US not capable of handling a flu pandemic

influenza ward, US Naval Hospital, Mare Island, California, December 1918

Despite countless breakthroughs in medicine since the 1918 flu pandemic, one key advance continues to elude researchers.

Without a universal vaccine to combat ever-changing flu strains, another pandemic threatens to overwhelm the U.S. health care system, warns Tom Inglesby, MD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health…

A 2006 study at the Center for Health Security examined the potential impact of a 1918-type pandemic a century later, based on updated U.S. population figures and the current health care system.

“At the peak of the pandemic in the U.S., we’d have seven times more people in need of ventilation than we have ventilators, and seven times the number of people needing intensive care than we have intensive care beds,” Inglesby said.

The relatively mild pandemics of 1957, 1968 and 2009 killed between 12,000 and 70,000 in the U.S. The severe 1918 pandemic killed up to an estimated 50-100 million people worldwide, including about 675,000 in the U.S. Deaths a century ago were primarily attributed to lack of a flu vaccine, lack of antibiotics to treat superimposed bacterial pneumonia, and the absence of basic medical supplies that we take for granted now, like oxygen, IV fluids and mechanical ventilation.

Since then, improvements include effective treatments for pneumonia and emergence of vaccines that can generally be developed for a new flu strain within six months. Studies show that vaccines reduce flu risk from 40 to 60 percent—and scientists constantly seek to make them faster and more effective.

RTFA. It might also be useful to have a Congress with elected officials who care more about healthcare than squeezing out another few buck$ in tax breaks for our biggest corporations, wealthiest denizens of Wall Street.

Of course, that would require more than the 2-Party dead end we get lost in every couple of years.

21 thoughts on “US not capable of handling a flu pandemic

  1. Plus says:

    “New CDC head faces questions about financial conflicts of interest” “The ethics issue comes amid broader questions about Fitzgerald’s leadership at the agency, a critical bulwark against disease that has been targeted for deep budget cuts by the Trump administration. Congress has restored most funding for next year. But over the next two years, CDC’s work helping other countries detect and control outbreaks is slated to fall dramatically, reducing staff on the ground by about 80 percent.
    The CDC has a budget of about $7 billion and more than 12,000 employees working across the nation and around the globe on everything from food and water safety to heart disease and cancer to infectious disease outbreak prevention.”
    See also “CDC scientists pursue deadly monkey pox virus in remote village in Congo rain forest”

    • Carlin says:

      “The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.
      Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

    • Xekik says:

      “CDC director resigns because of conflicts over financial interests” “It is unacceptable that the person responsible for leading our nation’s public health efforts has, for months, been unable to fully engage in the critical work she was appointed to do,” Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the senior Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees the CDC, said in a statement Wednesday. “Dr. Fitzgerald’s tenure was unfortunately the latest example of the Trump Administration’s dysfunction and lax ethical standards,” Murray continued. “I hope the incoming Secretary of Health — nominated because his predecessor resigned for using taxpayer dollars for his personal luxury travel — will encourage President Trump to choose a new CDC Director who is truly prepared to focus on families and communities.”

  2. Doc says:

    “US lifts ban on lethal virus experiments despite security risks” (BBC 12/20/17) “The US government has lifted a three-year ban on making lethal viruses in the lab, saying the potential benefits of disease preparedness outweigh the risks. Labs will now be able to manufacture strains of influenza, Sars and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers). The ban was imposed following safety breaches at federal institutions involving anthrax and avian flu. Now a scientific review panel will have to green-light each research proposal. It will only be allowed to go ahead if the panel determines there is no safer way to conduct the research and that the benefits it will provide justify the risk.
    Critics say such “gain-of-function” research still risks creating an accidental pandemic. But supporters of removing the ban say many US states are poorly prepared for an almost-inevitable outbreak of a deadly virus.

    • Go fish says:

      Thirteen years after building a state-of-the-art lab for the world’s most dangerous germs, the nation’s top public health agency is asking for more than $400 million to build a new one.
      Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the current lab building in Atlanta is quickly wearing down, and cannot be upgraded without shutting down the facility for years. The lab investigates deadly and exotic germs like Ebola, smallpox and dangerous new forms of flu. The agency disclosed its plans for a new lab on Friday.

