In 2009, the world was thrown into turmoil. The reason was not an environmental, geopolitical, or economic crisis. Instead, the cause was a microscopic entity known to most as “swine flu.”
The virus – officially known as H1N1pdm – first appeared in Mexico but soon spread across the globe with an unnerving speed. Within months, the World Health Organization was forced to announce a pandemic. Although public health officials had known a pandemic was coming, the outcome revealed we simply were not prepared to deal with the virus nor could we stop it in its tracks.
The lessons learned from the pandemic were many ranging from health systems reform to better communication in the public realm. One of the most important was the need to find routes for prevention. There needed to be a means to sound an early warning signal and spark a worldwide effort to protect the population.
This may sound like an impossible task and in the case of many infectious diseases, it is. However, in the case of the flu, we have a weapon in place to help us fight off another H1N1pdm pandemic. It’s vaccination.
Today, every influenza vaccine contains a piece of this particular virus so people are protected against infection. While this measure has helped to keep H1N1pdm at bay, other influenza viruses with the potential to start a pandemic continue to circulate the globe.
Back in 1998, the world first learned of H5N1, also known as avian flu. It killed several people in Hong Kong and continues to take lives in a handful of countries. It quickly became the source of the next pandemic.
Thankfully, that prediction has not come to fruition. To date, the virus has led to just under 500 deaths. For the most part, the potential for a pandemic, while real in nature, appears to be low. Still, research into a vaccine continues and today, several candidates are working their way through clinical trials.
But H5N1 isn’t the only problem. Several other types of this virus have shown some progress towards pandemic potential. The most troublesome appears to be one known as H7N9. It first appeared in 2013 in six Chinese individuals. Four of them died. The public health community was stunned at this high case fatality rate. Although the number of patients was low, most officials agreed there was a need to take this virus seriously.
Over the years, this …
Source:: The Huffington Post – Canada Travel