I started working on pandemic threats in 2005 with the outbreak of H5N1 influenza virus (avian influenza) in Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I was a communication technical advisor on a USAID-funded project managed by AED. We were juggling treatment (while not knowing WHAT the virus really was) and prevention. Much like the early days of HIV and AIDS, the response strategy of the groups involved was first to stop internal hemorrhaging, while tracking the disease epidemiology to reveal a prevention route.
It has only been nine years – a lifetime in the cycle of a virus – and since then there has been H1N1 2009 pandemic influenza…and now we’re watching H7.
Another RWJF’s NewPublicHealth blog on pandemic awareness lists “top five things you didn’t know could spread disease” including sweaty strivers crawling through mud and various obstacle courses in races like “Tough Mudder” — and an unvaccinated child as the top risk, which seems obvious to those of us on the ground but is not apparent to a growing number of parents.
But while the experts work to decode and prepare a response to H7, remember to wash your hands regularly, sneeze into your inner elbow, stay home when you’re sick, and follow hospital room behavior: Any surface may be contaminated.
Thanks to RWJF for letting us remind you that another pandemic could happen, and that individual practices can reduce those odds dramatically.
— Dee Bennett