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Friday, May 1, 2009

Our Man Joe, V.P. loose lipped again?

I am not inclined to defend any politician as in general most are motivated by self-interest and party loyalties. However, V. P. Joe Biden, certainly not a man of political correctness and according to several sources in DE government not a supporter of causes de DE, has been taken to the woodshed by all the buffoons in the media, by the Repuklicans, and even by his own Demorats. And just what was the big deal: he created panic, hurt the economy, was irresponsible and worse yet unscientific when he said that he would advise his family not to fly because a sneeze could spread through an entire commercial jet and that if his family had another way to get around, it should avoid the subway.
Poor Joe was attacked by everyone from Health and Human Services to Jet Blue. They all said it was safe to travel IF people who were infected did not get on public transportation. However, folks can spread the disease 2-3 days prior to exhibiting symptoms and it is pretty reasonable that not all people can afford to stay home or that all people are concerned for the general safety of their fellow travelers and commuters. So how far wrong was our man Joe in advising his family? For your perusal is the following link to the website of Health and Human Services and a clip from its manual on pandemic influenza.
Airborne transmission occurs by dissemination of either airborne droplet nuclei or small particles in the respirable size range containing the infectious agent. Microorganisms carried in this manner—such as M. tuberculosis— may be dispersed over long distances by air currents and may be inhaled by susceptible individuals who have not had face-to-face contact with (or been in the same room with) the infectious individual. Organisms transmitted in this manner must be capable of sustaining infectivity, despite desiccation and environmental variation that generally limit survival in the airborne state. Preventing the spread of agents that are transmitted by the airborne route requires the use of special air handling and ventilation systems (e.g., negative pressure rooms).
The relative contribution of airborne transmission to influenza outbreaks is uncertain. Evidence is limited and is principally derived from laboratory studies in animals and some observational studies of influenza outbreaks in humans, particularly on cruise ships and airplanes, where other mechanisms of transmission were also present.

Please note that HHS admits that special air handling and ventilation is required (air planes have HEPA filters but those filters are only as good as the size of molecule they will strain, the finer the filter the more expensive it is and only as good as the maintenance of and timely disposal of saturated filters) to lower the risk of airborne infections because droplets may be dispersed over long distances by air currents. HHS also admits it just does not know about the role of airborne transmission in flu outbreaks.
I side with Joe on this issue: the government health agencies are publicly stating Joe was wrong when their own manuals cite clearly that they don’t know. The airlines are taking pot shots at him but have not mentioned one bit of conclusive data that their ventilation systems are appropriately filtered or consistently maintained.
If it were my family, I would advise all to stay away from flights, subways, theaters, and to avoid, like the plague, any gathering of people who may have been exposed. (Disclaimer: I do plan to fly to Germany within a week to visit youngest son and his family, but I will be holding my breath.) Joe has shown common sense on this issue.

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