Welcome to my first BLOG!

I have just travelled to Germany for the first time to attend "Incidence, severity, and Impact: An international conference on seasonal and Pandemic Influenza"

I had heard lots about how the swine flu was not as bad as predicted but at the same time just about every developed country described how it had presented and as one person at the meeting stated 'Try telling the intensive care staff that it was a mild pandemic.'

The last pitch of medical treatment in the most advanced countries in the world is to do the breathing for the patient via a machine. Not just oxygen in and out of the lungs but taking the blood out of the body, bubbling oxygen through the blood until the red cells have enough oxygen to keep the patient alive. Wow!  Australia used every machine available, and used ALL its capacity at once.

I now understand how complicated the question is from someone asking 'is this year going to be a bad 'flu' season'.In 2009 the first estimates of the death rates were 4%. The Case Fatality Rate (CFR) was then reviewed again as more information became available and the CFR was closer to 0.4%. A review of all cases in NZ came up with specific details of around 0.04%. Most of us remember  the first scary news from Mexico (1 in 25 people will die), less bad news from USA (1 in 250 who get influenza will die) then the realization that is was closer to 1 in 2,500 people were dying. Having been through the whole thing, most of us have pandemic fatigue!

My own view is that we could improve on what happened and perhaps we did 'dodge a bullet'. However I look on the WHO messages and original 'scary figures' like a weather forecast. My Mum would always want to know what the weather would be for Christmas. Ask 6 months out and get an answer with a number that is barely useful. These days, a week out, you can get a good guess. So as weather forecasting has got better, the forecasting of pandemics has got better because of what happened in 2009. The conference was good because it showed there is lots of science, good people and good thinking behind the scenes with influenza forecasting.

I have enjoyed my time in Germany, and perhaps knowing they have trains that run late, don't crop their lawns to perfection, make good food and great beer and are lovely people - reminds me 'we are all human' and we will all benefit from getting pandemic predictions better.