STUMP » Articles » Memory Monday: Bill Gates Wants to Take on Pandemics, and Fourth Week of April 1918 » 30 April 2018, 18:14

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Memory Monday: Bill Gates Wants to Take on Pandemics, and Fourth Week of April 1918  

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30 April 2018, 18:14

WaPo: Bill Gates calls on U.S. to lead fight against a pandemic that could kill 33 million

Bill Gates says the U.S. government needs to seize the opportunity to lead the nation and the world in preparing for the “significant probability of a large and lethal modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes.”

In an interview this week, the billionaire philanthropist said he has raised the issue of pandemic preparedness with President Trump since the 2016 presidential election. In his most recent meeting last month, Gates said he laid out the increasing risk of a bioterrorism attack and stressed the importance of U.S. funding for advanced research on new therapeutics, including a universal flu vaccine, which would protect against all or most strains of influenza.
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Gates and his wife, Melinda, have repeatedly warned that a pandemic is the greatest immediate threat to humanity. Experts say the risk is high because new pathogens are constantly emerging and the world is so interconnected.

Many experts agree that the United States remains underprepared for a pandemic or a bioterrorism threat. The government’s sprawling bureaucracy, they say, is not nimble enough to deal with mutations that suddenly turn an influenza virus into a particularly virulent strain, as the 1918 influenza did in killing an estimated 50 million to 100 million people worldwide.

Even this winter’s harsh-seasonal flu was enough to overwhelm some hospitals, forcing them to pitch tents outside emergency rooms to cope with the crush of patients.

If a highly contagious and lethal airborne pathogen like the 1918 influenza were to take place today, nearly 33 million people worldwide would die in just six months, Gates noted in his prepared remarks, citing a simulation done by the Institute for Disease Modeling, a research organization in Bellevue, Wash.

Zero Hedge has its own coverage on this talk: Bill Gates Warns “Millions Could Die” If US Doesn’t Prepare For Coming Pandemic

REMEMBERING THE SPANISH FLU

Direct link to video: How did the 1918 flu pandemic start and could we have another one?

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 infected an estimated 500 million people, and killed between 20 million and 50 million people. Could it happen again? Dr Kristy Short says it could, and explains how.
Dr Kirsty Short is head of the influenza virus pathogenesis laboratory in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at the University of Queensland. She is a UQ Development / ARC DECRA research fellow. She completed a PhD in 2013 at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne.

In 2013 she was also awarded an NHMRC CJ Martin Early Career Fellowship to go to the Netherlands to work in the Department of Virosciences at the Erasmus Medical Centre. She returned to Australia at the end of 2015 to work at the University of Queensland. Her group works on many different aspects of the flu including understanding how the flu virus affects different animal species, investigating the role of the immune system in severe flu infections and the interactions between the flu and chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

CURRENT FLU

A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

WASHINGTON — The descriptions are haunting.

Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins.

A century after one of history’s most catastrophic disease outbreaks, scientists are rethinking how to guard against another super-flu like the 1918 influenza that killed tens of millions as it swept the globe.
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Labs around the country are hunting for a super-shot that could eliminate the annual fall vaccination in favor of one every five years or 10 years, or maybe, eventually, a childhood immunization that could last for life.

Fauci is designating a universal flu vaccine a top priority for NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Last summer, he brought together more than 150 leading researchers to map a path. A few attempts are entering first-stage human safety testing.

Still, it’s a tall order. Despite 100 years of science, the flu virus too often beats our best defenses because it constantly mutates.

Among the new strategies: Researchers are dissecting the cloak that disguises influenza as it sneaks past the immune system, and finding some rare targets that stay the same from strain to strain, year to year.

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The new vaccine quest starts with two proteins, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, that coat flu’s surface. The “H” allows flu to latch onto respiratory cells and infect them. Afterward, the “N” helps the virus spread.

They also form the names of influenza A viruses, the most dangerous flu family. With 18 hemagglutinin varieties and 11 types of neuraminidase — most carried by birds — there are lots of potential combinations. That virulent 1918 virus was the H1N1 subtype; milder H1N1 strains still circulate. This winter H3N2, a descendent of the 1968 pandemic, is causing most of the misery.

