March 1, 2009 | Mark Paradies

Pandemic Flu News from Dennis Osmer

Dennis Osmer (one of our TapRooT® Instructors who also consults on Pandemic Flu) sent the following flu season update that I’m passing along to readers…

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Dear Friends —

Seasonal Flu

This year there are higher rates of flu in Taiwan & in the EU, but lower rates in the US. Also, the dominant strain in the US is H1N1, but in Europe it’s H3N2, and in Canada influenza B is more common.

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An article in “Emerging Infectious Diseases” (CDC publication) studied the use of face masks to control respiratory virus transmission in households and concluded the during a severe pandemic, transmission in households could be significantly reduced. Additionally, an article in the “American Journal of Infection Control” evaluated the performance of N95 masks after prolonged storage — the conclusion is that most respirators, shored for up to 10 years, will retain their performance.

An article in “Clinical Infectious Diseases” measured airborne influenza in a hospital emergency department, and concluded that there is evidence that influenza virus may spread though the airborne route.

An article in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” has found a link between influenza transmission rates and absolute humidity (with low humidity, influenza virus survival is prolonged and transmission rates go up).


A team of researchers working in Japan’s Health Ministry have developed a new universal vaccine effective in many types of flu — trials in mice have shown promising results — but, human testing is still some time away.

WHO has announced it’s recommended composition for next year’s seasonal flu vaccine — while they considered including 2 influenza B viruses, they have stayed with the tradition of just one (though two virus types are known to co-circulate) — the recommendation (only changing the “B” part)  is:

– A/H1N1 – similar to A/Brisbane/59/2007
– A/H3N2 – similar to A/Brisbane/10/2007
– B component – similar to B/Brisbane/60/2008



There have been 8 deaths (in 7 provinces) and several outbreaks in China so far this year — while the number sparked concern at WHO, there is no evidence of an epidemic — the cases were geographically scattered and sporadic. China is considered one the nations most as risk because it has the world’s biggest poultry population and many chickens are kept close to humans. Curiously, the Ministry of Agriculture states that it found no related, infected poultry. This could indicate another virus mutation which results in infected poultry with no virus symptoms.

Panasonic has taken the unusual step of ordering some of the families of staff assigned to parts of Asia, Africa, eastern Europe and South America to return home (to Japan). The press release indicated that the move was based on H5N1 pandemic concerns, but did not elaborate. Honda has requested employees to cut down on trips to China.

A study, published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” indicates that H5N1 is more virulent than the 1918 Pandemic strain. The H5N1 virus replicates faster and more widely in the lungs and caused a more intense inflammatory response.

Japan and New Zealand have announced plans to place their countries in quarantine should a pandemic occur.

Recent outbreaks have occurred in Vietnam, Egypt, and China.

A document, from the American Nursing Association “Adapting Standards of Care Under Extreme Conditions: Guidance for Professionals during Disasters, Pandemics, and other Extreme Emergiencies”,  provides some helpful guidance.

While a dentist shouldn’t become a heart surgeon, some flexibility under extreme conditions is appropriate. They recommend following the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and using Incident Command, for an “all hazards” approach. Decision making during extreme conditions shifts the goal to the greatest good for the greatest number of individuals. This means that the “walking wounded” and the “worried well” might be unable to access medical care. This is endorced by ANA & the Joint Commission. It also allows for utilizing volunteers (based on their training) and provides for some ethical principles in emergency care — e.g.
– individual privacy may be overridden during emergency conditions.
– actions that impinge on individual liberty may be required, but should be clearly explained.

WHO data, below, shows an increase in the number of cases (now over 400) and deaths(256). Keep in mind that this is only data verified in WHO labs & that Indonesia is still withholding information.

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I’m still convinced it’s smart to be informed and prepared.

Best Regards

Dennis Osmer
Environment, Health, Safety, & Emergency Management

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