One of the most important lessons from this past yearâ€™s pandemic, Fauci said, is the need to â€œconnect the dotsâ€ between seasonal and pandemic influenza and not view them as two separate phenomena.
â€œRather than trying to figure out one priority group over another,” Fauci said, “if we can get into a rhythm of getting most people vaccinated each year, we will have most of the population with some degree of immunity. We will get into a situation where we donâ€™t need to go from a seasonal approach to a crisis approach.
The scientists in the lab of Richard Compans, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory, are hard at work, imagining the unimaginable: A time when patients can self-administer flu vaccines. A time when vaccination does not require exposure to inactive viruses. A time when a universal vaccine could protect from all varieties of influenza: swine, avian, seasonal and strains still emerging.
Richard Compans, PhD (right), with colleague Mark Prausnitz, PhD, from Georgia Tech
But it’s not just hope that motivates them as they work. Emory’s scientists are fighting the clock against another possible future: a time of pandemic and uncontrollable virus mutation. The recent emergence of H1N1 and H5N1, known colloquially as swine flu and avian flu, have added an even greater sense of urgency to their task.
“The H5N1â€”the virus derived from avian speciesâ€”has a 60 percent mortality,” says Emory microbiologist Sang-Moo Kang, PhD. Yet that strain of influenza hasn’t resulted in many human deaths, because, so far, avian flu spreads only to humans who are in contact with infected birds.
While in Atlanta, Chan also visited Emory to meet with President James Wagner and Emory Global Health Institute Director Koplan. She heard presentations about global health field projects by students in public health, medicine, and theology.
Chan recalled the â€œlost decade for development,â€ the 1980s, a dismal time for public health. The 1979 energy crisis followed by a recession made for tighter public health resources and few health care improvements worldwide, she explained. Some developing countries have still not recovered.
In contrast, public health has faired better in the new millennium, when the world has benefited from financial commitments backed by substantial resources, often from innovative sources, says Chan. Read more