A recent article in the Cape Times address the consequences of global climate change on malaria in South Africa. The SA government is employing scenario planning to consider alternative outcomes. Snippets:
The UK government's influenza pandemic response plan can be found here [in PDF format].
Among the points made are that historically pandemics have come in waves:
In 1918/19 the A/H1N1 pandemic occurred in three distinct epidemic waves: early spring 1918, autumn 1918 and late winter 1919. The second wave was by far the largest and case-fatality rates were also higher than in the first wave12. The A/H3N2 pandemic caused an epidemic wave in the winter of 1968/69 but a more severe one in 1969/704. In contrast, the second wave of the 1957/58 pandemic in the UK was very small in comparison to the first3. Thus all planning should assume that more than one wave is possible (but not inevitable) and that a second wave could be worse than the first.
In addition to detection and treatment options, the Canadian plan also includes a section deal with mass fatalities [in PDF format]. Such contingency planning is both prudent and responsible. That the Canadian government has published the plan including provisions for worst case situations is both noteworthy and laudatory. Frank communications build trust between governments and citizens.
Despite what we know about the good Professor Murphy and his law, an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports (in part) as follows. What's unclear is whether antiviral drugs cited in the article would be effective in preventing death should a killer virus somehow escape the BL-3 containment labs where the research is being conducted.
What health officials fear most about bird flu --- that it could
trigger a pandemic by acquiring genes from a human flu virus and the
ability to spread easily among people --- has not yet been known to
But scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in
Atlanta are playing out a scenario that could actually create the
dreaded pandemic strain. The dangerous work is just getting under way
in a high level biosecurity laboratory off Clifton Road.
The CDC's lab is thought to be the only one in the world where genes
from a regular flu virus are being mixed with avian influenza, also
known as H5N1.
"We're trying to understand, if this does occur in nature, what the
properties of the viruses would be and how serious the pandemic might
be," said Nancy Cox, chief of the CDC's influenza branch.
Shortly before Christmas, some genetic data was--as a matter of
routine--posted with GenBank, a mammoth, publicly accessible computer
repository located at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. No
special phone calls were made, no alarms sounded. But the GenBank
posting looked like the genetic code for a new, manmade killer
influenza that was infecting pigs in South Korea. Fingers seemed to
point to Pyongyang.
Before you have a heart attack, let me assure you that, two months
later, it looks like the nightmare of weaponized super-flu did not
happen this time. But the scenario that played out is probably pretty
close to what might unfold in a genuine bioterrorism incident, and it
reveals critical weaknesses in our global security system--or lack
As reported in NewsTarget, consulting firm Bio Economic Research Associates ("bio-era") has published a study suggesting that the economic consequences of avian influenza are spreading faster than the disease itself.
“According to the quantitative measures we developed for assigning
relative economic risk exposure to infectious disease outbreaks for
countries in Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore are especially vulnerable to
the initial economic shock waves that would ensue from a pandemic,”
said James Newcomb, Managing Director and principal author of the
bio-era report. “However, the secondary impacts on other countries,
especially China, could have far-reaching impacts for economies around
the world, including the US,” he added.
Here is a World Health Organization (WHO) report on the development of a human "bird flu" vaccine published in February:
Availability of H5N1 prototype strains for influenza pandemic vaccine development
The WHO Influenza Surveillance Network has characterized H5N1 influenza viruses isolated from humans and animals from several countries affected by the 2004/2005 H5N1 outbreak in Asia. WHO has also made recommendations on the antigenic and genetic characteristics of H5N1 viruses which are suitable for vaccine production.
Recent Avian Influenza Outbreaks in Asia March 18 , 2005
Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) occurred among poultry in 8 countries in Asia (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Lao, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam) during late 2003 and early 2004. At that time, more than 100 million birds either died from the disease or were culled.
From December 30, 2003 to March 17, 2004, 12 confirmed human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) were reported in Thailand and 23 in Vietnam, resulting in a total of 23 deaths.
By late February, however, the number of new human H5 cases being reported in Thailand and Vietnam slowed and then stopped. Within a month, countries in Asia were reporting that the avian influenza outbreak among poultry had been contained. No conclusive evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission was found. Recent Developments
Beginning in late June 2004, new lethal outbreaks of H5N1 among poultry were reported by several countries in Asia: Cambodia, China , Indonesia , Malaysia (first-time reports), Thailand and Vietnam. There has not been a resurgence of avian influenza in South Korea and Japan, and the outbreaks are reported to be controlled in those countries. It is unknown to what extent H5N1 outbreaks in the other countries may be ongoing. For more information about outbreaks in poultry, visit the World Organization for Animal Health website.