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February 16, 2006

Overheard at CIDRAP's National Summit for Business Planning: Pandemic Influenza

Here are some interesting sound-bites from the recently completed CIDRAP sponsored Business Planning for Pandemic Influenza, a National Summit:

  • Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of CIDRAP, and perhaps the leading scientist and public policy advocate in the field, when asked what he would do with the $7.1 billion sum that the Bush Administration has recommended to prepare for an H5N1 virus pandemic: I would put it all into the development of a next generation vaccine that would be able to lead possibly to the eradication of influenza in all its forms. Osterholm had earlier in the hour characterized the $7.1 billion sum as inadequate to the challenge that lies ahead. (For readers who haven't been following the DC story, Congress has so far allocated $3.1 billion).
  • Ted Koppel, speaking before a dinner audience of Summit attendees said, referring of course to Bird Flu, that in all his time in news reporting he had never seen a story this important, with this much lead time for action, so ignored by so many people.
  • Dorothy Teeter, Interim Director and Health Officer Public Health --Seattle & King County WA, said that a Seattle medical examiner had gone to New Orleans to study the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  After he returned, Teeter said, even she was taken aback when he recommended to the King's County bird flu taskforce that health officials develop guidelines for families to bury bodies of loved ones in their back yards in case county burial resources become overwhelmed as in post-Katrina New Orleans. Teeter noted that a similar crisis had occurred in Philadelphia at the height of the Spanish Flu outbreak (1918-20).
  • John Barry, author, The Great Influenza, noted that while officials across the country were denying the seriousness of the pandemic, describing it as just a strong but ordinary flu outbreak, doctors were reporting cases of patients bleeding from their mouths and ears just hours after coming down with the sickness and faces so blue and distorted that caregivers were unable to distinguish the patient's race. Barry also pointed out how the virus continues to mutate during the pandemic, he noted that the first wave in 1918 was rather mild and it wasn't until months later that the severity increased.  He said a later wave was actually the worst.
  • Michael Osterholm put up his "W Factor" slide measuring the distribution of deaths by age groups during the Spanish Flu pandemic in Boston.  The slide shows the greatest number of deaths occurring, as expected, among the youngest and oldest but surprisingly, at the peak of the epidemic, there is a spike for young adults between the ages of 20 and 40, actually topping the other age groups. The phenomenon behind this is called a "Cytokine Storm" in which those with the strongest immune systems become the most vulnerable.

For more information on the Conference.

Posted by dymaxion at February 16, 2006 05:10 PM

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