Some of the H5N1 “bird flu” strains seen recently in 10 Asian countries carry a few of the mutations seen in the 1918 virus, suggesting that they, too, may be slowly adapting to human hosts.
The Washington Post story this morning reflects the necessary though overdue awakening of the MSM to the bird flu’s approach. After a concerted White House push to focus the public and the press on the threat, various journalists have figured out that this is a huge story just beginning to rise, and are scrambling to get established as their organization’s go-to on the subject. The idea of a “flu beat,” unthinkable a year ago, is now staring editors and producers in the eye.
Last week the Orange County Children and Families Commission, of which I am a member, approved the appropriation of up to $2.6 million to be spent on the development of an avian flu response plan in consultation with the Chief Helth Officer of Orange County, Dr. Mark Horton. Part of that plan may involve stockpiling Tamiflu, and some of it will certainly be spent on the education of the county’s hospitals, clinics, and medical communities on recogntion of the virus, as well as community education in the large and concentrated populations of Southeast Asian populations that live in OC, which makes the region a likely entry point for the virus if it jumps into the US.
Orange County has done significant planning on bioterrorism response, and much of that planning can be adapted for bird flu planning, but the process does have to be gone through, and it is best if communities get to it now, especially the often difficult process of getting hospitals to think through the very difficult business of quarantine and rapid response.
This is not just a federal issue though the CDC and the HHS have primary roles. One contribution bloggers can make is to simply call their county health officers and ask what is the planning underway for bird flu, and post the results.