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Week of 5.8.09

Swine Flu Pandemic

How do we fight both the swine flu pandemic and our fear of it?

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Web Features

Swine Flu: What You Need to Know
Learn how to protect yourself and others.

Teaching Kids About Swine Flu
Check out an animated movie for kids about swine flu.

Bio: Dr. Larry Brilliant
Find out more about Dr. Brilliant's distinguished career.

This week, NOW's David Brancaccio sits down with one of the most prominent figures in world health to discuss the future of the swine flu pandemic. Dr. Larry Brilliant is an epidemiologist, former chief philanthropist at Google.org, and was a central figure in the World Health Organization's successful smallpox eradication program.

Brilliant sheds light on high-tech tools that are making it easier for scientists to detect global outbreaks, the critical importance of early detection and early response, and how the current pandemic has yet to show its real hand.

"Anyone who tells you that they know that this is a mild pandemic, and the WHO has overreacted, they don't know. Anyone who tells you that the WHO and CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have underestimated it, they don't know," Brilliant tells NOW. "We're all going to find out at the same time...we're all in it together."

The show also features vital insight from Dr. Nathan Wolfe, a Stanford University epidemiologist who specializes in hunting viruses to their source.

The Weekly Q
Related Links

The New York Times: How to Prevent a Pandemic by Dr. Nathan Wolfe

Reuters: Swine Flu Fact Box

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Swine Flu

The World Health Organization: Influenza A (H1N1)

The Wall Street Journal: The Age of Pandemics by Larry Brilliant (login required)

Viewer Comments

Commenter: David C
do viruses evolve faster when preventative action is swifter or people wait until there is measurable evidence that there is a pandemic? What constitutes a measurable pandemic? In other words is early intervention better than late?


Commenter: i-live-2-ride
Thanks to some unknowledgeable members of the media, many people who would otherwise be preparing for a pandemic by stocking away some food and water (which everyone is supposed to have already done in case of a terrorist attack), seem to be relaxing their guard. And I'm not surprized. Even with the vast coverage of the swine flu, few if any of experts are warning them to keep up with their preparations.

My concern is that our current situation may merely be the first of three waves, and if it is, we may be in for some serious body counts because of this relaxed attitude assumed by the talking heads.


Commenter: Grace Sheffield
I was very impressed with Larry Brilliant as well.
I am concerned that google is data mining, even though it is for tracking pandemics. It highlights how far down this path we are. Who draws the line between security and privacy?
A program on privacy and health issues would be welcome.
Great show!


Commenter: Tom Donaldson
The Underlying Problem: Overpopulation

I just watched your show with Larry Brilliant. As for all of your other shows, it addressed efforts to alleviate and prevent human suffering. Interesting, but as always it dodged the real issue.

I never hear discussion of the real issue, the issue underlying all of the others that you do discuss: overpopulation.

If we humans gradually reduced and limited our population we could avoid the kinds of commingling with other animals that Larry Brilliant cites as a source of future pandemics.

If there were far fewer people on the planet, human-induced climate change would not be a problem: it would not be happening; it would be easier to reverse; it would have greatly reduced impact on humans and others.

Back in the 60's and 70's there were predictions of the effects of overpopulation that included most if not all of the problems that we see occurring now and coming in the future. There was, for a time, a feeling in the "counter culture" that it was wrong to breed at more than replacement rate, at least until our population was under control.

Maybe it is time to resurrect the discussion of overpopulation and population control. At least as one front on which to attack climate change, pandemics, etc.

It may be futile, of course. There are too many powerful pro-overpopulation forces: ultra-right fundamentalist religions, the Catholic Church, customs/cultures.

If we cannot control our population and limit it to a sustainable level, then all of these "green" efforts are nothing but an amusing and pointless fad. We will be nothing but Kurt Vonnegut's bacteria discussing the meaning of life as we drown in our own waste products (which waste products humans call "beer").

Without population reduction, no amount of work to prevent pandemics will avoid mass die-offs from disease.

As Richard Feynman was fond of saying, "You can't fool Mother Nature." Given our technologies and the resources available on the planet, and the ways in which we use them, the planet will only support so many people. The result of going over the limit will be mass death, disease, and suffering.

Personally, I am not too concerned about global warming and pandemics. It think that humanity is simply too stupid to live. Nothing will be done soon enough to avoid near extinction, or extinction, as a consequence of our excesses. We are a naturally limiting process.


Commenter: Jack Berinson
What a sad sad excuse for a program about virus science, keeping the public largely dumbed down about how virus spread. And, the huge difference between retrovirus and harmful cytotoxic virus. How can NOW tell us what swine flue is when the CDC admit that this 3 strain virus, bird, human and swine, is a brand new combination? And have said also that this swine flu is new? But suddenly they have identified it? Could there be a link to an outbreak on the Ft. Dix Army base in 1976?

There are many questions unanswered by the CDC most immediate being how the first 7 U.S. cases had absolutely no contact with hogs or hog farms, or any of the people in Mexico? This is an absurd WHO hyper reaction that only creates confusion and suspicion. How could a virus kill persons in one country yet not in other countries? This suggests two different strains. Or that perhaps the human component is a viral pneumonia in Mexico, that is much more deadly. Or the bird component? What does it do? Neither of these two strains are being talked about or whether they have importance.

