Friday, January 11, 2008

January 10 Flu Update

The Director General of OIE says that fears of bird flu were overblown.

Fears of a flu pandemic originating from the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus were overblown, the head of the World Organization for Animal Health said Thursday.

The Paris-based body — an intergovernmental organization responsible for improving animal health worldwide — has been at the forefront of global efforts to monitor and fight H5N1, which scientists have tracked because they fear it may mutate into a human flu virus that starts a pandemic.

But "the risk was overestimated," said Bernard Vallat, director general of the animal health organization, also known as the OIE.

Vallat said the H5N1 virus has proved extremely stable, despite concerns that it could mutate into a form that could spread easily among humans.

"We have never seen such a stable strain," Vallat said.

Effect Measure weighs in with a thoughtful response on this statement.

The first part is that the virus is extremely stable, meaning in this context, stable in terms of changes that might turn it into an animal virus that becomes easily transmissible to and between people. Maybe Director General Vallat knows what those changes are. If he does he should tell the scientific community. I, for one, would certainly like to know. Without knowing that, how could be possibly know how stable the virus is? It does change and adapt. So it isn't stationary.

Anybody has the right to shoot off their mouth without first engaging their brains. But the Director General of OIE isn't just anybody.

Meanwhile, WHO's David Nabarro is singing a different tune.

"Most countries have now focused on pandemic as a potential cause of catastrophe and have done some planning. But the quality of the plans is patchy and too few of them pay attention to economic and social consequences," he told BBC radio.

Girl is hospitalized with bird flu in Indonesia.

Two dead swans signal return of H5N1 to Britain.

ProMed has this as well.

ProMed follows up on Chinese and Pakistani human-human issues.

Kerala, India, has a road map to fight bird flu.

Trinidad and Tobago also have rules now to keep the flu out.

Doc from the Peter Sandman lab writes letter to editor to Caribbean publication on errors in a story.

Limestone, AL, asks if it is ready for the bird flu.

A report is issued on 25 public meetings held on bird flu in Kansas City. Called "helpful."

International Security publication looks bird flu, ready to "explode."

In Benin, they are fighting bird flu with voodoo.

Bangladesh has heightened concern over the bird flu.


At 5:55 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


It appears that your first three excellently chosen articles represent three distinctly different positions of the bird flu threat: The Director General of OIE – says, “fears of an avian flu pandemic are overblown” (it has stabilized); on the other hand, the WHO’s David Nabarro wants all nations of the world to “be prepared for the next influenza pandemic and its grave economic repercussions”; and then we have EM Revere weighing in as referee, (the consummate advocate for investing in community public health and social infrastructure), asking the fundamental question of “where’s the scientific proof” for any of these positions.

At first, I wondered in my own mind, does Bernard Vallat, Director General of OIE, really understand the entire global situation with H5N1 ? Then I realized that the WHO and the OIE (i.e. World Organization for Animal Health), are two distinctly different competing world health organizations, with different agendas – one for humans and one for animals. These two differing opinions represent different political and scientific points of view, and no doubt makes for a curious and frustrating situation. In fact, the OIE (headquartered in Paris) was created in 1924, long before the WHO was formed, and advertises itself as “ a totally new tool for limiting the regional and global spread of contagious animal diseases”. It consists of 172 “visionary” country members, and “has a global network of 171 Reference Laboratories with 146 experts covering 93 diseases/topics in 30 countries, and 24 Collaborating Centres covering 22 topics in 14 countries”. If I am incorrect in my statement I apologize to your readers, but I believe this is what is transpiring here with the WHO and OIE articles.

Some of your other articles also caught my interest. For example, your Indian Hindu article which describes the “Road-map” being put into place to combat an outbreak of H5N1, clearly states that “no report of any outbreak has taken place anywhere in the country”. I find this very implausible, but who am I to say ? The fact that every surrounding country has had a significant problem, and India has not reported one instance of a poultry outbreak, is cause for speculation.

The other article that is absolutely fascinating and illuminating on your list today, is your Kansas City piece about the “25 public meetings held on the subject of pandemic influenza”, and their fundamental findings, which are:

1. Most people know very little about pandemic flu.

2. The biggest barrier to being able to voluntarily stay at home is the need to earn a paycheck.

3. Very few businesses have pandemic flu plans.

4. Few neighborhood, church and school leaders are involved in preparing for pandemic flu.

5. People will disregard health department advisories if they feel they need to care for children or parents.

Every once in a while, we come across an article on pandemic preparation that describes an effort by a small group of people that really is noteworthy, succinct, and describes some of the “real life” problems, without the usual bureaucratic gobbledygook. This is one of them. The small thirteen member steering committee really came up with a good list of observations, which could be extrapolated to describe the situation in nearly every town, city and county across North America.

Judging from the list of five observations above, it is very apparent that we as a country are not prepared for a severe influenza pandemic by a long shot and most people don’t care. It’s just not on their worry list, which is unfortunate.



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