email received 8th April 2006 from Dr Colin G Fink Virologist and Hon Senior Lecturer, Micropathology Ltd, Univ. of Warwick and Dr Ruth Watkins. Saturday, 08 April 2006
Mary Critchley @ warmwell.com
H5N1 Influenza and the Science in Government policyWe believe that it is essential to have Clinical Virologists with an understanding of human disease and the value of vaccination, working alongside Veterinarians, advising the UK government and making decisions about preparation and limitation of the H5N1 infection in birds. Killing infected poultry flocks ad infinitum, without adjunct vaccination, as a means to control infection carried by wild birds, is a policy that has not been successful over the last decade, in eradication of this highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza. The pronouncements this week by Professor Sir David King UK Chief Scientist are not encouraging.
The UK still has insufficient or no H5N1 influenza vaccine stocks to protect the poultry flocks and this failure to prepare reflects a lack of understanding of viral disease in DEFRA and government and has implications for human disease risk.
Vaccination is the most useful weapon we have against epidemic viral disease. Further spread of infection is halted by a vaccinated population. Whilst an individual (bird or man) may become infected with an epidemic virus even after successful vaccination, severe clinical disease will be prevented, populations and livelihoods preserved and the degree of virus shedding into the environment is always reduced or eliminated. Less virus in the environment reduces the risk of other species infection and genetic change allowing a human pathogen to emerge.
A new human influenza pandemic may arise anywhere and there is some evidence that the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic may have originated in the USA or France as a mutated bird virus infecting troops.
Colin G Fink Virologist and Hon Senior Lecturer, Micropathology Ltd, Univ. of Warwick email@example.com (tel. 02476 323222)
Ruth Watkins Retired Consultant Virologist and Farmer Llanddeusant, Carmarthenshire firstname.lastname@example.org (01550 740660)