This is my fourth Thanksgiving blogging at AFD.
In November of 2006 I began what has turned out to be a joyous tradition for me - taking the time to publicly acknowledge and thank those working to prevent, or mitigate, this and future pandemics.
Each year I update this essay to include some new people, and to mention some of the friends I've met along the way on this remarkable journey through Flublogia.
While I pen AFD alone, this is by no means a solitary effort. I rely (heavily) on the the advice, expertise, and hard work of dozens of others in Flublogia, without whom, this blog would not be possible.
This is my once-a-year chance to thank them.
You’ll find earlier editions of this roll call at:
Our regular schedule of doom and gloom will continue shortly. In the meantime, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on those who are out there doing good work to try to avert a disaster.
You may know some of these people by name, and some by the organizations they represent, while others you may not be aware of at all.
This is, in no way, a complete list.
There are far too many good people, agencies, and organizations doing good work out there to mention. But it’s a start.
So, in no particular order, a tip of the hat and a world of thanks go to:
The HHS which found itself in the midst of a pandemic outbreak in the opening months of a new administration, even before a new Secretary had been appointed.
Kudos must go to first to the career members of the HHS, CDC, and FDA who have dealt with a difficult situation during a time of political transition. Luckily they already had a pandemic playbook in place, and while it required revision and adjustment for a milder virus, it gave those agencies a big advantage going into this crisis.
Much of the credit for that preparedness must go to former HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, who spearheaded the US pandemic movement starting in 2005.
This year, once again the HHS invited several bloggers to Washington D.C. to take part in a day-long pandemic tabletop exercise along side representatives from the HHS, CDC, FEMA, Homeland Security, the FDA , State and local Health Departments, and print and broadcast journalism.
At this conference I was delighted to meet and talk at some length to Dr. Bruce Gellin, Director of the National Vaccine Program Office at the HHS, and to spend the day interacting with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, Admiral Anne Schuchat, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Jay Butler . . . among others.
That trip also allowed me to renew my acquaintance with Forrest Sawyer, and once again see Sharon Sanders of Flutrackers and Dr. Greg Dworkin of the Flu Wiki, and to spend time with two of the best reporters in the business, Lisa Schnirring of CIDRAP News and Maggie Fox of Reuters.
Barely three weeks after that event, I was extremely fortunate to be invited to participate in the CIDRAP Pandemic Summit in Minneapolis (see Next Week’s H1N1 CIDRAP Summit). My gratitude goes to Dr. Michael Osterholm, and everyone at CIDRAP, for the opportunity to be a part of that event.
It was a thrill that will not be soon forgotten.
On the 2nd day of the summit I took part in two 90-minute media panel discussions - moderated by Joel Kramer of Minnpost.com -along with Amy Burkholder of CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Betsy McKay of the Wall Street Journal, and chief science correspondent of NBC news Robert Bazell.
Readers of this blog no doubt have noticed that I’ve referenced the work of CIDRAP often over the years.
The reason is simple: They are very good at what they do.
The reporting from CIDRAP News is always first rate, with most of the heavy lifting done by Editor Robert Roos, and the previously mentioned Lisa Schnirring. Contributing writer and blogger Maryn McKenna lends even more expertise.
Maryn's 7-part award winning series on the Pandemic Vaccine Puzzle is an absolute must-read. Maryn is also the author of Beating Back The Devil, the inside story of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, and an upcoming book on MRSA.
CIDRAP also issues comprehensive reports on public health related subjects, such as the recent Pandemic Influenza, Electricity, and the Coal Supply Chain by Nick Kelley, MSPH and Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH and the HR Toolkit for businesses based on the recent summit.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of CIDRAP, has achieved near rock star status in the flu world, and rightfully so. Before devoting his attentions to CIDRAP, Dr. Osterholm served for 24 years (1975-1999) in various roles at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the last 15 as state epidemiologist and chief of the Acute Disease Epidemiology Section.
He is, as they say, a heavy hitter. And his lectures on the threat of an Avian Flu pandemic, his writings, and his appearance on Oprah have brought pandemic flu awareness to millions of people.
