Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pandemic Risk vs Pandemic Apathy

sick humor

October 16, 2007 14:24 PM
Bird Flu Takes Another Life In Indonesia, Toll Now 88
(source:, Oct 16 (Bernama) -- A 12-year-old boy at Ceger village in
Tangerang district in Banten province near here died of the H5N1 virus
over the weekend, bringing to 88 the death toll in bird flu cases in
Indonesia, a health official reported.

The boy was brought to a local midwife on Oct 3 after suffering from
fever for three days, said head of the communicable disease control and
prevention section at the Tangerang district health office, Dr Yuliah

Among the critical issues facing this planet is H5N1 and the threat of
a worldwide pandemic. While the other major issues such as
terrorism, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, increasing tensions over
nuclear technology and weapons proliferation, whether a dirty bomb in a
suitcase or a trend of more nations joining 'the club', matters
involving critical health issues seem to take a back seat.

There was the mad rush for duct tape and rolls of plastic sheet for
personal household protection with the advent of fears over biological
weapons like anthrax. Perhaps the addition of sarin gas to the
publicly known 21st century arsenal assisted the waning of these
simplistic countermeasures. The flow of information regarding
potential catastrophes in the form of warning the public is weighed
against the risk of panic. That judgment typically resides with
those who have access in 'leadership' roles in government and the

Is the relative quiet and limited media coverage about the avian flu
the result of typical public apathy, a concerted effort by those in
charge to let a sleeping dog lie or editorial decisions based on what
sells? A combination of all three may be the low risk bet on a
high risk topic. The information is out there, you just have to
look for it. The story about the Indonesian boy who died from
H5N1 this week should cause everyone to take another look.

In case you are interested a few handy references are provided. A
world map from July 2006 displaying countries with confirmed cases in
animals and humans. A WHO list of cases reported to them as
recent as this month. The US government site devoted to H5N1 and some
NIH information. The narrative about vaccine trials in helpful.
Except the part where they describe several cases within months in Viet
Nam where patients survived the avian flu. There is no discussion
illuminating how they survived. Was it without intervention or
did they get assistance?

It would be nice if those involved in finding solutions have been
successful. But the prudent reaction to the quiet front on this
health issue suggests otherwise. With the flu season of the
common variety approaching with its habit of killing thousands each
year in the US alone, the scenario for its deadlier cousin is likely
similar. As the scary cousin develops, the likelihood of avoiding
a pandemic may be within reach but a similar trend compared to the
common forms of flu may become an annual event also only with many more
deaths in the future and a relatively apathetic view from the world's

Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR)

Nations With Confirmed Cases: H5N1 Avian Influenza (MAP: July 7, 2006)

Pandemic Flu Dot Gov

Human Antibodies Protect Mice from Avian Flu
An international team of scientists, including researchers from the
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of
the National Institutes of Health, report using antibodies derived from
immune cells from recent human survivors of H5N1 avian influenza to
successfully treat H5N1-infected mice as well as protect them from an
otherwise lethal dose of the virus.

February 2007 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS on Avian Influenza Trials

January 2007 NIAID DNA Vaccine for H5N1 Avian Influenza Enters Human

By Stanford Matthews
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