November 11, 2013 at 10:29 pm #946MikeKeymaster
Hi Bill and All
I don’t know if this is OT, but it sure is noteworthy.
World slow to face bird flu threat
By Adam Blenford
Plans for a global response to a mass outbreak of bird flu in humans
are taking shape, but are far from complete.
Public health experts and epidemiologists are issuing shrill
warnings about the dangers a pandemic would pose to human health
around the world.
Any confirmation that the H5N1 bird flu virus has become capable of
human-to-human transmission will send the World Health
Organisation’s pandemic alert level, currently at Level 3, soaring
towards the highest state of danger, Level 6.
Air travel could be among the first casualties of a global panic as
governments try to prevent the disease spreading.
“There may be some small restrictions imposed in the early days of a
pandemic,” Dick Thompson of the WHO told the BBC News website.
“But they will fail, because infected people will not yet be showing
While emergency services in many countries train regularly to cope
with major terror attacks, convincing national governments to draw
up and implement expensive plans for disease containment is proving
Just 40 governments around the world have submitted plans for
dealing with a pandemic to the WHO.
The majority of those are wealthy western nations – not the Asian
countries where the H5N1 avian influenza virus has taken hold and
killed 57 people.
The detection of bird flu in Russia has jolted European nations
towards action, fearful that migration patterns could spread the
Tamsin Rose, secretary general of the European Public Health
Alliance, which represents 115 European NGOs in Brussels, fears that
a lack of planning could undermine efforts to contain the virus.
Bird flu spread in Thailand: computer model map of new cases (red)
and where the epidemic has finished (green) 60-90 days after an
“There needs to be clear guidance on what civil society needs to
do,” she told the BBC News website.
“Which key workers are needed to help out? Will schools be closed
and turned into triage centres? How ready are we for this effort? We
can’t see our members getting ready for this.”
Indeed, experts trying to forecast the outbreak of a human pandemic
are still focusing on south-east Asia, not Europe or north America.
In a recent simulation designed to assess the likelihood of
containing an outbreak in that region, scientists concluded that the
bird flu virus could be contained by rapid identification of the
source of infection, combined with quick and intensive distribution
of anti-viral drugs.
An international stockpile of anti-viral drugs should be established
to enable rapid distribution in the event of an outbreak, the study
The findings, published in the journal Nature at the start of
August, were broadly welcomed by the WHO.
In response, pharmaceutical giant Roche has pledged to make three
million courses of its anti-viral drug Tamiflu available to the
Distributing them effectively is another matter. Thus far, agreement
extends to a “promise” from Roche to ship the drugs to an
international airport near the outbreak.
On the ground, mankind’s fight against a potentially deadly virus
will fall into the hands of highly skilled volunteers.
With little manpower of its own, the WHO operates a worldwide
volunteer known as the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.
A pandemic would change society as we know it. And no-one seems
European Public Health Alliance
Small teams of epidemiologists, database managers, intensive care
staff and other experts can quickly be deployed to try to control an
After the initial “firefighting”, though, responsibility must rest
with national governments. If a pandemic develops, the WHO warns,
relying on volunteers will be pointless.
Secondary clusters of infection are unlikely to receive anti-viral
drugs from any international stockpile, and governments will have to
rely on their own supplies.
In any case, those drugs already developed are unlikely to be
entirely equipped to quell an outbreak of a mutated form of H5N1. An
effective vaccine could take six months to develop once any new
strain is identified.
“We keep encouraging countries to develop a plan because a pandemic
is inevitable,” Dick Thompson said, warning that between two million
and seven million people around the world could die.
Tamsin Rose of EPHA is less circumspect.
“Millions and millions would die, and a pandemic would change
society as we know it,” she said. “And no-one seems prepared.”
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