It’s Your Funeral – the CDCs Message to New York City Funeral Directors

There has been much discussion of what the case fatality rate from the new H1N1 virus is. A document, apparently leaked from the CDC, indicates that a severe, 1918-type pandemic is likely. No reporter has yet asked the CDC about this document, AFAIK. However, there has also been no denial from the CDC about the contents of this document.

Today, we have new information suggesting that the CDC is telling one small group of people to prepare for a severe pandemic. Who are these people? Funeral Directors.

From The Astoria Times, August 13, 2009 [hat-tip, treyfish at PFI_Forum]:

City officials are bracing for a surge of swine flu cases this fall and funeral home directors need to be prepared to accommodate a possible related 50,000 to 85,000 deaths, the director of the Metropolitan Funeral Directors Association told a gathering of funeral home representatives in Forest Hills last week.

“As funeral directors, we really need to know what we’re about to face,” Martin Kasdan said. “When swine flu comes back, it could possibly be devastating.”

[snip]

The Centers for Disease Control has predicted a 2.1 percent to 3.3 percent death rate among those who come down with swine flu this fall, which translates into an additional 52,000 to 86,000 deaths in the city over a three-month period, Kasdan said.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Kasdan said of the possible death rate. “Is the CDC right? Who knows — hopefully not. But you need to be prepared.”

The potential upswing in fatalities poses a wide array of questions for city officials and funeral directors, such as where to store bodies, how to hold funerals in a climate where swine flu is passed easily from person to person and how many extra supplies will be needed.

The 2.1 to 3.3 percent case fatality rate that the CDC is telling Funeral Directors in New York City to prepare for is similar to the numbers provided in the document uploaded to Cryptome.  Thus, we now have two independent sources of information indicating that the CDC is expecting a severe pandemic.

For some reason, the CDC has decided not to share this information with the general public. Further, they are telling health care workers to expect conditions no worse than seasonal flu.

Here’s an idea: Tell everyone the truth: parents, teachers, and health care workers. Then, maybe, the Funeral Directors wouldn’t have to prepare for quite so many bodies.


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2 Comments

Filed under public health, Science

2 responses to “It’s Your Funeral – the CDCs Message to New York City Funeral Directors

  1. Monotreme I think your post that correlated H1N1 CFR by age group explains how an unchanged virus can appear mild in the spring and severe in the Fall.

    It can’t just be the NYNY funeral directors that are getting the heads up and it is I assume a pretty tight knit community at the top of the funeral director biz.

    One wonders if someone made a call to suggest the reporter attend their meeting – at least one presentation in particular. Every business conference would like press coverage of their industry meeting, or event. Interesting that a reporter decided to go to a funeral director’s regional get together.

  2. monotreme1000

    Billp, you may be right. I once went to a pandemic meeting and heard a funeral director ask how they were supposed to handle a 1918-style pandemic. No answer from the HHS rep. Asking Funeral Directors to be responsible for the number of bodies the CDC is telling them to prepare for may look a lot like an unfunded mandate to them. It may occur to them, as it has to us, that it would be a lot easier on everyone if we just avoided the whole “a bunch of people die unnecessarily show” by telling people what is coming so they can respond appropriately.

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