Friday, April 11, 2008

Very interesting..... bird flu, human-to-human transmission, and musings from others around "Flubogia"

There is an interesting thread posted on a pandemic flu-watching blog that I follow:

First interesting point: It refers to the recent release of information about human-to-human transmission of bird flu in China, just published in the British medical journal The Lancet. The case reported, which actually occurred in December, was a transmission from son to father.

So far, all of the human-to-human (H2H) transmission has been between family members, mostly family members with a genetic relationship rather than marital relationship (second interesting point!). That is leading some of the scientists to believe that there could be a genetic predisposition to infection with this H5N1 virus.

Another interesting aspect of this report was how the father was treated. He was vaccinated by transfusing him with blood from someone who had been vaccinated with a trial H5N1 vaccine. Wow. However, a noted health reporter, Helen Branswell (The Canadian Press), emphasizes that there is no way to be sure that the transfusion is what led to the father's recovery.

The follow-up postings meander from the report to Chinese motives, to authenticity of the information, to the pan flu threat (more "interesting points").

There are some conversations about being too melodramatic about pandemic flu. One person feels that all this pandemic flu stuff is another Y2K - nothing to worry about.

He says, "H5N1 is going nowhere fast, much to the chagrin of the fear mongering crowd. The situation has remained unchanged over the past 4 years and there is ZERO evidence that it's evolving into a human pandemic virus."

And, finally, a highly respected writer, Jody Lanard, reminds us how a message of "don't panic" is interpreted. From Dr. Lanard:

On telling people to stay calm:
Here is an excerpt from Appendix 5, "The Problem with Saying 'Don't Panic'," which I wrote as part of the draft background document for WHO's Outbreak Communication Guidelines in 2004:
Officials clearly have the fear or belief -- the mental model -- that panic is imminent. Instead of diagnosing, validating, and addressing the public's actual level of anxiety, officials repeatedly warn them not to panic.
To the public, "There is no need to panic" implies at least four things:
1. "The officials think or know that people are close to panicking. Things must be pretty bad." This increases public alarm.
2. "The officials think we're about to panic. How insulting." This decreases respect for officials.
3. "The officials are close to panicking themselves." This increases public alarm.
4. "Sometimes there must indeed be a need to panic."
Very hard lessons to teach officials.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

An amazing response and recovery

If you've been following the news from Alamosa, Colorado, they are making significant progress on cleaning the water system. Somehow - and we may never know exactly how - the water distribution in this San Luis Valley town was contaminated with salmonella.

The water emergency has had an enormous impact on this small community. Nearly 10,000 people are served by the municipal water system in and around Alamosa. As a result of the response needs, the city welcomed 749 volunteers from all over the state, and many from out of state as well.

Some of the volunteers trudged through town, door to door, talking to people about how to stay safe or leaving notices on doors. Others from far more complex water districts around Colorado used their expertise to flush the water system with a very strong concentration of chlorine. And still more made sure that everyone could understand the safety instructions - no matter what language worked best.

The people who live in Alamosa have not been able to turn on the water without thinking about their health for two weeks now. It has been a huge inconvenience to buy or pick up drinking water, and many even visited a very gracious hotel on its own water system to take a shower for a few days. Through it all, the residents have been optimistic and patient.

If you have ever thought about helping out in an emergency such as this, consider the public health and medical volunteer system today. It includes Medical Reserve Corps units all over the state, staffed by medical volunteers who are willing to step up during an emergency. But your skills might be useful even if you aren't a health professional. The Colorado Volunteer Mobilizer (CVM) is a way to register as a volunteer before something urgent occurs, and to get the training you might need before helping out.

Visit today for more information about the Colorado Volunteer Mobilizer.