Flattening the curve

A graphic from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper on Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza from 2017 illustrates the difference in outbreak and peak cases of a pandemic with no interventions (solid purple) and with interventions (striped purple) such as social distancing and hygiene actions. The striped curve shows the effect of interventions in reducing the number of overall cases and slowing spread of the disease.

Social distancing is a measure the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health entities have been advising to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19.

CDC defines social distancing as staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

The term has been used extensively over the past few weeks in relation to COVID-19 and precautionary measures advised by public health entities.

Another phrase related to social distancing is also becoming part of the COVID lexicon: “flattening the curve.”

According to the CDC, in the case of a pandemic the goals of social distancing and other non-pharmaceutical mitigation steps are to delay an outbreak peak, decompress peak burden on hospitals and infrastructure and diminish overall cases and health impacts.

With no interventions, the disease peaks quickly, potentially overloading capacity of the health care community to keep up with cases.

With interventions, the peak of the disease consists of fewer cases and a more manageable spread.

A graph showing both scenarios shows a high, narrow peak denoting a high daily number of cases on the nonintervention curve and a low, flatter peak for the intervention curve, showing fewer cases and slower acceleration of cases.

Current CDC guidelines and recommendations for COVID-19 are adapted from a previously drafted pandemic plan: Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza – United States, 2017.

The document includes lessons learned during the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak.

From our sister paper The Mountain Mail at www.themountainmail.com.

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