  3. Girolamo Fracastoro says:

    A Marshall Plan for Global Health “…When considering the most plausible national-security threat, many Americans assume it is a nuclear attack or an act of terrorism. However, the global spread of an infectious disease is arguably the most likely catastrophic event that could result in the deaths of more than ten million people worldwide. The influenza epidemic of 1918 infected one-fifth of the world’s population and resulted in the deaths of an estimated fifty million people. The epidemic, which killed more people than any other infectious disease in history, generated more fatalities than all of the wars of the twentieth century combined.
    This is not a danger to be dismissed as distant history. Quite the contrary. With advancements in travel technology and the increase of individuals crossing international borders, global health has indisputably emerged as a potent national-security issue. On an annual basis, eighty million individuals visit the United States, and in 2016 alone, seventy-seven million Americans took trips abroad. Additionally, global health security is not only a concern for our national population, but for American citizens living abroad—three hundred thousand of whom serve as military personnel and one million more in other public and private roles.”

    • Cassandra says:

      BBC News, October 15, 2018: Spanish flu pandemic 1918 – could it happen again? Dr Jonathan D Quick is an expert on epidemics worldwide and is working to help nations prepare better.
      “…are we still complacent?
      “Absolutely,” he says. “I believe we’re just as vulnerable today to big flu as we had in 1918 but for different reasons. So today we have four times the population, we are twice as urbanised, and that crowding has been a factor in recent Ebola outbreaks, and is a factor in flu.
      “We are 50 times as mobile – so we’re in the air, travelling across borders, there isn’t any place on the planet which is more than 24 to 36 hours away from any major city.”
      He says flu is tricky, a virus that keeps mutating and exchanging genes.
      “With all of those risk factors in play, we could have an epidemic with a new virus that has mutated and that we don’t have immunity to,” he says.
      “We could have an outbreak which could kill between 200 and 400m in the matter of a couple of years and knock the global economy as badly as the Great Recession.”
      Meanwhile (Oct 14, 2018): The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was forced to withdraw its Ebola experts from an outbreak zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo several weeks ago amid heightened security concerns, a decision that is fueling worry over the impact on efforts to contain the epidemic, according to U.S. officials and public health experts familiar with the matter. The Ebola experts — among the most experienced on the planet — and other U.S. government employees have been told by the State Department that they cannot travel to eastern DRC to help with the on-the-ground response.

  4. Craoker says:

    “Scientists seek super-shot for flu 100 years after pandemic”
    “Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows : Coughing and sneezing not required for transmission” (University of Maryland, Jan 18)
    CDC warns deadly flu virus has been killing around 100 people per week in the US since mid-December
    “What the government shutdown means for the nation’s top public health agencies”

  5. Wheezy says:

    “CDC to cut by 80 percent efforts to prevent global disease outbreak” On Monday, a coalition of global health organizations representing more than 200 groups and companies sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking the administration to reconsider the planned reductions to programs they described as essential to health and national security. The coalition, which includes the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium and the Global Health Council, also warned that complacency after outbreaks have been contained leads to funding cuts, followed by ever more costly outbreaks. The Ebola outbreak cost U.S. taxpayers $5.4 billion in emergency supplemental funding, forced several U.S. cities to spend millions in containment, disrupted global business and required the deployment of the U.S. military to address the threat.

  6. Update says:

    “This flu season has now reached pandemic levels (but it’s not technically a pandemic)” [Washington Post 2/9/18] “Pandemics occur when there is a new strain of virus for which people have no previous exposure. That’s not the case here, because the seasonal strains that are circulating this year are not new. But the predominant one, H3N2, is a particularly nasty strain that is associated with more complications, hospitalizations and deaths, especially among children, those older than 65 and people with certain chronic conditions.”
    CDC Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report

  7. Santayana says:

    (May 8, 2018): On the 100th anniversary of the 1918 pandemic, experts warn flu is global threat The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with Emory University to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1918 flu with a symposium about influenza pandemics: when and if they will strike, how ready the United States is to confront a pandemic, and how to do so. “I don’t know what the virus will do,” said one expert. “But history tells us that influenza comes back and comes back and comes back.”

  8. Fair warning says:

    “The world will inevitably face another pandemic of flu and needs to prepare for the potential devastation that could cause, and not underestimate the risks, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.”
    “Outlining a global plan to fight the viral disease and get ahead of a potential global outbreak, the WHO said the next influenza pandemic “is a matter of when, not if”.
    “The threat of pandemic influenza is ever-present,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said in a statement. “We must be vigilant and prepared – the cost of a major influenza outbreak will far outweigh the price of prevention.”

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