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Survey of Medical Experts - U.S. Unlikely To Have Enough Vaccines

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  • Survey of Medical Experts - U.S. Unlikely To Have Enough Vaccines

    U.S. Unlikely To Have Enough Vaccines To Stop Avian Flu Pandemic, Says Carnegie Mellon Survey of Medical Experts

    Wändi Bruine De Bruin (left), research faculty member in Social and Decision Sciences, was lead author of the study. Heinz University Professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy Baruch Fischhoff co-authored the study.

    PITTSBURGH—A group of medical experts who attended a national avian flu conference last fall believe there is little chance the United States will be able to manufacture and stockpile enough vaccine or antiviral medication to stop a bird flu pandemic should the virus mutate into a form that can be spread easily from human to human, according to a survey led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The results of the survey will be published in the June 2006 issue of the journal Global Public Health.

    The 19 medical experts who attended the Pandefense 1.0 meeting in November gave a median estimate of a less than 1 percent chance that the U.S. will have adequate stockpiles of vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent a pandemic within the next three years. The same experts gave a median estimate of 15 percent for the probability that the avian flu virus will mutate into a strain that can spread efficiently by human-to-human contact within that time. Their median worst-case estimate of the number of people who would die, should that happen, was 6 million in the United States and 180 million worldwide. Their median best-case estimates were 500,000 dead in the United States and 20 million worldwide.

    "It surprised me that they thought it was going to be this bad," said Wändi Bruine De Bruin, lead author of the study and research faculty member in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon.

    The survey also included 17 non-medical experts from a variety of fields who were more pessimistic about the likelihood of human-to-human transmission, giving a median 60 percent chance that it would occur within three years. They did, however, have more faith in medical science, giving a median 15 percent chance of the United States having enough vaccine and a 30 percent chance that the nation would have enough antiviral medications to halt a pandemic.

    "The medical experts' estimates suggest this is a bigger risk than anything else we are facing," said Baruch Fischhoff, a study co-author and the Howard Heinz University Professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon.

    Both the medical and the non-medical experts agreed that the greatest hope for mitigating the effects of an avian flu outbreak among humans lies in heightened global surveillance and, should the virus become pandemic, hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing. Unfortunately, the efficacy of such strategies in preventing the spread of infectious diseases has not been extensively studied, Bruine de Bruin said. Although the federal government has expressed a commitment to open communication about these risks, its messages have not yet been scientifically evaluated, according to Fischhoff.

    The survey results were co-authored by Larry Brilliant with the Google Foundation and Denise Caruso with the Hybrid Vigor Institute.
    Last edited by Mellie; March 21, 2006, 05:11 PM. Reason: formatting only

  • #2
    Re: Survey of Medical Experts - U.S. Unlikely To Have Enough Vaccines

    Baruch Fischhoff, good researcher. Bet this opened some eyes for him! I hope he's spreading the word. The good folks at Carnegie Mellon were a part of my life some years ago. I wish the best for them. (Lots of the grads helped alleviate the Y2K threat. Funny, I didn't give that threat a bit of my attention. I knew who was working on the programs. This avian threat is far different.

    I bet if they gave the survey again now, with physicians knowing how widely the virus has spread over the last 4 months... I bet the results -- 15 percent for the probability that the avian flu virus will mutate into a strain that can spread efficiently by human-to-human contact within 3 years -- would be much higher.

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