Moving on, some other names that deserve mention include:
Dr. David Nabarro, Senior United Nations system Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza. Formerly one of the worlds top public health officials with WHO (World Health Organization), Dr. Nabarro has led the fight at the UN on the Avian flu front, and has pulled no punches in his assessments of the threat it poses.
Dr. Robert G. Webster, perhaps the world’s most famous virologist, and the head of the virology department of St. Jude’s Research Hospital. In addition to his life long study of viral pathogens, and the numerous papers he has produced, Dr. Webster was perhaps the first scientist to recognize the threat of the H5N1 virus in Hong Kong 10 years ago, and is largely responsible for the eradication of the threat at that time. He quite likely saved the world from a pandemic a decade ago.
Today, Dr. Webster continues his research, and reminds us of the stark realities of what a pandemic could bring the world. His message hasn’t always been popular, and he has undoubtedly stepped on some toes along the way, but this mild mannered man is a superhero in disguise.
The list of doctors and researchers is extensive, and there are many unsung heroes among them. People like Greg Poland of the Mayo Clinic, and John Oxford, Professor of Virology at St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London Hospital, and Richard Webby of St. Judes, among others. Names you may never have heard of, unless you follow virology closely.
There are countless people at the CDC, the NIH, the WHO, FAO, and OIE who are working, mostly anonymously and often in less than optimal conditions, to mitigate this pandemic and hopefully prevent the next one.
And there are universities and medical centers around the world; places like the University of Minnesota, St. Judes Research Hospital, UPMC Center For Biosecurity, and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston which are major sponsors of influenza and emerging infectious disease research - along with many others.
John M. Barry, author of the quintessential book on the 1918 pandemic, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, almost single handedly has reminded us of the horrors of our last great pandemic. If you haven’t read this book, you should. Period.
Dr. Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching has provided us with a compelling, and all too often disturbing look at the factory farming business, and how it contributes to the threat of a pandemic.
The entire text is available online, without charge (thank you Dr. Greger!).
I promise you. Read it, and you'll never look at chicken the same way again. An informative and entertaining lecturer, click here to view his latest video on factory farming.
Helen Branswell, health reporter for the Canadian Press. If anyone in the field of journalism deserves the Paul Revere Award, it is Ms. Branswell. She has produced some of the finest reportage on the emergence of the H5N1 virus (and now H1N1) as exists anywhere in the world, and she started back when few had heard of the threat.
Her writing is clear, concise, and absent of the breathless prose that many lesser journalists rely upon. Whenever I find a Branswell article, I know in advance it is going to be well worth reading.
Maggie Fox, the Health and Science Editor for Reuters, is another standout in the world of journalism. Her reporting on the pandemic threat (along with a myriad of other topics) has been consistently excellent.
Maggie has an advantage over many other news reporters in that she understands the science, having completed fellowships at the National Institutes of Health on Genomics, at Harvard Medical School on infectious disease, and at the University of Maryland on child and family health policy. And it shows.
Declan Butler, senior reporter for Nature, and blogger, who very early on called the attention of the world to the pandemic threat, and who has used Google Earth to great effect mapping avian flu outbreaks around the world.
Other notable names include would Jason Gale of Bloomberg, Patrick Thibodeau of ComputerWorld, Betsy McKay at the Wall Street Journal, Robin McDowell of the AP, and Emmy Fitri of the Jakarta Post. There are others of course.
Thank you all. We need a hundred more, just like you.
On the Internet we have a number of dedicated and astute bloggers, and they too deserve special mention. Among them:
Crawford Kilian, author of Crofsblog, was one of the first, and arguably remains the best flu blogger out there. His site is resource rich, his comments are invariably on target, and his tone is always professional. He does a far better job covering the flu news than anyone I know of.
In short, Crof showed the world how an avian flu blog should be done, and those with any sense have followed his example.
The Reveres, anonymous authors of Effect Measure, which has my nomination as the best public health blog on the Internet. Don’t be put off by their anonymity, these guys (or gals) are the real deal. They have the ability to explain the science of avian and swine influenza (and other health threats) better than anyone else in the blogosphere.
If you want to know what this humble author reads, you should know that Effect Measure is at the top of my list each day.
