Tuesday, April 16, 2013

International Online Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Systems Unite

On April 15 in Amsterdam, the three largest online ILI surveillance systems in the world signed an agreement to share data and harmonise analysis and data display to help build a global picture of influenza transmission.  The collaborators at the official signing were the lead researchers (from L to R) from Flutracking.net Australia (Craig Dalton),Influenzanet Europe (Ronald Smallenburg and Daniella Paolotti) and Flu Near You USA (John Brownstein - Health Map and Mark Smolinkski - Skoll Global Threats)
More on the share learnings from this meeting soon.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Submission to the Air Pollution and Health Senate Inquiry

I made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Impacts on Health of Air Quality in Australia as a private citizen entitled How to investigate the impact of coal mining on community health - a  Hunter Valley Perspective.
It focused on 3 suggested solutions:
1. Integrate toxicological and epidemiological research to identify the major sources of
environmental health risk and quantify the risk.
2. Develop an independent Environmental Health Investigation and Conflict Resolution
Centre in the Hunter to:
a. Respond to the environmental health concerns of the community.
b. Initiate participatory research on the environmental health impacts of mining
and related industries collaboratively between community, academia and
3. Develop better methods for assessment and approval of major projects that are
strategic, based on explicit values, participatory and deliberative with stakeholders.
It received some local coverage in Singleton Argus and ABC 1233 and the EPA have started discussing the conceptual model for balancing psychological and physical risk on page 8 of the submission.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

H7N9 - Betting its not a pandemic in the making.

So the world is watching the emergence of H7N9 avian influenza - the H7 strain not usually infecting humans - causing severe illness and death in China. But I think it is this paper: Using Routine Surveillance Data to Estimate the Epidemic Potential of Emerging Zoonoses: Application to the Emergence of US Swine Origin Influenza A H3N2v Virus,  and reflecting on the emergence of the 2009 pandemic that causes me to doubt the pandemic potential of an influenza virus that, when we first hear about it, is apparently directly associated with zoonotic spill over - not in all cases but in significant numbers of cases. 

I think the chance of us “being there” in the early days or weeks of the next pandemic and actually seeing it spill from animals to humans is extremely remote and so when we see significant numbers of cases associated with chicken or pig exposure, as in the current H7N9 issue and the recent pig associated H3N2 clusters in the USA,  then I suspect it will more often then not stay that way.    I suspect most of the initial spill overs will escape our surveillance and arise in humans without any immediately recognised links to animals – as did the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.  But this is just a probabilistic argument which will fail sometimes - hence the need to remain watchful.