Tuesday, April 03, 2007

April 2 Flu Update

Helen Branswell weighs in with the story of the day. Did social distancing really work in the Spanish Flu? Not that it stopped the pandemic, but that it slowed it down and minimized the impact? It would appear based on this that it might have a "modest" effect.

The work supports the theory that early intervention with a series of social distancing measures should reduce the crush of cases when a pandemic virus first hits a community, allowing hospitals to cope better and buying time until a vaccine can be made and administered, said the research teams from the United States and Europe.

But both teams cautioned that these measures, called non-pharmaceutical interventions, can only really buy time. Evidence cited in both studies showed that when communities eased their restrictions in 1918, case counts quickly soared.

Washington Post on WHO FAO official, who says flu will be with us for the foreseeable future.

But Domenech said there had been fewer cases of bird flu so far this year than a year ago, indicating a reduction in overall viral load, and the presence of H5N1 in wild birds has been less than last year when the virus surged, particularly in Europe.

CIDRAP has this story as well. Note the FAO's "good news, bad news" viewpoint.

ProMed runs WHO's report on the recent cases in Egypt.

Reuters "Factbox" on human bird flu cases for the year.

CIDRAP on previously reported new cases in Egypt and Indonesia.

Kuwait is reporting no human bird flu cases, in spite of "rumors."

The turkey farm in Suffolk which had the bird flu outbreak will not be prosecuted.

Report on multi-nation flu exercise.

More flu in Myanmar.

We ran the story on the University of Rochester becoming a Center of Excellence for Influenza. Add the University of Minnesota...

as did UC Davis.

NPR's Marketplace does a story on how Indonesia "made sure" that vaccines would be available to poor countries.

Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam want to produce their own vaccines--also to be less dependent.

The USAID is spending $19M on commodities to help fight bird flu in poor nations.

A Canadian Occupational Health association has launched a website for pandemic planning.

Here is the website.


At 6:52 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Quite a potpourri of articles you have today.

Had a little trouble with your link to the Helen Branswell article, but I’ll comment anyway without reading it. Many serious studies of the 1918 great influenza pandemic, have shown just how rapidly communities must respond during the early emergence of a pandemic, with the initiation of “non-pharmaceutical interventions”. This makes a huge difference in the velocity by which the disease spreads throughout a population.

When multiple social containment measures are imposed within a few days after it is first recognized, death rates are cut significantly. This essentially buys valuable time, until a vaccine can be produced. Communities that “relaxed” their social restrictions (ie, schools, churches, restaurants, rally’s, sporting events, etc), saw a temporary re-emergence of skyrocketing death rates, until those restrictions were re-implemented.

The real question in the matter is if the state and federal government, local school officials and civic leaders, will have the backbone to make the critical intervention decisions, on a timely basis. This is extremely questionable in my view. Bureaucracies by their very nature do not make timely decisions – they decide through committees. It’s only when the bodies stop flopping, will the leaders take the drastic measures that will be required (my opinion).

I was quite amused by the wording of the UN FAO organization’s “good news-bad news” points, in several of your articles. The FAO says, “the spread of bird flu in Bangladesh in March is not a surprise”, and “ there is more transparency, better surveillance and improved and timelier reporting of outbreaks”, but at the same time, “ Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria are heavily infected, effectively making them reservoirs of the virus for possible spread to other countries”. Are we supposed to let down our guard or what, with this double-speak ? When the H5N1 invades India and spreads to the Americas, are we going to hear these clunks again saying, “this is not a surprise, but no worries, since the overall viral load seems lower now than it was a year ago”.

These kind of statements are tantamount to saying, “don’t worry about the flood, it’s lowered to four feet, because the water has spread out over a much larger area”.

I see Kuwait once again is in the news, vehemently denying reports of any human cases. I guess my only question is why are they testing an astounding 511 people, if there are no human cases ? Sounds real suspicious and sneaky to me, but, hey, the UN FAO says there is more transparency and better surveillance in 2007. China has set the gold standard on censorship and propaganda, so many of these other countries in my view, are just following suit. They have learned from the best.

The final results of the multi-nation two day 2007 Panstop pandemic exercise should prove to be interesting (if it is ever published). My guess is that it will be declared a resounding success.

Speaking of which, did you notice the final sentence in your article about Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, joining forces to produce influenza vaccines ?

The final sentence quotes Margaret Chan, speaking in Singapore ahead of World Health Day, as saying, “the next influenza pandemic would ‘certainly happen’. Her remarks remind me of any old saying…

To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.

Most of us are betting the former.



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