Zelicoff on the Flu

I meant to blog this when it came out a couple of weeks back: Al Zelicoff’s take-down in the Albuquerque Tribune on “bird flu mania”

So, are the fears justified for Washington’s preparations against the spread of this new “killer” influenza to humans? The short answer is no. The threat is extremely remote.

It’s not that Al doesn’t think there are legitimate threats out there. He does. And he also argues, I think persuasively, that we’re not doing some of the fundamental things we could to keep our guard up. He’s pushing a relatively low-cost solution involving “syndrome surveillance,” in which sentinel doctors and nurses report briefly and in real time on the stuff that’s coming through their doors, allowing a sudden uptick in, say, respiratory infections, to be quickly noticed.

I’ve testified four times on Capitol Hill about it, including before Sen. Bill Frist, president of the Senate and its only physician. He applauded its use and numerous successes. As Frist himself has noted in his book, “Every Moment Counts,” should a bioterrorism attack occur or another novel disease reach our shores, we are hopelessly hamstrung by our lack of situational awareness of disease patterns in animals and humans.