Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Summit Notebook:
As one of the world's top suppliers of both vaccines and antiviral medicine, CEO Andrew Witty resents the implication that billions of dollars of business simply fell into his company's lap when the World Health Organisation declared H1N1 a pandemic in June.
"For me the word windfall means you're walking down the street and something fell out of the sky," he told the Reuters Health Summit. "We've spent the best part of 15 years investing for this situation and our ability to manufacture and supply potentially 500 million or so doses (of vaccine) is all because of these investments."
from Maggie Fox:
Usually, at a forum on swine flu, all the experts stand up, present a bunch of general background material, a few new findings, and leave. The learning curve on H1N1 is so steep that by the time you fill in the background, you are out of time, and there's no point in hearing the next presenter speak to a general audience
But this week's Institute of Medicine meeting was different. Epidemiologists - the people who specialize in how disease spreads - were talking to molecular geneticists. Keiji Fukuda of the World Health Organization filled in the bench scientists on how negotiating to get vaccines and drugs for poor countries was taking up everyone's valuable time. Veterans of the 1976 swine flu vaccine mess told their stories. Every scientist sat there raptly listening to the other's presentations. Much of the material had not yet gone through the time consuming peer-review process needed for publication in a medical journal, so it was a little raw, but that much more useful and timely to an educated audience.
from Maggie Fox:
You can prevent swine flu by washing your hands and keeping away from sick people, but how do you make money off of it? Some smaller companies such as Vical and Novavax hope the pandemic might make a short cut for them.
In general vaccines are not lucrative money-makers but this could change.
And then there are always the big antiviral makers. CDC's new guidelines do not offer hope for much more market for them, however. They recommend preserving these drugs for people who really need them.
And those pesky promiscuous viruses. More insight into the 1918 pandemic – the kind everyone fears may happen again – shows it circulated for a little while before it got bad. And as Tan Ee Lyn reports from Hong Kong, it was a swine flu as well:
The World Health Organisation literally changed the rules of the game while playing it last week, when it said it was rethinking the criteria it would use to declare a global flu pandemic is underway.
Britain and other countries affected by the newly-discovered H1N1 virus were pushing WHO Director-General Margaret Chan to pause before raising the six-point pandemic scale to its highest notch, as her United Nations agency’s rulebook says she should do once it is spreading in more than one region of the world.
Hi, is that the Somali pirates?”
Your best source is jailed. You track high-sea hijacks by text and email, get through to captors on a satellite phone. Reporting on Somali piracy can be surreal. During the saga of American Richard Phillips, Reuters reporters in Somalia contacted Phillips’ captors on their lifeboat stalked by U.S. warships.
Online ‘blood plague’ offers lessons for pandemics
In 2005, a plague called “Corrupted Blood” caused mayhem in the online game World of Warcraft. An estimated 4 million players were affected by the pandemic. The Corrupted Blood plague accidentally provided something unprecedented — a chance to safely study a pandemic in a uniquely complex virtual environment in which millions of unpredictable individuals were making their own decisions.
John McConnell, an editor at The Lancet and founding Editor of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, is answering questions about the swine flu:
What is the science behind how new flu strains arise – this one has pig, human and bird components (mainly pig). How has it got this way and how is it able to gain each of these components?