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US plan paints grim picture of flu pandemic

Oct 10, 2005 (CIDRAP News) - A not-yet-released version of the Bush administration's plan for dealing with an influenza pandemic predicts that such an event could exact an enormous toll in life and wealth, according to recent newspaper reports.

The New York Times, which obtained a recent draft of the plan, said it describes a worst-case scenario in which the flu would kill more than 1.9 million Americans, put 8.5 million in hospitals, and cost more than $450 billion.

Those numbers suggest that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is taking a more somber view of the risks than it did in the previous draft plan, released in August 2004. That document cited earlier estimates that pandemic flu could cause between 89,000 and 207,000 deaths in the United States.

The new draft predicts that an emerging pandemic in Asia, where widespread avian flu has killed more than 60 people and generated fear of an epidemic, would be likely to reach US shores in a few months or even weeks, the Times said in an Oct 8 report. Quarantines and travel restrictions, while recommended, probably would not postpone the disease's arrival "by more than a month or two."

The document says a pandemic could overwhelm hospitals, touch off riots at vaccination clinics, and lead to power and food shortages, the newspaper said.

However, infectious disease expert Michael T. Osterholm said the draft plan obtained by the Times is out of date. "There have been tremendous improvements in the plan over the last week to 10 days," an Oct 9 report in the Washington Post quoted Osterholm as saying. He is director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of this site.1

Plus:

Indonesia reports another avian flu case

Oct 7, 2005 (CIDRAP News) - Indonesian authorities said yesterday a hospitalized 21-year-old man had tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza.

Indonesia's Antara news agency said the man lives in Lampung but did not name him. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in Jakarta indicated avian flu, the report said. A Reuters report described the man as being in stable condition.

The Antara report said a 23-year-old man who died last week also tested positive by PCR in a Jakarta laboratory. His case was reported by the news media on Oct 5. Samples from both men were sent to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) reference laboratory in Hong Kong for confirmatory testing.

The disease-control chief at the health ministry said both of the young men had direct contact with dead poultry, Reuters reported.

The number of avian flu cases in Indonesia has been hard to determine. Counting the 21-year-old, the Indonesian government has reported 10 cases this year, including seven deaths, according to CIDRAP's analysis of news reports. But the WHO has officially confirmed only four of those, including three fatal ones. 2

("CIDRAP" is the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy of the University of Minnesota.)

Funnily enough I was unable to find the original NYT report cited above. Did anybody see it?

I need a beer after that one. Good night!

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 03:36:10 PM EST

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