Philip Alcabes discusses myths of health, disease and risk.

Palese on H1N1: Not a Global Threat

Peter Palese, an accomplished and highly respected virologist at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, has written a piece for the Wall Street Journal explaining “Why Flu Isn’t So Scary.”  The full op-ed article is viewable only by subscription, but a distillation by Vincent Racaniello appeared May 2nd at Virology Blog.

In essence, Palese explains why the current outbreak strain has little chance of posing a global health problem.  The virus lacks virulence determinants found in strains known to be highly pathogenic and it is from an ancient (in flu chronology) strain and therefore many people probably have some cross-reactive antibody protection — “I would postulate that by virtue of this ‘herd immunity’ even a 1918-like H1N1 virus could never have the horrific effect it had in the past,” Palese writes.  He also sees promise in immunization, which would further damp the threat.  And see “H5N1” for a May 6th post about widescale production of H1N1 vaccine.

Palese’s argument is not only reassuring; it reminds us that preparation serves us and “pandemic preparedness” is beside the point.

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 8th, 2009 at 9:22 am and is filed under Disease, Outbreaks, public health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.