Reports that avian influenza A (H5N1) is spreading across the globe-from Asia to Africa and, most recently, borne on the wings of wild swans to the borders of Eastern Europe-are making health-care providers and patients nervous. A global pandemic, touched off by a mutated version of this flu strain that has acquired the capability to infect human beings, is, experts tell us, a real possibility.
Of course, there is nothing pediatricians or any other physician in practice can do to avert such a catastrophe, but what you can do is calm fears, advise anxious parents that no bird and no human being in the US have been infected with the A (H5N1) strain, and continue to tend to the task of preventing as many cases of ordinary flu, which besets us this year and every year, as you possibly can.
If you have had difficulty finding vaccine for all your patients, doses may still be available from the CDC pediatric influenza vaccine stockpile funded by the Vaccines for Children Program. And don't forget yourself and your staff: The CDC has just issued the strongest recommendations yet for the immunization of all health care personnel (MMWR Feb 9, 2006/55. Early Release). Have you had your flu shot?