Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flu Tracking: "The Paperwork Is Easier in Canada"

First FEMA failures, then the banking sector regulatory failures, and now apparent failures at the CDC, is there really any good reason to expand regulation? Here's a shocking report from WaPo:
U.S. public health officials did not know about a growing outbreak of swine flu in Mexico until nearly a week after that country started invoking protective measures, and didn't learn that the deaths were caused by a rare strain of the influenza until after Canadian officials did....

It seems that U.S. public health officials are still largely in the dark about what's happening in Mexico two weeks after the outbreak was recognized.

Asked at a news conference yesterday whether the number of swine flu cases found daily in Mexico is increasing -- a key determinant in understanding whether an epidemic is spreading -- Anne Schuchat, an interim deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "I do not know the answer to those questions."...

On April 16 or 17, Mexico notified the Pan American Health Organization of the outbreak, Hernández said. The organization, based in Washington, is the Americas' branch of the World Health Organization. Spokesmen for both groups were not able to say yesterday when the influenza or pandemic planning offices at WHO's Geneva headquarters learned or were informed of the Mexico outbreak.

In recent years, Mexico has done extensive pandemic planning with Canada and developed a close relationship with the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Tests on virus samples from the Mexican patients suggested the strain was different from this year's flu. So on Monday, Mexican officials sent lung and throat swabs to Canada to be characterized.

The CDC, in Atlanta, is one of WHO's four "reference laboratories" for flu. It routinely gets samples from Mexico and many other countries, and processes them with great urgency, Nancy J. Cox, the head of the flu lab, said last night. It, too, eventually received the Mexican samples.

"The only reason the samples went first to Winnipeg is because the paperwork is easier. We were in a rush," Hernández said...


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