Finding Public Health Solutions to Future Pandemics

 

 

Research put forth to find a timely vaccine must be tapered, moving efforts towards more effective flu pandemic control measures. Nature’s editorial section produced a convincing argument regarding the controversy over mammalian-transmissible flu research. The article, “Facing up to Flu,” claims that the world is ill-prepared for a flu pandemic of any sort, stating that we will not be prepared to produce and administer a 1) ___ in the event a flu pandemic were to occur. Although very true, we are ill prepared for a flu outbreak, we cannot rely on timeliness of vaccine creation and distribution, as this is merely a short-term solution to any flu outbreaks in the near future. We must find a preemptive solution aimed at stopping any flu outbreaks before they are uncontrollable.

 

Animal to human transmission of flu strains has become a pertinent issue in recent years. In the past century, we have witnessed 2) ___ flu pandemics, all stemming from animals. It is no longer a question of if we are going to deal with similar flu outbreak situations, but rather how we will respond to another pandemic. Each flu outbreak is a race to contain it, and with hundreds of unnecessary deaths this is a very critical procedure.

 

The biggest public-health efforts and concern has been towards the timeliness of developing, producing, and administering a flu vaccine during a pandemic. At current state, this process takes at least “3) ___ months after a pandemic emerges”. This initial production can only tend to small populations as well, and at current level is fairly ineffective in controlling a pandemic. Vaccinations during times of distress are merely a topical solution to the problem; the most effective measure is to stop the spread of the flu at the 4) ___.

 

Current flu research has aided in the surveillance of animals for mammalian-transmissible flu strains. Although this method is very labor intensive and cost-heavy, it has proven to be effective in 5) ___. The Chinese government surveyed wild birds in 14 provinces for strains of the H5N1 flu virus. The researchers found a prevalence of the strain of up to 4.38% in some species of wild birds. They were also able to create a protocol for poultry farms, by concluding “resident [wild] birds had a high risk of transmitting of bird flu virus between wild birds and poultries, [and] the chances of contact between poultries and resident birds should be reduced as many as possible”.

 

Flu research has also provided us with a basic line of defense against a flu pandemic. It’s what Kilbourne calls a “barricade vaccine.” He demonstrates that the next pandemic 6) ___ will contain a mutation of the “13 influenza A virus hemag-glutinin subtypes”. This vaccine could provide an initial line of 7) ___ against an outbreak, while strain-specific vaccine is created and administered.

 

A 8) ___ flu vaccine may be closer than we think, with eyes set on this vaccine being available as early as the 9) ___ flu season. Inovio, a leader in medical vaccine innovation, has designed a vaccine which takes a similar approach as current HIV vaccine development. They have already “made and completed successful human tests for vaccines that protect against all H1N1 and H5N1 flu strains”. Preparing for unforeseen outbreaks of flu strains is still necessary, and should not be overlooked. Recent studies have shown success in creating “mutant isolates of H5N1 influenza A virus that can be transmitted via the 10) ___ route between ferrets”. There is also a rumor that laboratory scientists have created mutant isolates of H5N1 influenza A virus that are human-to-human transmissible.

 

Due to threats and the potential use of these strains as 11) ___ weapons, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has declared that any further research findings regarding mutant strains of influenza A virus can no longer be published to the general public. Further research should be put into the understanding of how mammalian-transmissible flu strains pass from animals to humans. If researchers have in fact found a mammalian-transmissible strain of the H5N1 influenza A virus, we could be very close to finding a solution to preventing the transmission of future mutant strains from animals to 12) ___. With a better understanding, we will be able to take more precautionary measures and educate those who are in primary contact with potentially threatening animals on proper handling and safety precautions.

 

ANSWERS: 1) vaccine; 2) three; 3) six; 4) source; 5) China; 6) virus; 7) defense; 8) universal; 9) 2013; 10) respiratory; 11) biological; 12) humans

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