Disaster in Denver: Prelude to Pandemic Pandemonium

37 Pages Posted: 23 May 2008

See all articles by Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Institute of World Politics; International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto; Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.


Public health experts have been predicting imminent threat of pandemic influenza.

The latest US preparedness plans use the single statistic of case-fatality as the basis to evaluate any new threats. On this basis, Avian flu (H5N1) has been declared the single pandemic threat of concern, such that current preparedness plan also bears the title Avian Flu. A 7.1 billion dollar initiative for vaccines and other interventions has been allocated to deal with this as yet non-existent threat of Avian Flu.

In the last four years less than four hundred cases of Avian flu has been reported worldwide. Yet in one week this March over 1000 cases of college students in the United States were diagnosed with influenza; the strain: H3N2, a strain that has already demonstrated a propensity to mutate rapidly, infect humans by direct transmission, and cause high levels of morbidity and mortality.

This paper collects evidence that demonstrates an anomolous set of influenza statistics for this season (2007-8) that resemble no pandemic in recent history - with the exception of its uncanny similarity with the unusual presentation of the Spanish flu of 1918-1919.

Further, all evidence suggests that should a United States epidemic or worldwide pandemic materialize in the near future, we are likely to see the cause as a variant strain of H3N2 - for which current vaccines and antivirals are ineffective. Nevertheless, as compared to Avian flu, for which we cannot begin preparing vaccines until a human variant emerges, we are capable of producing a vaccine that would protect Americans from an H3N2 epidemic - in time for the next wave - that is if we start right now.

Finally, while preparedness plans make detailed provisions for social distancing and curtailment of public activities, conspicuous by its absence are contingency plans should the second wave of the epidemic materialize in August or Sept of 2008, the same months that the Spanish flu made its second appearance.

Keywords: influenza, flu, pandemic, epidemic, preparedness, vaccine, avian flu, spanish flu

JEL Classification: D61, D62, D71, H78, I18, I10, I12, J17, K32, K42

Suggested Citation

Billauer, Barbara P., Disaster in Denver: Prelude to Pandemic Pandemonium. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1133264 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1133264

Barbara P. Billauer (Contact Author)

Institute of World Politics ( email )

1521 16th St NW,
Washington, DC
United States
+1 202-462-2101 (Phone)

International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto ( email )

Rua Dr. Roberto Frias
4200-464 Porto

Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc. ( email )

1020 16th Street NW
Suite LL1
Washington, DC 20036
United States
972 54 344 6055 (Phone)

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