SophiaZoe, my cyber-twin and dear friend, who writes the remarkable Pandemic Chronicle.
One of the outright joys of being a blogger is that I've gotten to meet a number of people in Flublogia. SZ and I have, over the past four years, become fast friends. She never ceases to amaze me with her encyclopedic knowledge of pandemic issues, and her ability to get to the crux of the matter.
We've worked together on four projects so far; The 2007 HHS Pandemic Leadership Blog, the 2008 Pandemic Tabletop Exercise, the 2009 Pandemic Tabletop Exercise, and are both contributors to GetPandemicReady.Org.
This year I finally got to meet the irrepressible Scott Mcpherson, after several years of email correspondence. We were both part of the CIDRAP summit in September, and I got to spend two glorious days hanging out with him and fellow blogger Indigo Girl.
A fellow Floridian, Scott is the CIO of the Florida House of Representatives, and rubs elbows with State and Federal officials every day. His insights, often sprinkled with a dash of healthy whimsy, are always a pleasure to read.
Indigo Girl on Allnurses.com has been the driving force behind their pandemic forum for several years. Her long-running analysis of avian and H1N1 flu news has brought a keener awareness and understanding of pandemic issues to her fellow nurses.
Working on the frontlines, Indigo has a healthy appreciation of the day-to-day challenges of dealing with pandemic flu.
While distance makes face-to-face meetings between bloggers rare-but-happy events, we often share information and ideas via Skype, email, and other backchannels.
I’m happy to say there isn’t even a hint of rivalry among us, and we are all genuinely pleased to see others do well. Hence the frequent hat tips and referrals between us.
While not necessarily flu-centric, some other bloggers of note include:
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Tara Smith’s blog Aetiology.
Joel at Preparedness and Response writes based on his private and professional experience in the areas of preparedness and response. He covers public health and emergency management issues.
And some of the best essays on avian influenza issues comes from people who don't have a regular blog, but post instead to flu forums.
Many of those are what are known as Newshounds.
Every day, dozens of hardworking volunteer flubies scour foreign language news reports, using search engines, text-finding software, and translating programs to bring us the latest tidbits of news from around the world.
They do an awesome job. If the CIA and the NSA aren't envious, they should be.
It would be impossible to mention them all, and I fear insulting those I miss. But a partial list (in no particular order) of some of the most recently active newshounds includes :
Dutchy, Ironorehopper, Treyfish, Commonground, Florida1, DemFromCt, SusanC, Kobie, Carol@SC, Pixie, mojo, bgw in MT, Readymom, pugmom, Frenchiegirl, AlohaOr, UK-Bird, Rick, Canada Sue, Theresa42, Mosaic, Cottontop, Influentia2, Mojo, Michelle in OK, Mary In Hawaii, dbg, flubergasted, Laidback Al, Alaska Denise, Siam, InKy, History Lover . . .
To those I missed (and there are many), mea culpa.
Some of these newshounds can be found on multiple flu forums, while others stick with one particular home base. Regardless, the information is freely shared between all of the flu forums, and dissected by knowledgeable and interested parties.
The work they do is remarkable. And I couldn't do much of what I do without them. Thank you all.
The owners and moderators of the flu forums deserve mention, too.
Labors of love, and devourer's of both time and money, flu forums provide a place for laymen and professionals to gather to discuss the various aspects of pandemic planning, and quite often, the science behind influenza and epidemiology.
The founders and moderators do a terrific job keeping things on track, and do so without compensation. Most of the time, the costs (which can run into the hundreds of dollars each month) are borne by the owners.
There are a number of flu forums out there, but the most popular are Flu Wiki, Flutrackers, PFP, and PFI. Each has their own style and personality, and in many cases, members of one forum belong to several other forums as well.
The Flu Wiki, the first of the dedicated flu forums, was founded by DemFromCt, Pogge, and Melanie Matson. Last year, we lost Melanie after a long illness. She was a pioneer, and an activist, and is greatly missed.
You can read more about her, and her legacy, here.
FluTrackers, founded by Sharon Sanders (but run with the aid of dozens of tireless volunteer moderators), boasts nearly 2,000 member and prides themselves on maintaining an impressive library of scientific literature on pandemic influenza and other emerging infectious diseases.
