January 22, 2008
H5N1 Bird Flu Served To Prepare Us For Real Threats?

Does the H5N1 avian influenza pose a substantial epidemic threat to humans? Or has the H5N1 fear benefited us by spurring us to prepare for much more likely causes of killer pandemic influenza?

Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine specialist at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, was one of those who, he jokes, "dared to be stupid" by bucking the alarmist trend in 2005.

"H5 viruses have been around for 100 years and never caused a pandemic and probably never will," he said.

But Offit said he backed all preparedness efforts because he expected another pandemic from an H1, H2 or H3, the subtypes responsible for six previous epidemics, including the catastrophic one in 1918.

"What I worry is that this has been a 'boy who cried wolf' phenomenon," he said. "When the next pandemic comes, people will say, 'Yeah, yeah, we heard that last time.' "

The efforts to develop faster ways to produce vaccines will eventually pay off in a big way when another dangerous flu strain pops up. Regardless of what strain turns out to cause the next pandemic the preparations made for an H5N1 pandemic will serve us well. But we still do not have the ability to rapidly scale up vaccine production.

Right now, said Dr. Klaus Stöhr, who was chief of flu vaccines for the WHO and now does the same for Novartis, it would take manufacturers about one year to produce a billion doses of any vaccine based on a new pandemic strain. But the pandemic would have circled the globe within three months.

"The peak would be over, and, principally, you'd be vaccinating survivors," Stöhr said.

We need vaccine production technologies that lend themselves to very fast and easy scaling. The ability to grow vaccines in microorganisms would let us scale up production most rapidly.

We still aren't ready for a flu pandemic.

Vaccines and drugs will not be enough to slow or prevent a pandemic of influenza, according to a U.S. government report released on Tuesday.

The report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office confirms what most experts have been stressing for years -- that the pharmaceutical industry cannot be relied on alone to protect the world from bird flu.

If you want to survive a pandemic the key is to be able to isolate yourself. You can do this by yourself or with family or friends or a work group. The most essential quality in such a group is trustworthiness. Can you trust them not to sneak off somewhere and unnecessarily expose themselves to people outside the group? That is what you need to eliminate the risk of death from a deadly influenza pandemic.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 January 22 08:58 PM  Pandemic Prepare Government

rsilvetz said at January 22, 2008 11:23 PM:

Yes... all true... but still we have the indisputable fact that 4 cycles have gone by without a world-wide pandemic swinging by. This is beyond statistical expectation. What has changed? Something has. And even the CDC folk don't buy that their efforts have somehow been instrumental in containment. ( Although they should take a little more credit for keeping Ebola from totally sweeping across Africa.)

Frankly we have much more to worry from MRSA going wild than anything else. If MRSA gets a shade more virulent we will revert to the pre-antibiotic era with a bang and from one organism to boot.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright ©