I’ve mentioned several times here at Aetiology that, when it comes to pandemic influenza preparedness, we need more than just vaccines specific for H5N1. Though this virus looks like a looming threat right now, we can’t be 100% certain that it will actually cause the next global pandemic; while we’re focused on H5N1, a new strain of H2N2 (or another serotype) may pop up out of the woodwork, catching us unawares. However, while this is well known in the infectious disease community and the scientific community, it’s been rare to read such information in the mainstream media. Therefore, this new article made me happy:
While many health experts see the H5N1 bird flu virus as a likely cause for an influenza pandemic, another influenza virus could just as likely mutate into a global killer, U.S. health experts said on Tuesday.
“You can not accurately predict if and when a given virus will become a pandemic virus,” said Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci said too little is known about exactly how and when a virus will mutate. Focusing too much on one suspect — even a very likely suspect such as H5N1 — may be a mistake.
“We should not … forget the fact that historically pandemics have evolved. We should be building up the knowledge base and expanding the capabilities of making vaccines,” he said in a telephone interview.<
Fauci and colleagues, writing in a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said pandemic prevention strategies must based on “expecting the unexpected and being capable of reacting accordingly.”
They recommend companies expand their research on vaccine design, develop new classes of drugs and improve tests to diagnose influenza.
Certainly much more research is needed into H5N1, but those who suggest too narrow a focus on this strain are also missing the forest for the trees when it comes to preparation for any potential infectious disease crisis.