Monday, November 29, 2004

How to Prepare for Bird Flu Pandemic

Google News lists 41 articles on what has been termed the "inevitable" bird flu pandemic.  Some excerpts:

Tens of millions could die from flu
By Keith Bradsher The New York Times 
Tuesday, November 30, 2004

HONG KONG A global pandemic of avian influenza is "very, very likely" and could kill tens of millions of people worldwide, a top World Health Organization official said Monday. [...]  Deaths associated with the rapid spread of a new form of influenza would be high, he said. "We are talking at least 2 to 7 million, maybe more - 20 million or 50 million, or in the worst case, 100" million, he said.  [...]  A few analysts have suggested that the death toll could be considerably higher. Dr. Henry Niman, a medical researcher in Pittsburgh who criticizes the World Health Organization as being too conservative, said that with more than 70 percent of the human victims of the disease dying so far, the death toll could exceed one billion if the disease were to spread rapidly among people. [...]
HK May Restrict Bird Slaughter to Combat Flu
Sun Nov 28, 2004 10:37 PM ET

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong said on Monday it may ban shopkeepers slaughtering poultry after world health experts issued strong warnings that the deadly bird flu virus may trigger the next pandemic.

Hong Kong scientists have been fighting to end the widespread practice of killing live chickens in markets since 1997, when the H5N1 virus first spread to humans and killed six people in the territory.

But strong opposition from the poultry industry has prevented the government from stopping stall holders from selling live chickens and ducks and slaughtering them in front of customers. [...]
The World Health Organization has a web page that provides the latest information.  They explain why the poultry control is so important:
A new laboratory study of domestic ducks infected with several 2004 H5N1 viruses shows that, when compared with infections caused by viruses from 2003, domestic ducks are shedding more virus for longer periods. The majority are doing so without showing symptoms of illness.

Findings from this study also show that, compared to highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses from previous outbreaks, the recent H5N1 viruses survive several days longer in the environment.

The study found that the quantities of virus excreted by healthy-looking ducks approach those excreted by diseased – and visibly very ill – chickens. This suggests that domestic ducks might now be acting as a “silent” reservoir for the H5N1 virus, which is highly pathogenic for chickens.

In terms of preventing further human cases, it is of public health concern that ducks may be infected and shed virus for long periods, yet issue no “warning signal” in the form of visible signs and symptoms that alert people to take precautions. The concern is greatest in rural areas of affected countries, where free-ranging ducks and chickens often mingle, frequently sharing the same water supplies.

The WHO also has a page with recommendations for preparedness.  The recommendations are generic, in that they have to apply to all countries of the World.   Therefore, the Corpus Callosum has taken the initiative to prepare a set of guidelines specific to the United States of America:

Recommended Status
Actual Status
High percentage of population should have good health insurance
The percentage of uninsured persons is at a record high
High percentage of sanitary living conditions
Number of homeless persons is at an all-time high
Reliable vaccine supply
Vaccine supply recently demonstrated to be susceptible to disruption
Solid economic reserves
Federal deficit is at an all-time high, and the exchange rate for the dollar is declining
Close working relationship with international organizations
Current administration displays disdain for UN and many important countries
Highly visible and responsive national leadership
President spends record amount of time on vacation, gives very few press conferences, and spends too much time reading about pet goats.

I would say that we have a bit of work to do in order to get ready.