For those of you in Canada, check this out tonight at 9.

BLACK DAWN: THE NEXT PANDEMIC
A fifth estate “What if…”
Wednesday, January 11th at 9:00 p.m. on CBC-TV

What would happen if the World Health Organization declared what has long been expected and feared: human-to-human transmission of the avian flu virus?

Black Dawn is a docudrama featuring leading epidemiologists, doctors and emergency planners who imagine the impact avian flu would have as it spreads around the globe. Some predict the coming pandemic will be more lethal than all of the world’s previous plagues. Black Dawn combines expert opinions with dramatic recreations to paint a starkly realistic picture of life during the next pandemic.


I got a sneak peek of the show. They address many of the things experts fear–hoarding of Tamiflu and similar drugs; overcrowded hospitals; how to control borders; personal preparedness; effects on the economy; vaccine manufacture; morgue space; how to take care of things we take for granted every day (banking, grocery shopping, garbage pick-up, etc.); even conspiracy theories regarding the spread of the virus. My only quibble is that they paint something of a worst-case scenario, bringing in the military and allowing “shoot to kill’ orders, etc.–a scenario which I suppose is possible, but hopefully highly unlikely. Overall, though, very good stuff.

Though the drama part of the “docudrama” takes place in Canada, it’s interspersed with expert commentary, and the problems they portray will be universal. Good show–check it out if you’re able.

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Comments

  1. #1 Dean Morrison
    January 11, 2006

    Hi Tara!

    let me the first to welcome you to the new site.

    There is already something of a panic here in Europe.

    Ordinary ‘flu’ jabs ran out before Christmas as stock usually set aside for the frail and elderly were snapped up by companies and individuals – leaving the vulnerable exposed and offering the healthy no protection against ‘avian flu’.

    There have been a few deaths in Turkey after children weere infected directly from poultry – it seems that the disease spread their by wild birds on their autumn migration.

    A WHO spokesman has been on the radio speaking about some sensible measures, and advising people not to handle dead poultry. Countries like Germany are making it a requirement to keep birds indoors.

    However our tabloid press seem to be intent to stir up a panic a shock headline in the ‘Daily Express’ to the effect that “Is it safe to go to Turkey on holiday?”.

    There seems to be much confusion about the significance of the bird-human and potential human-human modes of transmission.

    When the big show starts I don’t have a lot of confidence that sections of our press won’t don’t do their best to add to the panic.

    But at least we don’t have guns here!

  2. #2 Tara
    January 11, 2006

    Hi Dean, and thanks!

    Ordinary ‘flu’ jabs ran out before Christmas as stock usually set aside for the frail and elderly were snapped up by companies and individuals – leaving the vulnerable exposed and offering the healthy no protection against ‘avian flu’.

    Wow. I’ve not heard of any vaccine shortages over here yet. Seems to have been a pretty mundane year as far as vaccinations went, as far as I can tell. Here, the young ‘n’ health weren’t able to get shots for a few weeks after vaccines were released, allowing those in high-risk groups to receive them first. Do they do anything like that over there? How did the portion set aside get released to companies and others?

    I feel the same about the press, alas. There are some great science reporters out there, but all too many that don’t understand the issues and contribute to the hype and misinformation. Already there were reports screaming “bird flu in Canada!” when it hadn’t been identified yet as the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain (and it turns out it wasn’t). It will be a real mess if the real thing *is* identified here.

  3. #3 Dean Morrison
    January 12, 2006

    Hi Tara,

    As I understand it Flu vaccines are ordered by General Practitioners in the summer on the basis of what they forsee as the likely demand by ‘vulnerable groups’ and ‘key workers’.(We don’t vaccinate healthy individuals as a matter of course in the UK). As it happens increased stocks were ordered this year.
    As a result of the press hype it seems that big companies decided that their entire staffs were ‘key workers’ this year – and along with healthy individuals with ‘private’ doctors – got through the entire stock before ordinary doctors vaccinated their ‘vulnerable’ patients.
    As a result we have healthy young men and women walking around vaccinated against everday flu, whilst there are frail and elderly who are unprotected.
    Just have to hope that ‘herd immunity’ works I suppose! – but I don’t think a sufficient proportion of the population has been vaccinated for that.

    I’ve posted a link to this site on :

    http://www.badscience.net/

    A UK site by a GP (Ben Goldacre) who writes a ‘badscience’ column for the Guardian – (the UK’s leading ‘sensible’ paper) – where he debunks various aspects of ‘bad science’ especially medical stuff like MMR scares, homeopathy etc.
    Might be worth a look sometime , but honestly I don’t know how you fit it all in?

  4. #4 Tara
    January 13, 2006

    As a result of the press hype it seems that big companies decided that their entire staffs were ‘key workers’ this year – and along with healthy individuals with ‘private’ doctors – got through the entire stock before ordinary doctors vaccinated their ‘vulnerable’ patients.

    That’s too bad. I suppose it’s a good thing that more people are interested in the flu vaccine, but the ones who really need it are the young, old, and otherwise immunocompromised. I wonder if that will have an effect on influenza mortality there this year.

    I’ve seen badscience before but don’t check in regularly; I’ll add it to ye old blogroll.

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