HEADLINE: Will two flues mix in Indonesia? Experts worry
SUMMARY: The first cases of the H1N1 swine flu in Indonesia have raised concerns that it could combine with the entrenched H5N1 avian influenza to create a more lethal strain. H5N1 has been circulating in Asia for years and has hit Indonesia harder than any other country. Although it only rarely infects people, it has killed 262 out of 433 infected globally since 2003, with 141 of those cases in Indonesia. "We are scared because we are the warehouse of the world's most virulent H5N1," Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said.
ANALYSIS: The potential for resorting of H1N1 and H5N1 in Indonesia into a more virulent strain is only the most dramatic possibility of a naturally occurring process, given that the two strains have been the focus of intense interest over the past decade. In reality, the current, novel H1N1 can interact with any number of extent strains around the globe and is itself a product of this process. There is no way to predict if this will happen or what the result would be.
What is certain is there will be a seasonal influenza, millions of people will be infected, and tens of thousands will succumb to flu-related complications. This by itself should be sufficiently ominous to prompt advanced preparations. Should a new, more deadly strain emerge, the plans and processes designed and practiced today will help determine the outcome.
Preparedness is elemental – we do what we know. If you wait until the disease arrives, the opportunity to stay ahead of the outbreak will already have passed.