Thursday, February 22, 2007

February 21 Flu Update

There are Internet rumors of a human bird flu case in Russia. The Russians are denying it.

Reports say that the bird flu has left the Moscow region and spread.

Bird flu confirmed (in birds) in Eastern Afghanistan.

The Russians claim that some reported outbreaks in the regions are not confirmed.

ProMed on outbreaks around the world.

Hungary says "blame game" going on in Suffolk.

The Sudan has banned poultry imports from countries affected by the flu.

Expert in Muskegon, MI, tells public there is no reason for alarm "now" over bird flu.

Meanwhile, a public health official in Ireland says that bird flu risk in that country has fallen over the last year. Check this out.

"This time last year we were saying it was inevitable," she told councillors. "Now I would say probable or possible."

A photographic exhibit is being held that will use micro photos to illustrate the bird flu.

Houston company is selected to sequence influenza viruses.

Revere on a paper that talks about how to use social media sites to help during a pandemic. Interesting ideas.


At 6:36 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


I see some patterns emerging in the way some countries around the world, like Russian, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, respond to H5N1 outbreaks in poultry. One pattern seems to be the reluctance early on by governments, during the initial outbreak of H5N1 to admit any human case infections. Whether this is an effort to minimize alarm and concern among the citizens, or, merely gambling the individuals will get better through antiviral treatment, that they won’t necessarily have to report the illness publicly – I don’t know.

My Uncle Ivan is calling this one correct, because they do have one very sick bourgeois dude with H5N1 infection.

The second pattern we’re seeing in countries, like Great Britain and Russia recently, is an obvious lack of adequate preventative bio-security measures, advance veterinary and health inspections of poultry sales operations and other places, where there are high concentrations of animals – zoo’s and back yard recreational type bird raising. This all leads me to believe that the US would probably react no differently than these other countries, when it comes to it, no matter what our preconceived notions are (ie, NIMBY). So far, we’ve taken the attitude that we are generally “outsider’s” to the H5N1 dilemma, since we only have LPAI in our bird population. How long will this last ?

The statements and assertions by the two veterinarian “experts” in Muskegon MI and Ireland really grind’s my gears. Both individuals have, once again in the media, unwittingly given the wrong message to the public, by asserting there is “no cause for alarm”, and “the risk of an outbreak has decreased over the last year”. That’s the message their audience will walk away with and believe.

In my view, the problem is that they are basing their opinions solely on their narrow clinical and academic training and education perspective, and profoundly overlooking the broader implications of the H5N1 virus spread and mutation. They are not considering the present sad state of un-preparedness for the event, or the ramifications of societal and economic disruptions, an overwhelmed medical system, and national security implications.

As we stand today, most city hospitals and public health departments can barely manage their routine loads, let along a pandemic. The message they should have clearly sent is: disasters are not rare and unpredictable – they should be planned for. They happen all the time. Bird flu will probably be another one.

And finally, another discussion by Revere about the internet, “A not so new, but good internet idea for pandemic response”. I know you think me alarmist and overly pessimistic on certain topics, however, the internet is one I refuse to budge on – it will go down relatively quickly during a pandemic, due to a variety of reasons. The question is how long. When individuals discuss their ideas about keeping the internet up and functional during a pandemic, they confuse the situation with an epidemic. Viral attack rates of over 25% on the population and overuse, will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, how extremely vulnerable the network is.

One important to think about if you are absolutely sure the internet will stay up and functional - understand the US electrical power grid system and how vulnerable it is (remember, computers and the internet are powered by electricity). The US and Canada power grid system of electrical generation and distribution, is a single network that is administratively divided into three “interconnects” – the Eastern, covering two-thirds of the US and Canada, the “Western” encompassing the rest of our two countries, and the Texas ERCOT system.

The integrated US and Canadian power grid system is essentially the world’s biggest electrical machine. In August 2003, the system went down and effected 50 million customers in the US and Canada. The outage should have been localized with control systems, but it didn’t work. Whether the cause was lightning, a fallen tree, or a bad switch, is immaterial. What is important is that the outage caused trains, elevators, subways and airports to cease functioning. New York Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki declare a state of emergency immediately. Bloomberg mobilized 40,000 police officers and the entire NY fire department to maintain order. In Michigan, water supplies were nearly shut down completely because it was distributed with electrical pumps, which ceased to function.

My point is: if we have entire electrical power grids go off-line affecting multiple states, during blizzards, heat, high winds and other HW failures and brown out conditions, all the time – what makes the internet functionality so uniquely robust and different during a pandemic ? It isn’t.

People will wish it was only a “last mile problem”. Think again computer geeks - we need electricity to power nearly everything. A lone squirrel eating acorns on a critical power line can literally bring the entire system to its knees.

People are going to miss this one by a mile, if they are counting on the internet for their information during a pandemic.


At 12:04 AM, Blogger Dreamer said...

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The number of ventilators required to save the lives of people stricken with respiratory failure in a pandemic is far greater than the number of ventilators available. Many people will die needlessly unless something is done. Ventilators are expensive to buy and maintain, so government organizations are stockpiling only a minimal reserve. Manual type ventilators will not be adequate for many cases. We need an organization to develop a design for an automated ventilator that will be adequate and can be built from parts that will be available in sufficient quantities during a pandemic. This organization will design, and test a freely available open source ventilator design, that individuals and healthcare organizations can build themselves in a pandemic crisis.
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