This is my fifth Thanksgiving blogging at AFD.
During Thanksgiving week 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, global health threats.
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, hard work, and generosity 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 (including some, who sadly, are no longer with us) to try to reduce disease morbidity and mortality around the world.
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:
Luckily they already had a pandemic playbook in place, and while it required constant revision and adjustment for a milder virus, it gave those agencies a big advantage going into this crisis.
Much of the credit for that early preparedness must go to former HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt and his team, who spearheaded the US pandemic preparedness movement starting in 2005.
Last year, as in years past, 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.
This was my second invite to Washington D.C., and 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.
I was also able to spend quality time with two of the best reporters in the business, Lisa Schnirring of CIDRAP News and Maggie Fox of Reuters.
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 extremely 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.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of CIDRAP, is a bit of a legend 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.
In September of 2009 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.
Moving on, some other names that deserve mention include:
Dr. David Nabarro, Senior United Nations system Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza and now, also coordinator of the UN’s High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis.
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 one of the first scientists to recognize the threat of the H5N1 virus in Hong Kong more than a dozen years 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, Ab Osterhaus and Ron Fouchier Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, and Chairul A. Nidom, a virologist with the Tropical Disease Centre at Airlangga University.
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, Australian National University, and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston which are major sponsors of influenza and emerging infectious disease research - along with others too numerous to mention.
Moving beyond researchers and scientists, there are those who bring us their stories and keep us informed on disease threats and the steps being taken to combat them.
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 would include 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 could use 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 to devote his blog to pandemic flu – but has branched out to cover many of the neglected diseases and disasters - like Dengue, Malaria, Chikungunya, and the Cholera epidemic in Haiti.
His site is resource rich, his comments are invariably on target, and he has a genuine nose for news.
Writer and blogger Maryn McKenna lends considerable talent and expertise to Flublogia, particularly on the antimicrobial resistance front.
Earlier this year her second book, SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA was published to sterling reviews (you can read my review here). Her Superbug Blog continues to be one the best resources on antibiotic resistance issues available online.
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.
Ian York, who now works at the CDC, also pens the wonderful Mystery Rays blog. His eclectic meanderings through the world (and history) of infectious diseases are a delight for disease geeks and highly recommended.
Last year I finally got to meet the irrepressible (and now zombified!) 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 Indigo Girl, forming what we called The Flu Amigos.
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 of Allnurses.com has been a major 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.
We've worked together on four projects so far; The 2007 HHS Pandemic Leadership Blog, the 2008 HHS Pandemic Tabletop Exercise, the 2009 HHS Pandemic Tabletop Exercise, and are both contributors to GetPandemicReady.Org.
Distance makes face-to-face meetings between bloggers rare-but-happy events, but we often share information and ideas via Skype, email, and other backchannels.
Relatively new to the blogging scene is Arkanoid Legent out of Malaysia, who very efficiently covers `the night shift’ in Flublogia - as does Paul in the Netherlands for Chen Qi - when most of us in the western Hemisphere are in the arms of Morpheus.
And of course, Ida at the Bird Flu Information Corner provides some of our best views of what is really going on in Indonesia.
We’ve also lost some bloggers in Flublogia this year, some by intent, and one whose was claimed by an insidious disease at a tragically young age.
John Solomon (1963-2010) – who waged a courageous battle against Leukemia, passed away earlier this month. While we never met face-to-face, John and I highlighted each other’s work in our blogs, and exchanged correspondence.
His In Case of Emergency Blog was a favorite of mine. He, and his dedication to the cause of personal, community, and national preparedness will be long remembered and missed by many.
SophiaZoe, my cyber-twin and dear friend, who penned the remarkably astute Pandemic Chronicle no longer updates that site. But over the years SZ and I have met up a number of times, and became fast friends.
Joel at Preparedness and Response wrote extensively private and professional experience, but has not updated his blog in many months.
Last . . . but certainly not least . . .this year, we said goodbye to The Reveres, the anonymous authors of Effect Measure, which has had my perennial nomination as the best public health blog on the Internet.
After five years, and thousands of blog posts, the Reveres turned off the lights, pulled down the shades, but kindly have left the door slightly ajar so the archive of their efforts over the years remains available.
Alas, nothing lasts forever on the Internet. And blogging, while a joy, is also a heavy burden to keep up day-in and day-out.
While not necessarily flu-centric, some other bloggers of note that I follow, and recommend include:
And last, but hardly least, there’s Dr. Peter Sandman who, along with his wife and colleague Dr. Jody Lanard, produce a wealth of invaluable risk management and pandemic communications advice on their Risk Communication Website.
While most of them don’t maintain formal blogs, many of most active (and most astute) infectious disease news analysts in Flublogia are the volunteer newshounds on the flu forums.
Every day, dozens of hardworking 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. I’ve written numerous times about the work they do, but if you want to know how they do it, check out Newshounds: They Cover The Pandemic Front.
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 active newshounds – now and in the past - 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 two where I hang my hat are the Flu Wiki and Flutrackers. 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. In 2008, 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 members 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, fellow Floridian, 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.
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.
Over 50,000 visitors to AFD over the past 6 months.
It has been an amazing journey, these past five years blogging on influenza and emerging infectious diseases. 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 Sharon and Crof, Scott and Camille, Maryn, Chacal & Family, the Revere's, Anne, Phytosleuth, Rolf, MTO at CIDRAP Lisa & Nick & Robert at CIDRAP , Dr. Michael Greger, DemFromCt, Stephanie, Eric, Sally, Emmy, Maggie, Helen, Jackie, Karen, Cheryl, 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.
Edit: This evening I noticed that somehow I accidentally lost my intended hat tip to Paul at Chen Qi during my editing of this piece.
Corrected with apologies. – MC.
Postscript: I’ll keep a link to this roll call at the top of my sidebar for a couple of weeks, so people away from the holidays can find it.
And for those interested in something a little less stressful than emerging infectious diseases, I also write a blog on public domain radio/TV/and film that can be freely (and legally) viewed or downloaded from the Internet.
Recent blogs include:
And about 160 more . . .