Following H5N1: an update

I’ve been tracking Avian Influenza since January 2004, though in the last 10 months I haven’t made any additions to my extracts from the slipstream of media coverage. In November 2005 there’s just too much on “bird flu” –a subject that was really obscure in January 2004. A Yahoo news search for H5N1 (sorted by date) gives a picture of the press gabble, and a finger on the Technorati pulse monitors the blogosphere’s rising hysteria. Most of these sources are just too noisy and repetitive (and ill-informed) to be of much real use in understanding the unfolding global process. Many are fixated upon magic bullet “solutions” that governments or Big Pharma are expected to produce –medicaments, vaccines, quarantines…
It’s a real challenge to filter the spate of online news and rumor, and extract what’s really worth paying attention to. Others (better placed and better informed than I) have taken up the tracking and commentary, and I follow them via their RSS feeds. Another continuously updated digest source is The Coming Influenza Pandemic?.

The most thoughtful writers view H5N1 as a public health challenge, and are pretty unanimous in their comments on the sorry state of national and international systems that should be better supported. Here’s a nice clear example from a posting today:

An influenza pandemic will essentially be a local affair and depend on the leadership, resources and ingenuity at that level to cope with the consequences of a possible 30% to 40% absenteeism rate over an extended period. That is a community planning problem that takes time and resources. Our communities have neither. And with no effective public health infrastructure, even the vaccine (which doesn’t exist) wouldn’t save us. This sad predicament is the result of the social policies of the last twenty years.
(Effect Measure 12 Nov 2005)

Another approach is to follow the evolving folksonomy, via tags (that link is specific to ‘h5n1’, but ‘avianflu’ is closely related). Or use another technical term: HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) –see Google News search.