Thursday, July 10, 2008

July 9 Flu Update

Article covers DNA vaccines from a PharmTech perspective.

CIDRAP covers the Purdue story on problems in planning for a pandemic.

A message the researchers heard from all the counties was that flu patients would not be the only demand on healthcare organizations during a pandemic. Officials said other healthcare needs would continue, such as trauma, childbirth, and medical emergencies. Consequently, not all beds could be allocated to flu patients, and hospitals will need to take steps to prevent flu from spreading to other patients.

In the face of this reality, "Almost all counties were giving consideration to altered standards of care to stretch resources, but were wary of this option due to liability concerns and lack of statutory protection from malpractice claims, a concern heightened by lack of guidance from state and federal governments," the report states.

Cosmos (The Science of Everything) has long story about whether bird flu has passed.

There are other reasons to worry less about bird flu. The media has repeatedly said that a pandemic is 'overdue' or even 'long overdue'. This claim is not based on any virological dictum, but simply on the historical pattern of outbreaks – one every 10 to 15 years or so from 1918 to 1977 and then a pregnant pause until now. But in fact the longer H5N1 'tries', the less likely it is to succeed in adapting into a human-transmissible type.

Some scientists now believe H5N1 has had its chance. A virus is not like a volcano, where pressure may build up gradually, leading to an eventual eruption. And a continued non-outbreak doesn't make a future outbreak more likely or more deadly.

Effect Measure blogs this, too, noting that Nature is looking at its special bird flu issue three years ago. It was chilling--included a fictional blog from a healthcare professional during a pandemic.

Declan Butler, who writes for Nature, is back online with an article seemingly in response to the one above.

Although bird flu has since faded from the front pages, media coverage in fact remains sustained and high, as can be seen from a timeline search of the Google News archive.

Local committee in North Dakota is presenting is pandemic plan later today.

Dr. Osterholm is scheduled to give a speech in Colorado.

Finally, courtesy Revere, check out this HealthMap database of informaton on various diseases from around the world. Very interesting.


At 6:14 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


The themes of your Cosmos, Nature and Revere articles today appear to be “What ever happened to bird flu” and is it still the same threat that it was when it first appeared in 1997 in Hong Kong (and mainland China). All three articles have slightly different emphases and slants.

After wading through the verbose Cosmos article, I concluded pretty much the same as the comment provided by Justin Kamen, of this is dangerous journalism (but for a different reason). The authors of the Cosmos article, Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersley Williams, basically attempt to send the message to the readers that H5N1 news these days is “scare mongering”, not worth fretting about, since few people have actually died compared to other malicious diseases, like rabies, HIV, TB, Ebola and measles. Also, since they assert it’s had a chance to mutate sufficiently to become humanized and hasn’t done so in over ten years, we are pretty much “out of the woods”. If that weren’t enough, they contend we successfully contained SARS, and even if H5N1 were to become a pandemic, it would most likely become far less pathogenic. These are all flimsy conclusions and assertions. The article did not change my stance one iota: other than an EMP from a nuclear weapon detonated over the US by the Iranian knuckleheads (see:, a highly pathogenic and infectious influenza pandemic caused by a novel avian virus still represents one of the biggest threats to modern society – even higher than terrorism.

Stop and ponder, what all the individuals impacted by Mount St Helens (1980), 9-11 (2001), Indonesian Tsunami (2004) Katrina (2005), the California wildfires (2008), Iowa flooding (2008), the mid-west tornadoes (2008), all have in common: not one of these many millions of people involved (or even killed) ever believed the event would happen or they would be effected. Although they knew catastrophes happen, they “most likely would not occur, since the probability was extremely low”. In actually, a world wide deadly pandemic caused by bird flu is no different than these events, in retrospect they were all extremely low probability but high risk catastrophic events that were “not supposed to happen”. But feces happens folks.

My opinion ? Put your money on what Dr. Osterholm and a few other most notable experts keep saying… “how do you prepare for something which you believe is going to happen but you aren’t sure exactly when or the extent of what it going to be” ? The US medical system is unprepared to handle a catastrophic national emergency, such as a flu pandemic or a major terrorist attack on our infrastructure. Our entire medical system is moving in the wrong direction and they are not even adequately funded to manage their routine work. A major natural disaster like a pandemic will most likely overwhelm all states and localities capacity to respond. The fact is that we are living in increasingly complicated and perilous times and we have to stop pretending that disasters are extremely rare and unforeseeable.

The answer in my play manual is that you always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Otherwise, you end up no better than the millions of victims of the Mt St. Helens eruption, the Indonesian Tsunami, hurricane Katrina , the 9-11 disaster, the wild fires decimating the west, and the flooding and tornado victims in the Midwest – pretty much hosed (but you had plenty of warning, you just didn’t want to believe the threat was real).



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home