Friday, December 31, 2004

Cautionary note on avian flu and tsunami

The following cautionary note appeared in the Flu in China and Flu Information website. It is authored by Michael Olesin and Henry L. Niman:
A comment on monitoring of aid workers for avian influenza
The terrible disaster affecting southeast Asia will certainly create a number of public health challenges in the immediately affected areas. However, there is the possibility that these events may lead to a much larger pandemic influenza problem. The relief effort has brought a number of people from around the globe to a region not only affected by the tsunami but also affected by avian influenza. It is possible that the [local] population in the area might have some innate immunity due to repeated exposure to avian influenza. However, with the influx of immune-naive foreign aid workers, there seems to be a potential for spread into people who may be much more susceptible. It is a safe assumption that hygienic conditions in the area are going to be lacking for some time. In addition, many of these workers might almost suspect that they will come down with an illness because of the circumstances, and may simply shrug off the 1st signs and symptoms. As they return to their countries of origin, they may unwittingly depart during the prodromal phase of illness only to act as the index cases of pandemic flu in their countries.

It would be prudent for federal, state, and provincial public health departments to set up surveillance systems to monitor the health of individuals who traveled to help with the tsunami recovery efforts

Published: Jan 1, 2005 9:26 AM (China time)
By Michael Olesen, Henry L. Niman
Special to ProMedMail