Nature as a bioterrorist:
how to cover the next
Two wars broke out in 2003…
A disease epidemic is like an
invasion of human society
Its effects can be as devastating as a conventional war: The human cost of SARS: 8,098 infected, 774 died The SARS virus targeted vital social infrastructure: in this case
It caused transportation systems to shut down: airports in places
like Hong Kong and Singapore were deserted
Education came to a standstill: schools and universities were
The economy was hit hard: US$ 30 billion in lost production,
“In this region we are more likely to be invaded by microbes than
by a foreign army” Chua Jui Meng, Health Minister of Malaysia.
Health reporters should prepare to
be “war correspondents”
Global disease epidemics from new viruses
are becoming part of life, and its something
Since the 1970s, at least 20 previously
The next global disease that is likely to
emerge is pandemic influenza, based on an
Avian Flu, or bird flu.
flu virus has learned toinfect human beings (H5N1)
the normal flu virus-around55 percent of those infecteddie. In the case of normalflu, it is less than 1 percent
A highly pathogenic avian flu virus broke out
According to the WHO, so far 150 mil ion
birds have either died from the disease orbeen culled.
This virus at present has a limited capacity to
infect human beings: there have been 115human cases in Indonesia, Vietnam,Cambodia, Thailand, with 59 deaths.
What scientists are worried
At present, the virus does not travel from
It is only a matter of time before the virus
acquires the ability to transmit easily from
Why would it be worse than normal flu ?
Because this virus is much more virulent, and
estimated to have kil ed between 20 and 40mil ion people
The death toll from an influenza pandemic
today is expected to be in the mil ions, acrossthe world in a very short time.
The human and economic consequences wil
From the SARS experience in
When a disease epidemic strikes, society grinds to a
There is panic everywhere: people are afraid of
You yourself as a journalist will be worried about
There are few reliable sources of information:
because this is a new kind of disease, no one knowvery much about it
Readers will depend on you for accurate information
Keeping focussed on a few key
In the midst of panic, your readers wil wantto know a few basic questions
How is the disease being transmitted, whtcauses it, and how can I protect myself?
What are the public health authorities doing,and are they doing the right thing.
These questions are basic, but in the initial stages of
an epidemic, it is extremely difficult to get clearinformation about any of this.
Because this is a new kind of diseases, there is little
scientific evidence available. Scientists and publichealth officials are reluctant to talk because they arestill trying to figure out the disease for themselves
A lot of the figures will be ambiguous. Eg: you will
get figures on “probable cases”- what is a probablecase, and when does it get confirmed?
Start preparing now…
stockpiles, hospital capacity, what are the
Availability of drugs. At present, only one
anti-viral, Tamiflu is thought to be effective.
Stocks are in short supply, prices are high.
Vaccines can only be manufactured with any
confidence when the new virus actuallymakes an appearance. There wil be a four tosix month lag time. Which governments wilbuy up the supplies?
What is the avian flu virus doing? Is it getting
closer to becoming a virus that can transmiteasily among humans?
Sources of information
For pandemic planning- national government
For drugs, vaccines, behaviour of the virus,
Another useful site on disease outbreaks:
Don’t cry wolf all the time:avoid doing over
alarming sensational stories about howmany people are going to die, how terrible itwil be etc.
Instead focus on specific issues- government
planning, drugs, vaccines, evolution of thevirus.
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Specialty Pharmacy Continuum • Spring 2012 EDUCATIONAL REVIEW All rights r Copyright © 2011 McMahon Publishing Gr eserved. Repr ors is an care and must be a core mission of every pharmacy. For medication error prevention efforts oduction in whole or in part without permission is pr to be effective, they must become a priority. The first step in setting up an error-re