Flu Preparedness

Flu Preparedness

Monday, October 23, 2006

The New York Academy of Sciences

Speakers: Peter Palese, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Stephen Morse, Columbia University; Isaac B. Weisfuse, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; David Nabarro, United Nations; Menno D. de Jong, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam



Influenza and Influenza Viruses: An Introduction: Peter Palese

Influenza remains an important disease in humans and animals. It is caused by an RNA-containing virus with a segmented genome which undergoes rapid change resulting in antigenic drift and antigenic shift. Although it is by no means clear that a new pandemic is imminent, it would be prudent to take into account the lessons we have learned from studying different human and animal influenza viruses. Specifically, reconstruction of the genes of the 1918 pandemic virus and studies on their contribution to virulence are important steps toward understanding the biological capabilities of this lethal virus. The availability of new antiviral drugs and the development of superior vaccines provides us with better approaches to control influenza and to have an impact on its disease load.

Can Vaccines stop the next Influenza Virus Pandemia? A Virologist Perspective: Adolfo García-Sastre

The most efficient way to prevent disease caused by influenza virus is vaccination. However, there are important limitations with respect to how to apply the existing influenza virus vaccine technologies to stop a pandemic. These include the unpredictability of the strains that will initiate future pandemics, the manufacturing capacity and speed, and the low efficacy in the elderly. Basic science discoveries have offered potential solutions to some of these problems. I will discuss several approaches that are being currently pursued to improve the existing influenza virus vaccines and to develop novel vaccines.

Waiting for the Vaccine to Arrive: Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions: Stephen Morse

In the event of a pandemic, it is likely that it will take several months at least for a new influenza vaccine to be manufactured and distributed. Antiviral agents are also currently in short supply. Therefore, in the early stages of a pandemic, other measures (usually called "non-pharmaceutical interventions") will likely be necessary to help control the pandemic until vaccines or drugs become widely available. These non-pharmaceutical measures range from handwashing ("hand hygiene") and "respiratory etiquette", to voluntarily staying at home and avoiding large gatherings. This talk will discuss the non-pharmaceutical options available, how they might be used, and the scientific data available to evaluate them.

Pandemic Flu Planning in New York City: Isaac Weisfuse

The most densely populated city in the United States and a major international port of entry, New York City has long been vulnerable to infectious disease threats, whether naturally occurring or intentional. During an influenza pandemic, in partnership with federal, state and local agencies, we will focus on 4 primary goals: limit severe illness and death from influenza, work with health care partners to support appropriate influenza evaluation and care, maintain essential medical services, and communicate rapidly, accurately and frequently with the public, the medical community and others using all available media. Our plan builds upon a foundation of preparedness, integrating lessons learned from numerous tabletops, drill and real events, from even before 9/11.

Avian Influenza and the Pandemic Threat: A Global Review: David Nabarro

David Nabarro, UN System Influenza Coordinator, will provide an update on the global situation regarding the current epizootic of highly pathogenic and threat of a human influenza pandemic. He will describe strategies being pursued and actions taken within countries to control avian influenza and reduce threats for the human population. He will focus on the threats posed by pandemic influenza – especially those which are made manifest outside the health sector. He will summarize the actions being taken at