Thursday, July 17, 2008

July 16 Flu Update

New rules in Canada are going to restrict free ranges chickens, ostensibly to fight bird flu, but free-range farmers suspect commercial motives. (This is just the kind of human element that is difficult to build into pandemic planning).

The World Bank has pledged money to Haiti to fight bird flu.

Good example of how scientific research doesn't always fare so well through language and scientific literacy barriers.

Reuters story that Revere blogged yesterday on Indonesia's defense of stopping virus sharing.

Indiana paper looks back at the Spanish Flu in that country.


At 7:53 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Your Nova Scotia news article seems fairly innocuous, until once reads all the ensuing comments from bloggers across Canada. Most of the remarks seem to be along the lines of questioning why “big government” (regulatory bodies) are imposing unnecessary restrictions on free-range poultry farmers, and building holistic and health arguments for “free range chickens” versus factory raised chickens. I believe what people everywhere in the world must recognize is that there is going to be a complete revolution in how poultry are raised, regardless of how they are raised, due to the H5N1 viral threat. The risk to entire poultry industries everywhere is real, as is the likelihood of it eventually mutating into a honest-to-goodness influenza pandemic.

The article you posted from Indiana, titled “ The 1918 influenza pandemic in Indiana”, is an absolutely eye popper. The numbers of illnesses, human deaths and sequence of events summarized there are astounding:

• on Sept 30, 1918 in Indianapolis, four residents had influenza, two days later, 200 cases appeared and four people had already died.

• From Sept 1918 to Feb 1919 (a short period of six months), 10,000 Indiana people actually died, and when it was all over – an astounding 154,600 people had died there, and a whopping 675,000 Americans died.

Relate these death statistics to the North American population in 2008 or 2009, along with the potential case-fatality-rate (CFR) of H5N1 nearly 60%, and we could be facing a catastrophe many magnitudes beyond 1918. The CFR of 1918 was a measly 2.5-3.0%, and SARS was only an average of approximately 10% (depending on the location).

I do not believe that people comprehend how bad an influenza pandemic could be. Just like the present economy, a year or two ago we were rocking along without a clue how quickly the mortgage lending industry and bank industry could come to a near collapse, and how quickly the price of oil and other commodities could go through the roof tops.

I don’t really get excited when I read about stories regarding free-range chicken farmers, imposed restrictions, and how “things used to be” fifty years ago. What I am concerned about is how quickly a pandemic can start and how unprepared and vulnerable our society really is. We have plans in place, but no actual preparations made.

That’s what is really scary – a whole bunch of panicked and desperately ill people, who have no health insurance, no supplies beyond two days, no safety net, and no comprehension of what to do.

The next pandemic could be a “Mega-Katrina” situation, just like happened a few years ago in New Orleans, and what happened in Indianapolis in 1918 and 1919, only multiply the impact tenfold.



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