With all of the attention in the US focused on hurricanes and attention in Europe focused on figuring out who's in charge in Germany, it's not surprising that a story out of Indonesia isn't getting quite the attention it deserves. If it turns out the way some fear it might, however, it will be getting quite a bit of attention soon enough.
We've been pointing out the possibility of a global Avian Flu outbreak for awhile now. One of the catalysts for such an outbreak would be a shift in the genome of the virus, making transmission from bird to human -- and human to human -- easier. This week, we have the first sign that such a mutation may have happened: there are reports of a jump in cases of H5N1 in Indonesia. According to the Avian Flu news aggregator site, The Coming Influenza Pandemic?, health officials in Indonesia are clearly very worried, even as World Health Organization spokespeople try to "dial back" concerns, arguing that the increased number of cases could simply be increased effectiveness of screening.
That may well be true -- let's hope it is, in fact. But this is very much how a pandemic would start: with confusion, conflicting reports, initial denials, and a growing number of the dead. Even though this particular surge will almost certainly turn out to be a false alarm (except for those in Indonesia who are dying), we should use it as a reminder to accelerate the construction of strong bottom-up tools for disease awareness, modeling, social response and treatment. The next time we start getting these kind of reports, it may be too late.
We can do several things (add, select, share):
* Read the http://www.fluwikie.com where there are "information tours" depending on how many minutes you can read. "Two minutes" to "activist" levels.
* Link to the "Pandemic Flu Awareness Week" (main page at fluwikie) which starts officially on October 3rd, and blog about it. But who is anyone to stop awareness and self-education from building up sooner rather than later?
* Help with building resilience (personal, family, neighborhood, state, world) in many different ways - look at the many ways, select one, start today. A pandemic might start sooner, or it might start later. If "later", then some things that take time need to be started today, no? At fluwikie there's a thread for "community preparedness". We'd also love to know how "megacities" are going to cope with one of these beasts. Think KatRita x 1000. http://www.globalvillages.info or wherever.
If experts are wrong (and we hope they are) it will not be wasted effort.