Sometimes I think we are looking for "sexy" problems - H5N1 Avian Influenza, a/k/a Bird Flu - instead of looking at, and learning from, the "run of the mill" threats.
Funny enough, some of the "normal" threats mimic that the experts predict for H5N1:
"Experts, however, say preparedness for meningitis epidemics is difficult because vaccines cannot be administered until it is known which of the many different forms of the bacterium is spreading. As a result, 5-10 percent of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours, while some survivors suffer brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities."
Zimbabwe: Cholera kills more than 3,000 [Jan 29 Johannesburg]--The cholera death toll in Zimbabwe climbed to 3,028, the World Health Organization said on 28 January.
The outbreak that began in August 2008 has become the worst cholera pandemic in Africa since more than 12,000 people perished from the waterborne disease in Goma's refugee camps in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.
The outbreak is showing few signs of abating; the number of cases recorded rose by 1,579 from the previous day, bringing the total known number of cases since the outbreak began to 57,702.
In neighboring South Africa, five people died from cholera in Limpopo Province, which borders Zimbabwe, according to a health department official quoted in the local media.
Since South Africa's outbreak began in November 2008, more than 40 people have died from the disease, and more than 3,000 cases have been recorded.
Uganda: Scores dead as meningitis epidemic strikes [Jan 29 Kampala]--At least 35 people have died in a meningitis epidemic that has hit several districts in western and north-western Uganda over the past two weeks, a health ministry official said.
"Cumulatively we have recorded 47 cases of meningitis with 13 dead in Hoima District," Paul Kaggwa, a spokesman for the ministry, said. "Another 150 cases have been reported in Arua, with 18 dead, and 14 in Masindi, with four deaths."
In its Africa weekly emergency situation update issued on 19 January, the World Health Organization (WHO) said one sub-county in Hoima had crossed the meningitis epidemic threshold. There was also concern about Karamoja region where dry weather had set in.
Kaggwa said the latest reports indicated Arua had also crossed the threshold of five cases per 1,000 people. "The immediate intervention we are embarking on is to carry out vaccination in Arua and Hoima," he told IRIN on 22 January. "We are still determining whether the situation in Masindi justifies a vaccination [drive].
"We are engaged in active surveillance and case management [and] are sending teams to the areas to support community-awareness programs," he added. "We have deployed film vans to help in the campaign."
The Uganda Red Cross (URC) in a 14 January statement said most patients in Arua were from Dadama and Oluko sub-counties while those in Hoima were from Kigorobya sub-county.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the lining surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. It is caused by bacteria and transmitted through contact with respiratory or throat secretions.
According to the URC, the outbreak in Hoima occurred in an area with no history of vaccination for meningitis and few health units. The affected homes were also congested.
Medical experts said dust, which is common during the dry season, leads to an increase in respiratory infections and helps spread meningitis because the bacteria attach themselves to dust particles.
Uganda lies within the African meningitis belt, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, according to WHO. The region, home to about 350 million people, experiences meningitis cycles whenever the dry season sets in.
Up to 30,000 people suffer from the disease each year in Uganda. Last year, the government introduced a vaccine, which it said significantly reduced mortality rates from the deadly disease.
Experts, however, say preparedness for meningitis epidemics is difficult because vaccines cannot be administered until it is known which of the many different forms of the bacterium is spreading. As a result, 5-10 percent of patients die, typically within 24 to 48 hours, while some survivors suffer brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities.
John Glenn, MBCI, SRP
Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity
Planner @ JohnGlennMBCI.com