September 21 Flu Update...is this it?Big, big news day. Be sure to read all the way to the end...some of the biggest stories from today where not from Indonesia.
Early today, the Indonesian Health Minister said bird flu an epidemic in her country.
"This can be described as an epidemic. These (cases) will happen again as long as we cannot determine the source," Supari told reporters, but she insisted it would be wrong to label it a "frightening epidemic".She later retracted that statement, saying if things worsened it would be an epidemic.
Helen Branswell of CP says WHO is trying to "dial back" concern.
Despite reports of a number of suspect cases, there are currently no plans to convene the meeting of experts that would be needed before the organization could declare the world had moved one step closer to a flu pandemic, Dick Thompson said from Geneva.
"We're not anywhere close to that. We see no relationship between any of these ... suspect cases," said Thompson, communications director for the agency's communicable diseases branch.
"The level of anxiety is higher in Indonesia. It is not in Geneva."
Thompson also moved to dispel reports the WHO was getting ready to deploy a supply of antiviral drugs to Indonesia.
The WHO has been promised a stockpile of three million treatment courses of the drug oseltamivir or Tamiflu to be used as a pandemic fire blanket. The agency has committed itself to trying to stop or slow a pandemic once a strain emerges that seems to have the capacity to spread in sustained fashion from person to person.
Thompson said a small number of treatment courses were sent to Indonesia in July when a cluster of what were thought to be three cases in one family was identified. But there are currently no plans to draw down the stockpile for Indonesia, he insisted.
"No, definitely not."
In general terms, we are not much better able to handle acute respiratory distress syndrome, in any number of cases today, than we were in 1918," he said. "So, do not go back and say, well, it is different today, it is not 1918. Unfortunately, folks, it is 1918 all over again, even from a clinical response standpoint.
Malaysia says it is flu-free, despite being a neighbor of Indonesia.
Annals of Internal Medicine has this editorial, which is a reasonable assessment, if a little conservative. They note at the end that the recommendation is enough Tamiflu for 50% of the US population.
This might be the most important article today. For those who think (or whose friends tell you) that the vaccine is on the way, the New York Times has this from the vaccine front. Two studies in The Lancet point out the weaknesses of the approach.
Effect Measure has a Nature article from Declan Butler that says the US doesn't live up to the sharing of data called for in the Bush UN Address.
Even so, the research is alarming because it demonstrates how quickly and unexpectedly flu viruses can become impervious to medicines once they are put into common use, as they would be in the case of a pandemic. Also, at their best, antiviral medicines do not cure influenza. They cut down on transmission of the disease and reduce somewhat the symptoms and complications in those already infected, including the high rate of associated pneumonias.Called for comment, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, Dick Thompson, said that the group could neither support nor deny the findings of the analysis of vaccine studies at this point, noting only that some experts criticized the researchers for "not including some important past studies" in their sample.