AC Alert for September 19, 2011 Contagion: Could this really happen?

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AC Alert for September 19, 2011 Contagion: Could this really happen?
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 11:01am

Who is vulnerable to the virus that pops up in the new movie thriller, "Contagion"? According to an actor playing a Minnesota health official: "Everyone with hands, a mouth and a nose."  "Contagion" is set to be the hottest movie of the month, and the one fans of the non-fiction book "The Hot Zone" have been waiting for.

"Contagion" is not actually based on "Hot Zone," but it embodies the same combination of excitement and dread as its fictitious virus spreads throughout the world with the random mercilessness of a serial killer. Alternating between average people and scientists as they grapple with the disease, "Contagion" is a thriller that feels sickeningly real. After seeing the movie, the first logical question one might ask is: Could something like this really happen?

Our editors at AC hope not, but we don’t want anyone to be caught unaware. That’s why we have reactivated our Pandemic Flu Hot Topics Section. As summer 2011 comes to an end, the flu season begins in the Northern Hemisphere.  We had archived this Hot Topic after the HlNl flu “scare” passed last spring and the 2010-2011 season wound down. However, we kept monitoring the situation, and based on recent developments, as the winter flu season returns, we have reactivated the Hot Topic on Pandemic Flu

Why? There are alarming reports coming out of Southeast Asia that the HlN1 infections are present again, including a more virulent type that resists drug treatments. We urge everyone to check out these recent articles taken from AC:

Bird flu back on the rise, U.N. warns
(Source: Los Angeles Times) Bird flu was in decline -- but health officials are now warning that it appears to be on the rise again. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) "urged heightened readiness and surveillance against a possible major resurgence" of the virus, which has crossed over from birds to infect 565 people and kill 331 of them since its appearance in 2003.

Mutant strain of bird flu is spreading... and it's resistant to existing vaccines, warns UN
(Source: Daily Mail) Fears of a resurgence of the deadly bird flu virus have been raised by the United Nations, saying wild bird migrations had brought it back to previously virus-free countries. In fact, a mutant strain of the disease is said to be spreading through Asia and at least eight people have died in Cambodia this year of bird flu.

H1N1 Swine Flu Death Reported In Lake County, Florida
(Source: Medical News Today) Health officials from Lake County Health Department, Florida, have confirmed that an 80-year old woman who lived locally and had visited California died of H1N1 Swine Flu. Since the start of the influenza H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the virus strain that was circulating then has become part of the strains that typically circulate during the influenza season.

Feds aim for clear line between fact, fiction
(Source: Washington Post) The federal government is reassuring the movie-going public that, despite what they’re seeing on the silver screen, there is no imminent risk of an unstoppable bird flu outbreak. In response to the star-studded film “Contagion”, the CDC is hosting a panel discussion to discuss the “myth vs. reality” in the movie, which centers on a mutated virus claiming lives around the globe. CDC officials will also detail prevention strategies in the event of an unprecedented pandemic in the U.S.

Severe Pandemic Flu Often Fatal for Pregnant Women
(Source: Med Page Today) Pregnant women who became severely ill with the pandemic H1N1 flu stood a one in five chance of dying according to the CDC. They were more likely to survive if they were treated quickly with antiviral drugs.

Bird Flu Takes Off
(Source: Human Resource Executive) As bird flu spreads into new areas, it should start getting the attention of HR leaders at multinational companies. They should urge employees in affected areas to use common sense: Steer clear of outdoor markets and make sure to eat in reputable locations where food is properly cleaned and cooked.

Bird flu alert in Assam, culling of 30,000 birds likely
(Source: Hindustan Times) An alert has been sounded across Assam in Northeast India following detection of bird flu virus in Dhubri district, a top police official said on Saturday. A Bhopal-based forensic laboratory confirmed that the samples sent to it for testing was positive and the district administration has taken steps for immediate culling of birds in 14 villages in Agomoni area of the district, Deputy Commissioner Sunil Dutta said.


Why One Great Vaccine Researcher Wasn't Afraid Of Bird Flu
(Source: Forbes) Commentator Matthew Herper offers some thoughts on bird flu: The reality is that while Contagion presents a worst case scenario – one that is worth being prepared for – it’s also important to remember that a lot of disease outbreaks will also turn out like SARS, which fizzled.

Here in AC’s Hot Topic the Pandemic Flu section, we are once again closely monitoring H1N1 and other potential pandemics. We will have to wait and see if the virus will return in a mutated form, or some other virus will take its place and challenge our ability to control its spread.  In any case, be assured that AC will continue to report news, commentary and research on any potential flu pandemic in this special hot topics section.

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.

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