While it doesn't make news here, because it's not American deaths or a change from a simmering baseline, H5N1 still percolates in hot spots like Indonesia's Bali. Several resources help illustrate the problem. This map from Bali, Indonesia, where 1.5 million tourists from all over the world visit each year, tracks suspected cases of H5N1. It's put together by volunteers at Flu Wiki:
While a suspected case is not a proven case, not all samples in Indonesia make it to authorized labs for verification, and some of the suspects might have been placed placed on tamiflu, which is suspected of negating accurate testing. While the total number of cases is likely more than official counts, at this point it's not much more. There's no immediate pandemic happening, but H5N1 remains a candidate for one.
Also, a recent acknowledgment of human to human transmission in Indonesia (one of the human hot spots along with Egypt and Vietnam) highlights the need for vigilance.
A new study by a US university has apparently confirmed for the first time that bird flu has been transmitted from human to human.
It is the nightmare possibility that health authorities have been fearing ever since the disease first appeared.
It happened in Indonesia last year and reveals the world only narrowly avoided a global bird flu pandemic.
The World Health Organisation warned Monday against complacency in the fight against bird flu, saying another human influenza pandemic is inevitable sooner or later.
"I am often asked if the effort invested in pandemic preparedness is a waste of resources," director general Margaret Chan told a regional meeting of the world organisation.
"Has public health cried wolf too often and too loudly?" she said in a speech.
"Not at all. Pandemics are recurring events. We do not know whether the H5N1 (avian influenza) virus will cause the next pandemic. But we do know this: the world will experience another influenza pandemic sooner or later."
WHO regional director Shigeru Omi noted that bird flu deaths in the Western Pacific -- which excludes Indonesia -- had fallen from 19 two years ago to five in the past year.
But he said the virus was still "entrenched" in several countries.
"Because the virus continues to evolve and mutate, we must maintain constant vigilance," he said.
This isn't a front page story, but it's information nonetheless worth posting. H5N1 is not guaranteed to be the next pandemic, but some flu virus out there will be, and there's nothing to say H5N1 won't be.
This fall, the focus will be on community mitigation guidelines and implementation. This means that if a severe pandemic strikes, the public schools in the US may close for up to 12 weeks. Pre-planning is essential for parents and employers. The focus will be on what's called COOP (continuity of operations planning) for individualsand communities.
Expect to hear more in coming weeks. While it's not the number one problem in the world today, it's certainly on the list of potential disasters, and mitigating disasters in advance is certainly a better idea than playing catch-up.