07 October 2005

The Risk of Pandemic: A Global Threat...

Pandemic: A Worldwide Outbreak of Influenza is now getting attention on many global fronts including a plea by U.S. President George Bush to vaccine manufacturers to step up their production and R & D. In recent weeks, senior officials here have embarked on a public information campaign, warning of the possibility of a lethal pandemic which could claim millions of lives.

Mr Bush has even suggested that the US military would be used to quarantine affected areas of the United States in the event of an outbreak. What exactly is a pandemic?

An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus appears or “emerges” in the human population, causes serious illness, and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide. Pandemics are different from seasonal outbreaks or “epidemics” of influenza. Seasonal outbreaks are caused by subtypes of influenza viruses that are already in existence among people, whereas pandemic outbreaks are caused by new subtypes or by subtypes that have never circulated among people or that have not circulated among people for a long time. Past influenza pandemics have led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss.

And where there is a threat like this, the criminal minds begin to see opportunity for unsuspecting prey. Roche is now on alert and you should be also.

Swiss drug maker Roche urged consumers on Friday not to buy its flu drug Tamiflu over the Internet to avoid the risk of purchasing potentially counterfeit pills as they build stockpiles in case of a bird flu pandemic.

With experts predicting that millions could die if the bird flu strain H5N1 mutates into a human flu virus, some consumers appear to be building up their own reserves of the drug, doubling up on governments' efforts to prepare for a pandemic.

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