Over the past year Sharon has also interviewed some of the biggest names in Flublogia on Radio Sandy Springs’s Infectious Disease Show, which is hosted by David Moxley.
Sharon is also a dear friend, confidant, and unindicted co-conspirator.
There is also Francophones des FluTrackers, which is a French language section of Flutrackers, moderated by Muscade, Éditeur et Directeur.
There are other non-English language flu forums as well, such as Zone Grippe Aviaire H5N1 en français which is run by Lyro out of Quebec. This forum provides translations of many news articles, and blogs, into the French language along with commentary.
And then there are the flubies, which number in the thousands.
Some are active posters on the flu forums, while others take a more passive role. Many have become activists in their communities.
The Readymom's organization, now led by Dr. Susan Chu (Flu Wiki Emeritus), not only appears at public venues promoting pandemic preparedness, they have free downloadable toolkits available so than anyone can help spread the message in their community.
Starting in mid-2007, more than a dozen volunteers worked to put together the GetPandemicReady.Org website. There you will find more than 3 dozen easy-to-follow preparedness guides, written by some pretty familiar names from the Flu Forums.
This site is hosted by the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Board of Commissioners, and came about in large part due the hard work of Mel Johnson, Director of Emergency Management.
And StudentsPrepAmerica.Org was created by Justin Kamen and others at Columbia University, and is designed to get the preparedness word out to College and University Students.
Behold the power for the flu forums.
Now is a good time to remind my readers that agencies like the Red Cross, Red Crescent, CARE, Save The Children, The H2P Project, UNICEF, and others are working around the world every day to combat poverty and disease, including pandemic flu.
They could use your support.
These NGO’s do a great deal with very little, and even small donations can help make a difference.
Often forgotten, I also send out thanks to all who wear the uniform of our country, and who will are often called upon to be on the front lines during any crisis, including a pandemic.
This includes our military and national guard troops, both at home and abroad. You guys and gals do a tough, often thankless job, 365 days a year; and are deserving of both our respect and our nation's gratitude.
Please know, you have mine.
There are hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, technicians, EMT's, paramedics, firefighters, and law enforcement officers out there who put it on the line each and every day. I'm proud to have been able to be a part of that universe. And my thanks, and fervent best wishes go out to each of you.
And of course, thanks go to the readers of these forums and blogs. There are far more of you out there than you imagine. Those that post on flu forums, or comment on blog sites are just the tip of the iceberg. Ninety percent of our visitors read and absorb the information here, and say nothing. We know you are out there because our web counter software logs every visit.
No, I’m not going to `out' anyone. Your secret is safe with me.
But even this humble blog gets visits every day from hundreds of corporations, government agencies, financial institutions, and even medical research facilities. Names that you would readily recognize. And that is both extremely gratifying and humbling at the same time.
Thank you for being a part of all of this.
Visitors to AFD by country for November 2009
It has been an amazing journey, these past four years blogging on avian and now pandemic flu. I've been fortunate enough to meet scores of people, either in person, or via email or chat, from around the world due to this blog.
I've collected more than a few good friends along the way.
To all of those who have written me, thank you. And keep them coming. I appreciate each and every email.
Even the ones with suggestions as to what I can do with my blog.
And lastly, a special thank you (in no particular order) to just some of the people in the Flu Community who have gone out of their way to extend kindness, friendship, and counsel to this old medic.
To SZ, and Crof, and Scott, Camille, chacal, the Revere's, Anne, Phytosleuth, Sharon, Maryn, MTO at CIDRAP Lisa & Nick & Robert at CIDRAP , Dr. Michael Greger, DemFromCt, Stephanie, Sally, Emmy, Maggie, Helen, Jackie, Karen, Cliff, Susan, Anne, Blitzen, Snick, Corky, Bluesky, Redwolf, GR, hoggie, Seazar, Paul, Joel, AnnieRn, Caroldn,and Bonnie (and many more I've no doubt left out) a special holiday thanks to you and your families.
You guys, whether you know it or not, help light the path for me every day.
And to everyone else, a safe and happy Holiday.