Monday, January 07, 2008

January 6 Flu Update

Revere has a strong post. The blogosphere is buzzing with rumors of many suspect cases in Egypt, most of which has not hit the media yet. He reviews the situation, taking the approach of a realist.

Asian economies are worried about "climate of fear" due to avian flu.

Vietnam says flu outbreak is under control.

The Philippines have banned bird imports from South Korea.

Topeka Schools say they are preparing for the worst.

Another county uses seasonal flu to test its ability to vaccinate in a pandemic.


At 7:33 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


I believe Revere’s Conumdrum Article summarizes the current chaotic situation going on in Egypt quite well: due to the influences of seasonal influenza and other pneumonia like infections, increased public awareness and disease precautions, and strong probability of “true clusters” being masked in the confusion there – we shouldn’t mistake any of it for a true pandemic signal. It’s way too premature. As far as being a realist, I do think Revere may have overlooked one critical aspect of the WHO’s overall world-wide bird flu surveillance and containment program: they will be able to CONFIRM a pandemic in progress, but it is doubtful they will ever be able to provide ample practical warning or prediction of an influenza pandemic to anyone, for all practical purposes. As the situations in Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt all illustrate, it is almost impossible for the WHO to independently verify accurate infection onset dates, collect and test viable samples, reaffirm H5N1 test results, verify poultry infections, identify suspect sequence changes in viruses, and collect necessary medical information – without timely involvement and notification from host governments. It is only when the virus reaches a clearly identifiable “critical mass” of human H5N1 infections and death, will the WHO be able confirm a pandemic in progress, in my opinion.

I found your article about the Asia-Pacific health minister’s concern about a “climate of fear”, and endorsing a joint plan called the “APEC Functioning Economies in Times of Pandemic Guidelines, quite fascinating. Seems to me, this is a very similar attempt to follow in the footsteps of or own joint “North American Plan for Avian and Pandemic Influenza – Canadian/US/Mexico”, announcement back in August 2007. I think we will see more of these regional announcements and economic alliances in the future and nations joining together to reduce their economic vulnerabilities. I also found it quite interesting that Indonesia stated during the summit meeting that the H5N1 virus “might have undergone a mutation that allows it to jump more easily from poultry to humans, but stressed the finding were preliminary”. Note also that the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, also referred to the virus as “very, very unstable and changeable”. Both direct quotations do not sound good.

My final comment is relates to your article about “Topeka schools preparing for the worst”. I think this is a darn good idea. The article mentions the facts that we are all familiar with, that “three pandemics hit during the 20th century – the most deadly of which was the 1918 pandemic that claimed at least 500,000 lives in the US and as many as 50 million worldwide.” I just completed reading an excellent book, “Mayflower”, by Nathaniel Philbrick, which describes the difficulties of the early Pilgrims in establishing their colony in the Plymouth Massachusetts region, during the 1600’s.

Did you know that historians of that early era described and accurately documented in detail a “very deadly influenza epidemic” in 1676 that killed many of the early English settlers, as well as thousands of Native American Indians ? This got me really wondering.

It seems that influenza has been with us for a very long time, and does represent a much larger deadly threat than most people realize. The following is a listing of historically recorded influenza epidemics and pandemics that have killed hundreds of thousands of North Americans for over 200 years, PRIOR TO the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 :

1700: Several influenza epidemics in Montreal and US Colonies

1732-1733: Worldwide influenza pandemic

1761: National epidemic of Influenza in North America

1775-1776: Worldwide influenza pandemic – one of the worst ever

1793: Influenza epidemic in North America

1820-23 A Nationwide epidemic of Influenza in North America

1847-1848: Worldwide pandemic of Influenza

1857-1859: Worldwide influenza pandemic

1873-1875: Worldwide influenza pandemic



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