- Influenza H1N1 Pandemic
- Deaths from Influenza A
- Deep Tropical Animal Housing
- Absolute Humidity Modulates Influenza Survival, Transmission, and Seasonality
The following letter by Mohd Peter Davis was sent to the New Straits Times, Malaysia 12th July 2009
Influenza H1N1 Pandemic
A Malaysian breakthrough to control its spread.
The Ministry of Health has been criticized for overreacting to the influenza pandemic which has not resulted in any deaths in Malaysia whilst dengue has killed 57 this year (‘Don’t sensationalise H1N1 stories’ NST 11 July). This is a foolish view and the Health Ministry has been absolutely correct in suspending leave for 100,000 medical officers and staff and educating the public that this mild H1N1 influenza pandemic could be the dress rehearsal for a virulent flu pandemic which can suddenly emerge anywhere in the world.
The new strain of Influenza, A/H1N1 spread throughout the world in only 4 months from its outbreak in Mexico to become a pandemic. Compared to the Influenza pandemic of 1918 which killed 50 to 100 million, the current pandemic is mild, killing 575 up till 10 July. However, there is deep concern amongst scientists and health professionals throughout the world that the present virus strain will mutate or more likely exchange new genes from bird and animal flu viruses to become a 1918 type virulent virus.
The lesson that has to be learnt by the world population is that the spread of influenza is virtually unstoppable, particularly with high urbanization and air travel. Indeed, an infected air traveller is shedding infectious virus particles a day before displaying any flu symptoms and potentially infects all the other passengers. Last year Malaysia hosted 20 million tourists. Despite all the health precautions that have been taken to minimize its spread, the Centers for Disease Control acknowledged on June 25 that one million Americans had probably been infected so far by the new flu virus, more than half of them in New York City alone.
The flu dress rehearsal reveals the tragic truth that we have completely failed to prepare worldwide defenses to combat a virulent flu pandemic. As a virus researcher 30 years ago with the Australian CSIRO, I was warning my colleagues that another 1918 type flu pandemic was inevitable, given my understanding that viruses rather than merely being the agents of disease had a hidden, more fundamental and essential role in the biosphere. Viruses, I had been insisting publicly since 1972, were the natural agents for spreading genes between the earth’s 50 million species. Viruses were the driving force of evolution not aliens from space and could not be eliminated but their civilization destroying potential had to be controlled by science and technology.
I proposed then exactly what French scientists are now advocating, namely the mass production of an effective flu vaccine and the vaccination of the entire world population within 2 weeks of a virulent strain emerging. However, my call for this ambitious international research program fell on deaf ears and we lost a 30 year head start.
Now most can see the enemy approaching but we have no bullets. A flu vaccine for perhaps 20% of the world’s population currently takes 6 to 8 months to manufacture and the mass vaccination programs are not in place.
Yet, even at this dangerously late stage there is a new ray of hope to slow down the global spread of a virulent influenza virus. It is a stunningly simple public health measure and deserves to be put into immediate effect.
Researchers have known for 50 years that humidity in the air reduces the infectivity of certain viruses. Now, a research paper by Jeffrey Sharman from the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University USA, published in February, proves conclusively that the absolute humidity (the water in the air), rather than the temperature, greatly reduces the viability of the flu virus and therefore the transmission of influenza disease between guinea pigs. Surely, I reasoned, the rainforest countries blessed with all year round high humidity must be the world’s safest territories during an influenza pandemic. And so they are!
I compared the 593 laboratory confirmed H1N1 deaths in the top 10 affected countries (America, Mexico Argentina down to Australia and New Zealand) with a combined population of 665 million with the 539 million population of the Rainforest countries (Brazil, Columbia, Peru etc together with Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia). Only 8 H1N1 deaths have been reported from all the rainforest countries up to 10 July. Expressed per million population, the Rainforest countries reported 54 times less deaths from H1N1 compared to the top ten affected countries.
As reported in Malaysia on 5 July, not one of the 1016 people in close contact with H1N1 patients and rightfully placed under home quarantine by the Ministry of Health actually developed influenza. Tourists and returning nationals bring the latest strains of influenza to Malaysia and other rainforest countries and the virus particles they produce are shed into the humid air where they seem to fizzle out, but not completely.
I have posted the detailed table of results on my Biosphere Technology website, www.mohdpeterdavis.com, along with the abstract and link to the humidity research paper and my scientific article on the nature of viruses. I will regularly update the website with suggestions for exploiting this important finding worldwide.
The goods news is that the Malaysian Deep Tropical evaporatively cooled animal sheds invented by my colleague N. Yogendran and housing 800 Jersey dairy cows in Muazam Shah should make effective emergency quarantine wards during a virulent influenza pandemic. The comfortable high humidity buildings should inactivate the influenza virus and help protect the heath providers. Some pictures and articles on these bio-security animal buildings are also posted on my website.
Mohd Peter Davis
Bandar Baru Bangi
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Absolute humidity modulates influenza survival,transmission, and seasonality
(a) College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331; and( b) Public Health Division, Oregon Department of Health
Services, 800 NE Oregon, Suite 772, Portland, OR 97232
Edited by Burton H. Singer, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, and approved January 7, 2009 (received for review July 16, 2008)
Influenza A incidence peaks during winter in temperate regions. The basis for this pronounced seasonality is not understood, nor is it well documented how influenza A transmission principally occurs. Previous studies indicate that relative humidity (RH) affects both influenza virus transmission (IVT) and influenza virus survival
(IVS). Here, we reanalyze these data to explore the effects of absolute humidity on IVT and IVS. We find that absolute humidity (AH) constrains both transmission efficiency and IVS much more significantly than RH. In the studies presented, 50% of IVT variability and 90% of IVS variability are explained by AH, whereas, respectively, only 12% and 36% are explained by RH. In temperate regions, both outdoor and indoor AH possess a strong seasonal cycle that minimizes in winter. This seasonal cycle is consistent with a wintertime increase in IVS and IVT and may explain the seasonality of influenza. Thus, differences in AH provide a single, coherent, more physically sound explanation for the observed variability of IVS, IVT and influenza seasonality in temperate regions. This hypothesis can be further tested through future, additional laboratory, epidemiological and modeling studies.
virus survival _ vapor pressure _ droplet nuclei _ aerosol
Link to FULL pdf ARTICLE showing graphs of the guinea pig experiments: PNAS Early Edition, Feb 2009