Think of hemagglutinin as a miniature broccoli stalk. Its flower-like head attracts the immune system, which produces infection-blocking antibodies if the top is similar enough to a previous infection or that year’s vaccination.

But that head also is where mutations pile up.

A turning point toward better vaccines was a 2009 discovery that, sometimes, people make a small number of antibodies that instead target spots on the hemagglutinin stem that don’t mutate. Even better, “these antibodies were much broader than anything we’ve seen,” capable of blocking multiple subtypes of flu, said Scripps’ Wilson.

Scientists are trying different tricks to spur production of those antibodies.

Lots more at the link.

FWIW, while the mortality was on a par with the 2014-2015 season, and the life reinsurers can tell you that it was still bad: Flu Shows Up in a Life Reinsurer’s Earnings

RGA executives say this year’s epidemic pushed up the number of life claims.

RGA executives say this year’s epidemic pushed up the number of life claims.

Reinsurance Group of America Inc. is reporting $100 million in net income for the first quarter on $3.2 billion in revenue, compared with $146 million in net income on $3 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2017.
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RGA said the harsh flu season in the United States and Latin America contributed to the drop in overall net income, by increasing the number of non-large death claims.

Anna Manning, president of the Chesterfield, Missouri-based company, said flu often causes fluctuations in claims during the first quarter of the year.

I have seen that in prior years, too, btw. I always perk up when life insurers talk about “bad mortality experience”.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO: A SUSPICIOUS DEATH

So here we go – a guy in his 30s died of pneumonia:

Remember, there was a lot more excess mortality for those age 20-40, compared to children and old folks. So… yeah, dying of pneumonia at the end of April?

HMMMM.

FOOD POLICIES DURING THE WAR

First, exhorting the good women of New York to commit to Wheatless meals:

It is not that clear to me that this program really caught on.

Here were some more rules:

I had been reading about this “milk bread” or “cream bread” controversy in earlier papers, but had no clue what it meant. Making bread with milk? What? I mean quick breads like banana bread, I understand, but I think they’re talking about a bread with other grains to replace the wheat bread. I haven’t figured it out yet.

LIBERTY BONDS

They are not giving up on this Liberty Bonds thing. I notice the War Savings Stamps promo got dropped this week — no W.S.S.s in the paper or exhortation for that. It’s all about Liberty Bonds.

THE GRANDPARENT SCAM

I saw this description of a scam:

There are versions of this scam still being run (no surprise) – I’ve generally seen it called the grandparent scam, and usually some kind of dire situation is heaped on top of it to provide urgency.

POLITICAL SNARK

I got a good guffaw from this one:

This was Wendell Phillips, and his Reconstruction Era activism is very interesting.

Governor Glynn, on the other hand, managed to be governor for only two years. How did that happen? He had been elected lieutenant governor, and then the governor was impeached and removed from office. You’ve got to see the details:

As the conflict between Sulzer and Tammany moved on, accusations arose against the Governor, claiming that he committed perjury in an 1890 lawsuit, and that he was involved in fraudulent companies in Cuba while a Congressman. These scandals being followed quickly by another as he was sued by a Philadelphia model, who swore that he had broken a 1903 promise to marry her. In all instances he rejected the claims and characterized the lawsuit as a “frame-up”.
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In a last-minute attempt to prevent impeachment, the Governor’s wife admitted to having been responsible for the theft of campaign funds, while the minority in the state Assembly allied to the Governor attempted to postpone proceedings based on the new evidence, but were unsuccessful and the decision came to a vote.
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The trial of Sulzer before the Impeachment Court began in Albany on September 18. Sulzer had called upon Louis Marshall to head his defense team and Marshall agreed, telling his wife that he was not enthusiastic about the outcome.20 The trial did not go well; Sulzer didn’t even testify in his own defense. The court convicted Sulzer on three of the Articles of Impeachment on the afternoon of October 16, finding him guilty of filing a false report with the Secretary of State concerning his campaign contributions, committing perjury, and advising another person to commit perjury before an Assembly committee.

So.

Not much changes in a hundred years, huh.

Charles S. Whitman was the governor after Glynn, and it seems he had a keen eye on public finance.

Hmmm.

CHEESY ADS ARE TIMELESS

I ran this ad last week, but obviously many ads repeat.

Some people really have no shame with regards to extended, inappropriate metaphors. Come on.