We fully expect the drums of Pandemic to sound when there is an outbreak these days. Roll up your sleeves, get your shot, the viruses are coming!
But what if there was a pandemic, and we didn’t have a vaccine? What would happen then?
It’s happening. The CDC announced “22 states now have confirmed cases of an unusual respiratory illness in children.” A possibly severe virus known as Enterovirus 68 is running amok in the U.S. It attacks young children preferentially. (story here)
What about a vaccine? We have no vaccine. We also have no plans to make a vaccine for this illness. Why? Because it mutates too quickly for our vaccine makers to react. “nine EV-D68 strains identified in patients in the 2010-2012 period and 12 additional EV-D68 Italian strains previously identified in 2008 in Italy” (cite here)
Not only do we not have a vaccine, we don’t even know how bad the pandemic is because most labs don’t test for it and it’s not required to be reported. During the Dutch epidemic of 2010: “October 2010, the Dutch Public Health Institute detected an enterovirus (EV) 68 (EV68) epidemic in the Netherlands through general practitioner-based surveillance of acute respiratory infections. EV68 shares phenotypic and genotypic properties with human rhinovirus (HRV). Despite increased EV and HRV detections, Dutch clinical laboratories did not identify EV68.”(cite here)
But it’s not that bad, right? It’s just a virus, and we’d know if there were any deaths. Not without effective testing. “HEV68 is a unique enterovirus that shares epidemiologic and biologic features with human rhinoviruses (HRV)… Three cases, two in the Philippines and one in Japan, were fatal. In these six clusters, HEV68 disproportionately occurred among children” (cite here)
Ok, so we have a pandemic, we aren’t able to test for it, and even without effective testing we know that it’s killing people. So where’s the panic, where’s the front page news?
We aren’t hearing more about this virus because we have no patentable treatments. There’s no vaccine and no drug that’s shown to be effective. In part, that’s due to multiple strains traveling through populations side-by-side. The different viruses are part of different “clades” which is a scary term used by the World Health Organization to talk about mutations within different viral families (more here).
Since there are multiple clades moving around, it’s not possible to find one silver bullet for treatment. Enterovirus 68 is just like its fellow picornoviruses, it doesn’t have any set treatment. “The treatment of HRV-induced diseases is usually symptomatic and supportive, a generally recommended antiviral therapy does not exist. For the treatment of the common cold, there are numerous preparations and applications. However, only a few of these agents and measures have been shown to be suitable to reduce the severity of symptoms or to shorten the duration of illness. The risk of acquiring an HRV infection can be reduced by strict adherence to suitable hygiene measures. An effective vaccine is not yet available.” (cite here)
So what is a person to do besides hand washing? Well, no offense to the guys who look for a drug, don’t find one, and thrown up their hands. There are literally dozens of things a person could do with research behind them. Here’s a link to my website’s page on cold and flu prevention. Have fun, and avoid the sniffles (and hospitalization).