book at quarterly intervals.

"It's an excellent resource, not only for public health professionals, but for people of all ages," said Sharon KD Hoskins, a public affairs officer who coordinated the project for CDC. "It's probably the closest to experiencing the real thing that many of us can imagine."

The storybook can be found at http://www.pandemicflu.gov/storybook/.

For important information about preparing for pandemic influenza as an individual, family, or community, visit www.pandemicflu.gov.

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