Wednesday, August 01, 2007

August 1 Flu Update

Helen Branswell weighs in with the big story of the day. International delegates are meeting in Singapore mto discuss how to handle virus sharing in the future. Here is the salient paragraph:

But rather than hailing the meeting as a way to break the troubling logjam, some scientists and public health officials are watching with trepidation, worrying the process may hinder the way research into influenza and other infectious diseases is conducted.

CIDRAP also has this story.

India is also monitoring people for bird flu, including four children.

ProMed on Indian children under surveillance.

In Bangkok, they are studying the use of satellites for tracking avian flu.

There is a fresh outbreak of flu in Myanmar.

ProMed on the outbreak in Myanmar.

Thailand is concerned about flu outbreaks on its borders.

This might be interesting. We talk about quarantine and isolation--here, NEJM looks at the legal use of these terms in drug resistant TB.

India reports on the hearty nature of H5N1.

Australia is providing support to SE Asia in fight against bird flu.


At 6:22 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Your Helen Branswell and CIDRAP articles about the international low-key meeting taking place this week in Singapore, to discuss solutions to virus-sharing problems, provoke three comments:

1. In both articles, there is one important deadbeat and sandbagger country whose name is conspicuously absent, namely China. When it comes to failure to provide current virus samples, they are the champion slackers. Margaret needs to start exerting some of her “influence”.

2. One would think that representatives from the top ten world’s pharmaceutical companies would be participants in the important meeting also. Without their participation, it’s kind of like holding a world soccer championship, and forgetting to invite the coaches.

3. Just an observation: whatever gaps and problems remain unresolved in the sharing of virus strains and samples, research, vaccine production, or with other associated communicable infectious diseases – the military components of the world will eventually resolve. Either the countries and the WHO reach agreements, or the military powers will use brute force in the final analysis. That’s reality of the situation Orange.

The present situation in India is only mildly concerning. I have very little doubt that India will be able to manage the present minor bird flu crisis. However, I have a great deal of consternation about their ability to handle an emerging human-to-human pandemic, due to their population density. I don’t think they would have an ice-cube’s chance in hades of stopping or containing a real pandemic situation, even if 100 trainloads of Tamiflu rolled into New Delhi.

I noticed in your article about the use of space-based technologies to track migratory birds, but there was an even more interesting discussion about the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and its efforts to identify “response systems” in pandemic scenarios. All I have to say is this: figure within 24 hours after a pandemic is realized and broadcasted throughout the mass media, huge numbers of airlines, international flights, and tourism, will be frozen. Mark my prediction, Orange. Ain’t nobody going anywhere, especially to/from any infected country. The government has been warning its international travelers about this for a year now.

Regarding your NEJM article on the legal ramifications of isolation and quarantines – the key point is in the last paragraph – only “by ensuring that coercion is used only when less restrictive alternatives will not work and with due regard for the rights of those detained, the law can foster public trust…”. The author, Wendy Parmet, is absolutely correct: we can make this whole subject real simple, by following the Canadian SARS example, and by relying on voluntary quarantines, while simultaneously providing government support and compensation for quarantined persons. This was a very well written and researched piece and makes perfect sense.

But, the rub with isolation and quarantines is this Orange: I have very little confidence the present nitwits in the administration running Washington can figure out this simple solution, as outlined by this lone lawyer. We are wasting over $ 1B every 2-3 days on the Iraq civil war quagmire (needlessly), sending our young men and women over there on their third tours (ruining their lives and their families), neglecting our public health care system and subsistence support to our needy citizens, and letting our entire infrastructure go unchecked (bridges collapsing), for what ? Nothing that I can see. Iraq-nam is sucking all of our present and future financial and human resources and capabilities dry and I predict we will regret this fiasco, like the Vietnam war, for many decades to come.

To make matters worse, we have, a largely, proven dysfunctional bureaucratic DHS and FEMA organizations to boot. I guess that’s why I have my three months worth of quarantine twinkies stashed away, if we ever have a real pandemic situation, they’ll be worth their weight in gold.



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