Sunday, July 12, 2009

Managing and Reducing Uncertainty in an Emerging Influenza Pandemic

Interesting comments from the recent copy of the New England Journal of Medicine.

I excerpt some paras for your reading. Can go to the original by Marc Lipsitch from Harvard School of Public Health above if you want to read full article.

"Crudely speaking, the (H1N1) case fatality ratio thus appeared to be 0.2%, near the upper end of the range for seasonal influenza, and superficially, this statistically uncertain estimate seems remarkably accurate given the data available on May 27, by which point there were 11 deaths and 7927 confirmed cases (a case fatality ratio of 0.14%)."

"Public communication of risk and uncertainty will be critical. It has been suggested that the existing criteria for moving to World Health Organization pandemic phase 6 (sustained transmission in multiple geographic regions) should be modified to incorporate a judgment that the world's population is at increased risk. We would argue against conflating assessments of transmissibility and severity in this subjective way, which risks adding to the confusion faced by decision makers and the public. Rather, the global extent of a pandemic should be described objectively and should be just one factor in decisions about how to respond."

"As we adjust our mitigation policies, there will be a continuing need to make decisions without definitive estimates of severity. For example, the decision to move from production of vaccine for seasonal influenza to that for pandemic influenza will need to be made in the next month or two. Similarly, the United States will need to decide soon whether to use adjuvanted vaccines to protect more people with a given amount of antigen, although such vaccines are not currently licensed in the United States. As always, however, the main losers from delays in such decisions are likely to be developing countries, which will have less access to vaccine while probably suffering the greatest clinical impact from this new pandemic virus."

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