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May 22, 2006

Branswell: Indonesia tests mathematical models

Via Canoe.ca, a Canadian news source, Helen Branswell looks at the implications of the Tanah Karo outbreak. Our pandemic SWAT teams may be outmatched: Bird flu cases in Indonesia raise questions about pandemic containment plan. Excerpt:

Mathematical models have suggested containing a pandemic could be possible with a swift and sweeping response. Based on those findings, experts at the World Health Organization has been working for months on a strategy to try to effect containment, if and when the need arises.

But the outbreak in Indonesia, where disease investigators have been met with fear and suspicion, illuminates the enormous challenges the pandemic SWAT team would face in trying to snuff out a nascent pandemic strain before it could spread from its place of origin to sweep the globe.

"This cluster in Indonesia is a test case for the pandemic," Maria Cheng, a spokesperson for the WHO, said from Geneva.

"It's basically testing our capacity to respond as quickly as possible, and how quickly we can detect it, and how willing the community is to respond."

As such, the Indonesian outbreak should serve as a stark reminder to all involved of the difficulties inherent in trying to translate the models' findings into reality, said infectious diseases expert Dr. Michael Osterholm.

"Our experiences with the virus during the last six months in Turkey, Iraq and now in Indonesia should give even the most ardent supporters of containment cause to realize why, while such an approach is an ideal, it also is a fantasy."

Posted by dymaxion at May 22, 2006 10:14 PM

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