Saturday, May 21, 2005

Friday blogrollin' (Saturday edition): Bird flu sites revisited

Judging form the increased traffic on this site, interest in bird flu has ramped up considerably in the last week after WHO began to sound a more insistent and urgent alarm about the developing situation in southeast asia (and here). The last time we updated our list of sites that provide bird flu information was all the way back on January 12 of this year. Time for another look.

We'll start here (Effect Measure). This is a general public health site edited by epidemiologists, but the importance of avian influenza as a major developing story in public health has claimed a disproportionate amount of attention (see left side bar where bird flu links are listed). We try to cover much else as well (idiosyncratically, things that interest the handful of editors who call themselves Revere), but bird flu has tended to be Topic A. This is not only because of its importance per se but because it is a lens with which to look at the status of public health organization, policy and leadership more generally. We not only filter the news but provide (opinionated but informed) commentary.

Another key site, with a somewhat different flavor, is Henry Niman's Recombinomics. This is the website of Niman's biotech company whose "product" is the ability to predict genetic changes brought about by recombination. Niman is controversial in some quarters, but his Commentary on avian influenza has been spot on for the most part and far in advance of WHO and CDC's. These agencies are now saying openly what Niman has been saying for many months. His Commentary tends to be somewhat cryptic and technical in nature, but for those with adequate backgrounds it is very informative and for those not so well prepared there is still much that can be gleaned. You are not properly up to speed if you are not checking this site regularly.

Similarly, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) is an essential source for accurate and readable information about emerging infectious diseases, bioterrorism and avian flu. They have also been keeping a more up-to-date unofficial case and case fatality count than WHO. Highly recommended.

The Coming Influenza Pandemic is a filter site that does a daily round-up, usually with a brief description or one or two sentence commentary on links, including Effect Measure, Recombinomics and CIDRAP as well as others of interest. Worth a daily check.

Somewhat similar is Pathogen Alert. Not quite as complete but always worth a look.

A new site that has just started up is Avian flu - What We Need to Know. It is run by economics graduate students at George Mason University. At this point it seems to be primarily a filter site, collecting news links about avian flu. We'll have to see how it develops. Welcome to the bird flu blogosphere.

The bird flu agent at News Now does a pretty good job of scarfing up news stories on bird flu. I also use an RSS reader (since I am on a Mac it is NetNewsWire) to look at a variety of sources, primarily Moreover Public Health News.

ProMed Mail is an alert service used by many public health professionals. It tends to be a bit late in its reports and often has rather timid commentary.

CDC's Avian Flu site is usually a day late and a dollar short, but background information conveniently arrayed.

There are also a couple of non-public health blogs that have a particular interest in bird flu and are worth checking on their own merits, which are considerable. One is Melanie Mattson's Just a Bump in the Beltway and the other is The Next Hurrah, where DemfromCT has developed both an interest and expertise in the subject.

There are also discussion groups devoted to the subject that deserve mention. The one we see most often is We are not members so we can't tell you how to get to the bird flu thread but there are a number of very knowledgeable and well informed people who post there. Our only complaint is that they take my posts and repost them in their entirety there. This is great because the more people who have access to information the better, but their posting method both obliterates the distinction between what we have written and what we have blockquoted and also has no links. Thus we are improperly credited with things we didn't write and the actual writer doesn't receive the proper credit. If they read this, perhaps they could remedy this unfortunate situation and also post here in the Comments how our readers can join their discussion threads.

We've probably missed a couple of good sources here, so don't hesitate to let us all know via Comments.
Update: Here is something we left out but shouldn't have. There is a new "social bookmarking" service out of Nature publishing especially for folks interested in science. There is a special tag, AvianFlu, for people interested in sharing links on this subject. Here is a description from one of the users:
Re: "Friday blogrollin' (Saturday editition): Bird flu sites revisited," perhaps you might give a mention of Connotea AvianFlu tag. Here is posted what are judged key news articles, plus significant scientific papers, important reports, powerpoints of recent talks, and other material that I and others come across when researching and reporting. The tag also has it's own RSS feed, which people can add to their readers. Contributors to Connotea, who share via tags, are mainly working scientists, editors, or reporters.