Monday, February 13, 2006

a monday avian influenza wrap-up

A smattering of avian influenza articles caught my eye over recent days. Recombinomics has two interesting articles -- this one suggesting that there might be more efficient human-to-human transmission in Iraq, and this one describing bird dropping from the sky, also in Iraq. Both very disturbing.

In a possible preview of bad things to come, this Yahoo story describes the shunning a village in Kurdish Iraq has been subjected to after a few cases were reported there.

All of the above links were directly or indirectly found from a blog called The Coming Influenza Pandemic. Lots of links every day to articles about this story from around the world. This blog also has interesting news about the flu.

Finally, a blog called Effect Measure is a public health blog published by professionals in the field -- and understandably, it now includes a LOT about avian influenza. This post from over the weekend describes the rapid geographical spread of H5N1 in birds -- latest if you haven't heard include Cyprus, Italy, Bulgaria, and Nigeria. It closes with this cheerful note:
Because east - west spread will be slower, the timing of this is still open but the speed with which the virus is now moving bodes ill.

The evolution of the H5N1 question as a matter of human health now depends on imponderables. We know too little about the biology of host range, transmission and virulence to be able to predict what this subtype can do, much less what it will do and when. But the world is now set up for a pandemic should the virus's biology permit it. Every community should be thinking hard what the consequences would be and begin to prepare.

The assault on "Big Government" that has taken place in the western democracies in the last three decades has done more than reduce "bureaucracy." It has also dealt a blow to feelings of community solidarity, the status of public service and the infrastructures of public health and the social services. Coping with a serious influenza pandemic will require all of these resources and quite a bit of good luck.

Good luck is in the hands of Fate. The rest is up to us.
Here's hoping our country's GOP-fueled ideological revolt against useful but non-profitable services like public health systems doesn't come back to bite us all in the collective butt.