Your program puts up half truths and outright myth as authoritative dictum and presents viruses as the new "dark plague" the world must cower in fear of. Nothing could be further from the truth. And about your claim that retrovirus are or can be a danger was proven false in the Virus-Cancer program of the 70's which studied retrovirus as a possible catalyst for cancer. Since retrovirus are non-cytotoxic, unlike a cytotoxic virus like herpes, they are unable to kill the cells they infect, thus the idea was they may start rapid cell growth. Dr. Peter Duesberg, a major participant in the CV program, and who is now making new pathways in cancer with his aneuploidy research, mapped the DNA of retrovirus, of which all science uses to this day. The SIV monkey virus that was used to explain the spread of HIv, was found not to have an affect in humans. HIv itself is a retrovirus, also called a passenger or associated virus, and like many harmless bacteria, our body flushes them daily.

Many animal viruses have already been studied and categorized and can be used in lab settings to easily discover if there is any transfer of viral symptoms to humans. Many animal virus cannot live in human cells. And vice versa. If this is in fact a 3 strain virus, how on earth did it come to be combined, is the question. Without giving rise to conspiracy, it is long known the Pentagon has been involved in bio-weapons research for decades now. And much of their research is with germ and virus agents. Don't forget either that the CDC is by and large a military run agency with military protocol and leadership. Regardless, if this is such a growing concern then where is the cooperation between animal viral biologists and human virologists? One can only guess that it is not and is rather a rush to a profitable new and ineffective vaccine. And to roll out Tamiflu, a chemo type therapy for virus derived from AZT, that kills as many or more healthy cells as it does infected cells.

Very disappointed in NOW's inept and incomplete coverage of this.


Commenter: Chaz Groves
Once again, NOW demonstrates just how vital PBS is to getting real news and important views aired. The concept put forward that we are a global community and not just an assortment of insular tribes is THE fundamental paradigm that needs to be accepted if not by every individual, then at least by our leaders.


Commenter: Gunther Eysenbach
Dr Brilliant

Would you PLEASE stop perpetuating the myth that the "idea" of Google Flutrends was conceived at Google. I published this already in 2006:

Eysenbach G. Infodemiology: tracking flu-related searches on the web for syndromic surveillance. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2006:244-248
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed


Commenter: Swine Virus? HIv Retrovirus? Tri-Strain Virus?
What a sad sad excuse for a program about virus science, keeping the public largely dumbed down about how virus spread. And, the huge difference between retrovirus and harmful cytotoxic virus. How can NOW tell us what swine flue is when the CDC admit that this 3 strain virus, bird, human and swine, is a brand new combination? And have said also that this swine flu is new? But suddenly they have identified it? Could there be a link to an outbreak on the Ft. Dix Army base in 1976?

There are many questions unanswered by the CDC most immediate being how the first 7 U.S. cases had absolutely no contact with hogs or hog farms, or any of the people in Mexico? This is an absurd WHO hyper reaction that only creates confusion and suspicion. How could a virus kill persons in one country yet not in other countries? This suggests two different strains. Or that perhaps the human component is a viral pneumonia in Mexico, that is much more deadly. Or the bird component? What does it do? Neither of these two strains are being talked about or whether they have importance.

Your program puts up half truths and outright myth as authoritive dictum and presents viruses as the new "dark plague" the world must cower in fear of. Nothing could be further from the truth. And about your claim that retrovirus are or can be a danger was proven false in the Virus-Cancer program of the 70's which studied retrovirus as a possible catalyst for cancer. Since retrovirus are non-cytotoxic, unlike a cytotoxic virus like herpes, they are unable to kill the cells they infect, thus the idea was they may start rapid cell growth. Dr. Peter Duesberg, a major participant in the CV program, and who is now making new pathways in cancer with his aneuploidy research, mapped the DNA of retrovirus, of which all science uses to this day. The SIV monkey virus that was use to explain the spread of HIv, was found not to have an affect in humans. HIv itself is a retrovirus, also called a passenger or associated virus, and like many harmless bacteria, our body flushes them daily.

Many animal viruses have already been studied and categorized and can be used in lab settings to easily discover if there is any transfer of viral symptoms to humans. Many animal virus cannot live in human cells. And vice versa. If this is in fact a 3 strain virus, how on earth did it come to be combined, is the question. Without giving rise to conspiracy, it is long known the Pentagon has been involved in bio-weapons research for decades now. And much of their research is with germ and virus agents. Don't forget either that the CDC is by and large a military run agency with military protocol and leadership. Regardless, if this is such a growing concern then where is the cooperation between animal viral biologists and human virologists? One can only guess that it is not and is rather a rush to a profitable new and ineffective vaccine. And to roll out Tamiflu, a chemo type therapy for virus derived from AZT, that kills as many or more health cells as it does infected cells.

Very disappointed in NOW's inept and incomplete coverage of this.

Jim Berry
Colorado Springs, CO


Commenter: Sandy Moriarty
This is one of the most compelling NOW shows I have ever seen. Dr. Brilliant personifies the best of the human race. I can't imagine anyone who has given more to serving humankind than he has. And he is obviously not looking for recognition, but cares only to accomplish something meaningful that he truly cares about. He should be a candidate for the Pulitzer prize. who could be more worthy?


Commenter: Susan Dunham
H1 N1 I thought was not supposed to be called SWINE FLU

WEB FEATURES
Swine Flu Pandemic

Swine Flu: What You Need to Know

Teaching Kids About Swine Flu

Bio: Dr. Larry Brilliant


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