Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Should we be worried about an H5N1 pandemic?

  1. Jun 22, 2012 #1
    The second of two controversial H5N1 studies was released today. My question is this: if H5N1 were to become easily transmissible between humans, how bad would it be? Are there any potential vaccines available (I heard the swine flu vaccine helps)? How hard would it be to develop and mass-produce a vaccine before the pandemic gets out of hand?

    Or is the talk of a pandemic just hype?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 22, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Threat of pandemic is always something we should be concerned about. With globalisation, urbanisation and increasing human activities in all ecosystems (increasing the risk of zoonosis) we should always be investing in better epidemic defences.

    If H5N1 became easily transmissible we would be in trouble, whilst there do exist vaccines (which many countries are stockpiling) the efficacy is limited due to to mutability of H5N1. If a pandemic strain were to evolve there is no real guarantee that current vaccines would be applicable. As far as developing and mass-producing a new vaccine usually this takes years and years but in an epidemic there's enough international funding and collaboration to shrink this time but IIRC it would still take the best part of a year to manufacture enough vaccine.

    As an aside when you are referencing a study you really should link to it and if you're calling it controversial you should explain why (just so you know the controversy surrounds releasing information regarding an airborne version of the virus that was evolved in the lab for study). Both papers are available free in the latest issue of Science. The special introduction by the editor-in-chief is very interesting:
  4. Jun 22, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Flicking through this special edition further it seems like this review could answer a lot of your questions:

    Influenza: Options to Improve Pandemic Preparation
    Rino Rappuoli, Philip R. Dormitzer

    Science and society have been struggling to find a way to protect humankind from recurring epidemics and pandemics of influenza. Here, we review the options available in the short term and also briefly address the solutions that research may make available in the long term.
  5. Jun 23, 2012 #4
    What I'm wondering is this: if H5N1 does become easily transmissible among humans, what kind of death toll are we looking at? Millions? Tens of millions? Hundreds of millions? Billions?

    By the way, didn't some researchers find that the swine flu vaccine also helps protect against H5N1?
  6. Jun 30, 2012 #5
    we are in 2012 now, I think your estimation is way too inflated
  7. Jun 30, 2012 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    There is no way for anyone to know. Contracting the flu does not equal death.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook