Friday, April 25, 2008

April 25 Flu Update

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer looks back at SARS, but pandemic flu is never far from the discussion.

This is really odd, the Institute of Medicine is calling for more anti-virals to be stockpiled.

More "wrangling" over US Naval Lab in Indonesia.

Effect Measure looks at Declan Butler's article about naming flu strains.

The naming business provides a fascinating look into the interplay between science, established convention and politics.


At 7:13 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Interesting and excellent interview with the chief Canadian public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones. He seems like a real practical, common-sense sort of fellow. The one curious comment he made is that if a 1918-like influenza pandemic were to occur today, the death count may be only 10 to 15 thousand people, versus the 50,000 number in 1918.
I am very skeptical of this low estimate for a couple of reasons: (1) the fact is we have much higher populations and many more people living in “mega – urban” densities in 2008 (versus predominantly rural back in the 20th century); (2) the lack of individuals preparedness (basic food supplies, knowledge, etc) and independence in 2008 with our “just in time culture for everything”, translates into only into a small fraction of the robustness that the population had in 1918 to survive calamities and natural disasters; and (3) most important of all, there is a failure on the part of health planning officials everywhere to acknowledge that if a world-wide severe pandemic were to emerge, most likely every supplier nation in the world would place an immediate embargo on raw food, pharmaceuticals, medicines, and all other necessary supplies – for use in sustaining their own populations during the emergency. The US and Canada would implement this also: very little essentials, if any, would leave the countries… imports/exports would grind to a halt. The SARS experience is just the tip of the iceberg in health emergency terms.

Regarding your CIDRAP article, it’s about time a prestigious and well informed group like the IOM is starting to speak out about the lack of prioritization for antiviral treatment and prophylaxis procedures in a pandemic crisis. One would think that the stellar people at HHS can think beyond just warehousing the 81 million courses of Tamiflu in federal and state storage buildings, and begin devising a realistic pre-distribution and prioritization approach and methodology. How long have they had – two years now to come up with some specifics, and nada ? No viable “execution or operations plan” to get the antivirals into the hands of those workers that most need it to sustain the health and welfare of the nation. The IOM of course is correct in their comments about needing to double the supply… nobody outside of the HHS and CDC has ever thought for a moment that 81 million doses was enough. For that matter, nobody outside of the DHS, HHS and CDC believes the courses can even be distributed from the warehouses in time to make any major difference.

What truly absolutely amazes, astounds and shocks me is that the US death toll from a severe influenza pandemic could easily result in more total deaths in the first 3-6 months wave, than the combined US deaths of WWII (418,500), Vietnam War (58,209) and the Iraq War (4,052) all added together.

And we as a nation seem to be still fumbling around trying to figure out how many antiviral courses to stockpile, what the priority for dissemination is, and when it might be distributed. We spend a mind numbing Billion Dollars every three days on the Iraq war, but we can’t ramp up our vaccine production manufacturing capability and double our antiviral stockpiles to protect our North American population from disaster ?

I can’t help but think that some kind of significant dramatic political change is necessary in November to get our national emergency planning rev’d up to where it should be.


PS- check out this link, if you think other nations are not planning seriously:


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