Thursday, August 31, 2006

More good news

CLUES TO TREATMENT OF BIRD FLU A review of medical literature published during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic suggests that transfusions from people who survived the flu may have helped others who became sick. Navy researchers combed old publications to determine what strategies might have been effective for fighting the last pandemic flu. They believe that transfusions from someone who successfully survived the flu virus may be a viable way to treat victims of the current circulating H5N1 bird flu. This research was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

I heard a report on this on NPR. It seems pretty plausible. Maybe it will save some lives. One good thing is to have so many people working in different ideas before there is pandemic. In 1918 the scientists had to start for square one. They were not even sure if it was influenza or some new disease. At least we have the pathogen at the starting gate.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Interesting flu case

This will help show not only if pregnant women can be treated with Tamiflu but if it at all helps slow up this virus.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Progress on vaccine

This is good news, but of course it might not protect people from a mutated virus.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Recent conversations - reading

It was a surprise to me at a poker game last night to find a fellow player had attended meetings at his workplace in which information on the flu had been shared and preparation begun for planning in case of pandemic. He seemed annoyed to have more work added to his routine agenda. Or maybe he just thought it was useless to plan when if pandemic hit, his place would be shut down.

Again, however, I encountered responses I find everywhere. One attitude that said, "Well, if my friends and family are going to die, I might as well die with them." Another that this was terrible and not much can be done, let's face it with humor.

I think preparation would help. Even small things like stockpiling food and preparing a family plan can save lives.

I am disappointed that there is not more leadership in government. As a county we mobilize to fight the big terrorists, but these little life forms hunting us are seen as a state and local responsibility. It seems odd to me. They certainly don't stay in one state or locality.

Disturbing was to hear that masks are not available right now and being bought up and stockpiled by government and health agencies. I had read this in other places but it also seems to me that I have seen some masks still available. I'll have to do some checking to see.

I just finished Barry's book on the 1918 influenza and while I won't say I can remember all the details, I did cull some interesting ideas.

SPREADING: Some of the threads were common to other reading. I age group hit was 20-40. The most common reason it is spread is overcrowding. In 1918 it was War related activity that helped spread it. Soldiers moved around from place to place. Even parades to sell war bonds helped.

INDIVIDUAL AND COMMUNITY ACTION: Getting people to stay home and observe a few simple hygenic practices might easily have prevented some death.

DENIAL: Denial was even more widespread in 1918 because the government had completely dominated what could be printed and distributed in the press and the country had mobililzed to avoid spreading any truth that might affect the morale of the country in fighting war, so the influenza was under reported, falsely minimized, called other diseases, or simply ignored. I see the strong force for denial today. Happily some government and work places are preparing, but homes are underprepared. Simply stocking a little xtra food might make it possible to save lives in family and community.

MATHEMATICS: The development of the flu follows the same regression to the mean as does gambling. Waves of virus that are particularly mild may mutate toward the more severe while the worst case bugs mutate toward milder version. Randomness and the patterns of randomness again dictate how the disease develops.

FEAR: Reaction of individuals and communities to fear creates denial. Enormous energy must be exerted in order to get people to face fear. And yet if too much is said then panic sets in. It is a strange dilemma for educators even if motives for deciding how much information to disseminate are all simply to help people survive. In 1918 motives had nothing to do with the flu; the country had a single motive, to win the war. Everything else had to be sacrificed to achieve that goal and if anyone suggested differetly they were imprisoned by government or killed by vigilantes.

ETHICS: What to do in the face of pandemic is a difficult ethical problem. We want to help the people around us, but going to their aid can further spread the disease. In 1918, panic restricted people's altruism so that health professionals did not rise to calls for help, many people did not go to work, and people stayed away from others so they could not help them. Where once they might have brought food to the sick or dying they were afraid to catch the disease. I'm caught particularly in this problem. I guess I become a conservative on this issue because I want first to protect my family and survive. This Blog seemed a way to satisfy my responsibility to my community. As an educator I can best help by getting information out to people.

So faced with the tension between survival and being a helpful person to those I know, I settled on this Blog. So far it has failed to be of much benefit except to a very few. Sometimes I thing only spammers read this thing. So I tend to get a bit cynical. It reminds me too much of teaching inner city kids my entire life when so few wanted to learn anything I knew.

On the other hand as a tool to collect information for myself, the Blog works. In effect my thoughts and ideas on this topic are quarrantined just as my family will be when pandemic hits.

The author deals with people who selflessly work to help others and continue in the face of great risk. Many die. Still they are the heros. So figuring the right action is difficult.

SCIENCE: I suppose that I am picking up the prejudice of the Barry but I kept thinking in reading the book that science rather than war should be the focus of our society and that we are missing a great opportunity in these days of scientific wonder not to invest more in discovering things. Without some very smart people and their hard work to find the cause of disease our lives would be a lot different today. Tomorrow could be even better.

TERRORISM: Of course, that same knowledge in the hand of terrorists would reek an awful cost on America. If the virus is studied and described in detail then it can be grown and perhaps even genetically created and spread around the country. The result would cause a lot more panic than a couple airplanes in the towers. Barry says, " A weaponized influenza virus could be the equivalent of a worldwide nuclear holocaust." However, I think that is overstatement. Nuclear disaster leaves an unlivable planet. Even the worst pandemic will leave survivors who have developed immunity and their environment will be as healthy as it ever was, more healthy in fact because pollution will be greatly reduced.

Monday, August 21, 2006