A year ago on the blog : Effect Measure
Quote from scienceblogs.com
It was a year ago today we put up our first post about swine flu: "The California swine flu cases." I think we were the first blog to notice it, and it began this way:
Late yesterday afternoon a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Dispatch appeared on CDC's website that is unique in my experience. MMWR is usually heavily vetted and edited and nothing gets out of there fast. Indeed, in recent years, nothing at all got out of CDC very fast. And yet here is this Dispatch, with text referring to the same day of issue (April 21), reporting on two young patients with febrile respiratory illnesses, one of whose cases CDC only learned about on April 13, 8 days earlier. April 17 CDC determined that the two children, both from the San Diego, California area, were infected with a swine flu virus of a novel kind. (Effect Measure, April 22, 2009)
It was not at all clear what was happening, but the speed with which these cases were published was a warning flag that it wasn't business as usual.
Then news of the Mexican cases blew things wide open:
Late yesterday we summarized a CDC media briefing about the developing investigation of cases of influenza in California and Texas with a previously unknown flu virus with genetic components from pigs ("swine flu", humans and birds). At the same time reports were surfacing of an especially virulent respiratory disease outbreak in central and southern Mexico that had resulted in 20 deaths and hospitalizations with acute respiratory failure. 137 cases have been reported, including health care workers. When asked yesterday, CDC said they were in close touch with their Mexican counterparts but at that point had no evidence of a connection.
...easy to declare in hindsight that those who knew the most about flu overreacted. If you say it that way it is clearer that the alarmed reaction wasn't because public health authorities didn't know what they were doing but was because they knew more about flu than everyone else. Pandemic flu is always pregnant with possibilities and the ones that deserve the most attention are the ones that are dire. Would you have it any way?
The Editors of Effect Measure are senior public health scientists and practitioners. Paul Revere was a member of the first local Board of Health in the United States (Boston, 1799). The Editors sign their posts "Revere" to recognize the public service of a professional forerunner better known for other things.