Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Roll Call 2014


@FLA_MEDIC on Twitter

It is hard  for me to believe this makes my ninth Thanksgiving blogging at Avian Flu Diary.  Somehow, even after more than 9,300 blog posts, I still find there are new and interesting things to write about nearly every day. 

In November of 2006 I began what has turned out to be a joyous yearly tradition for me - taking the time to publicly acknowledge and thank many of the friends I've made along the way on this remarkable journey through Flublogia.

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When I began AFD almost 9 years ago, I did so with no expectations that anyone other than myself and maybe some family members would ever read it.  I thought of it as more of an online diary (hence the name) than a public blog, and no one was more surprised than I when it turned out people were actually reading it.

Looking back at the quality of many of my posts in that first year, I have to wonder why they bothered.  

But I suppose if you don’t cringe at least a little when you go back and read your old stuff, you aren’t making any progress as a blogger.  The credit for any progress I may have made, however, more properly belongs to the many people who have – over the years – lent their knowledge, assistance, support and friendship to this humble blogger.


Where I’ve done well, I’ve them to thank.  Where I’ve fallen short, I have only myself to fault.

Today, if you will indulge me, I’d like to publicly thank a few of those who have, in one way or another, contributed to the success and longevity of this blog.   In no particular order, my thanks go out to . . .

Revere at Effect Measure, who not only showed Flublogia how a `flu blog’ should be curated (science-based, but written in a way that non-scientists could understand) – but who extended to this fledgling blogger words of encouragement and support long before it was probably due.


Four years after he closed up shop, I still go back and re-read the archives, as do many others.  Gone, but far from forgotten, Revere left an indelible mark on flublogia - and hopefully a faint imprint on my ramblings as well. 


Readers of this blog no doubt have noticed that I’ve referenced the work of CIDRAP often over the years. The reason is simple: The reporting from CIDRAP News  is always first rate, with most of the heavy lifting done by Editor Robert Roos , and Lisa Schnirring.


Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of CIDRAP, is arguably the best spokesperson on pandemic influenza in the country, and I was delighted to finally get to meet him in 2009. Before devoting his attentions to CIDRAP, Mike 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.

The gang at CIDRAP have been tremendously supportive over the years, and I hope they know how much it is appreciated.


Crof, at Crofsblog, has been on the `flu beat’ longer than anyone else, has a great `nose for news’, and has also been a stout supporter of AFD, and an amazing example of blogging tenacity and endurance. 


Blog long and prosper, my friend.


Last year I was extraordinarily pleased to help welcome Virologist Dr. Ian Mackay, curator of the Virology Down Under Blog, and associate professor of clinical virology at the University of Queensland to Flublogia.


Not only does Ian lend a much appreciated level of scientific expertise to the flu blogging scene, he’s fun to read, and a genuinely nice fellow. If you aren’t already reading his blog, you need to add him to your list.


Last year I added a new friend, Dr. John Sinnott, MD FACP FIDSA and Director of the Florida Infectious Disease Institute, and Chairman of Internal Medicine at USF, who has also been extraordinarily kind to this blogger.


Among members of the fourth estate, there are some truly remarkable science and health writers and reporters, several of whom I’ve been lucky enough to get to know over the years.


Helen Branswell, health reporter for the Canadian Press, 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.


Likewise, Maggie Fox  with NBC news  is another standout in the world of health reporting. Maggie 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.


Author, and science writer Maryn McKenna lends considerable talent and expertise to Flublogia, particularly on the antimicrobial resistance front.


In 2010 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 is also the author of Beating Back The Devil, the inside story of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service.

Although the infectious disease blogosphere has contracted a bit in recent years, new additions include the graphic and analysis rich Mens et Manus blog by  Maimuna Majumder, and  Microbiologist Robert Herriman’s Outbreak News Today. 


Robert has been kind enough to invite me on his weekly radio show on several occasions, and occasionally syndicates some of my blog posts.


Ian York, who now works at the CDC, also pens the  wonderful Mystery Rays blog (although his work schedule has severely limited his blogging). His eclectic meanderings through the world (and history) of infectious diseases are a delight for disease geeks and highly recommended.


In 2009, after several years of email correspondence, I finally got to meet the irrepressible (and now zombified!Scott McPherson. We were both part of the CIDRAP H1N1 summit in September 2009, and I got to spend two glorious days hanging out with him and Indigo Girl (of the AllNurses forum), 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.  I remain hopeful that Scott will resume blogging on a regular basis again in the future.


While not necessarily flu-centric, some other bloggers of note that I follow, learn from, and recommend include:

Vincent Racaniello’s always excellent Virology Blog, which devotes a good deal of time to influenza.   His TWiV and TWiP  podcasts are also highly recommended.

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Tara Smith’s blog Aetiology and Celeste Monforton and Liz Borkowski of The Pump Handle are highly recommended as well.

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.   Both have been great friends of this blog, and blogger.


And every day outside of the limelight 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.


While there are many who contribute, some of the names that pop up most often on the sites I visit include: Gert van der Hoek , Shiloh, Pathfinder, Emily, Sally, Carol@SC, mojo, bgw in MT, Readymom, Vibrant62, Sharon Sanders, Tetano, Diane Morin, Ronan Kelly . . . .

There are many others, of course.  My sincere apologies to those I failed to name.


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. 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. This year,I’m sad to report, we lost Pogge.


FluTrackers, founded by Sharon Sanders (but is 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.


Sharon is also a dear friend, fellow Floridian, confidant, and unindicted co-conspirator.  And if it weren’t for Skype, we’d both be impoverished by long-distance phone charges by now.


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.


Readymom, whom I've highlighted before in these pages, runs her own website Emergency Home Preparation.


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.


Now is a good time to remind my readers that agencies like the Red Cross, Red Crescent, CARE, Save The Children, UNICEF, Médecins Sans Frontières 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.


It has been an amazing journey, these past nine years blogging on influenza and emerging infectious diseases, and 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.


Some of those who deserve particular mention – for reasons they already know – include:


To Camille, Sharon & Lance, Cheryl, Scott and Crof, Maryn, Maggie and Helen, MTO & Lisa & Nick & Robert at CIDRAP, Chacal & Family, John Sinnott, Ian Mackay, Jody Lanard & Peter Sandman, Peter C. Hall, Anne, Eric Starbuck, Rolf, Dr. Michael Greger, Jim in Thailand, Anne, 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, have extended kindnesses that can never be repaid, but that will never be forgotten.


And to my best friend of 46 years, Cliff Travis, who left this mortal coil last August.  You are missed, buddy.  Every day.


And to everyone else, a safe, happy, and healthy Holiday.

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