According to the World Health Organization (WHO), no one can predict when the next influenza pandemic might occur. However biomedical experts agree that the occurrence of one is inevitable, and are watching the H5N1 (avian influenza A) situation in Europe and Asia very closely for the possibility that the virus may begin to spread more easily and widely from person to person. In the U.S., the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that with a severe flu pandemic, 90 million Americans would become ill and nearly two million would die. They estimate that as many as 10 million people would be hospitalized. Presenting with respiratory illness, many may require ventilators--already in short supply--to help them breathe. Even with sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, a threat remains. Traditional disinfection methods do not destroy the SARS or influenza viruses. In fact, the SARS virus was found to live on surfaces for prolonged periods of time, up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel and 96 hours on glass slides.
Although avian flu preparedness and media attention is focused on vaccine development and stockpiling of antiviral medicines and antibiotics, the threat of nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infection remains significant. Based on key observations from the SARS outbreak, the public health community recognizes that there are a number of measures hospitals can take now to help safeguard patients and staff from avian flu and other infectious viruses that could threaten global health.
One such measure is the use of breathing system filters as a barrier between viral and bacterial transmission to patients, hospital staff and respiratory equipment. To prevent further SARS contamination, health officials in Canada and Taiwan issued directives to hospitals to use high-efficiency breathing circuit filters that effectively capture and retain the offending virus to prevent cross-contamination. They also recognized that only filters that meet stringent criteria, specifically being hydrophobic (ability to repel liquids) and also demonstrating high levels of viral retention, would be effective.
These criteria are even more critical with influenza, due to its likely modes of transmission -- through droplets in the air and contaminated fluids, such as saliva and bronchial secretions. Pall Corporation's (NYSE: PLL) breathing system filters for anesthesia and respiratory care combine these stringent requirements to provide an effective barrier against viral and bacterial contaminants, and were specifically recommended by international health authorities.
"In order to be an effective barrier to bacterial and viral transmission, the breathing filters must respond to a variety of potential routes of transmission, both airborne and liquid," says Joseph Cervia, MD, Professor of Clinical Medicine and Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York and Medical Director of Pall Corporation.
Pall has conducted extensive validation testing to show that its breathing system filters can be an effective barrier for these routes of transmission. Studies have shown that Pall Breathing System Filters provide an effective barrier to contaminated liquids and have an airborne bacterial and viral removal efficiency of at least 99.999 percent. The filters have been challenged with bacterial (Brevundimonas diminuta) and viral (MS-2 bacteriophage) organisms that represent the gold standard for pathogen exclusion on the basis of size.
"Based on the data and the size of the avian flu virus, we believe our filters can be an effective way to help eliminate the passage of influenza virus," Dr. Cervia adds.
An avian flu pandemic would obviously put a great strain on healthcare systems worldwide, with hospital staff likely to be reduced by illness and technological resources, such as mechanical ventilators in relatively short supply for meeting the increased patient demand. The WHO has stated that despite advance warning, the world is currently ill prepared to defend itself during a global flu pandemic. Global, national, and local healthcare authorities and providers will need to educate themselves on the risks of pandemic influenza, and lead the way in efforts to assure that adequate resources are focused upon measures that will optimize preparedness for such an event.
Whether or not there is an avian flu pandemic, Dr. Cervia reminds us that each year approximately 5 to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu, more than 200,000 are hospitalized for flu-related complications and about 36,000 Americans die, according to the CDC. He says, "Pall Breathing System Filters can play a key role in minimizing exposure and should be an integral part of infectious disease preparedness every year."
Pall provides a range of breathing system filters for a variety of healthcare applications including mechanical ventilation, both long and short-term use as well as for anesthesia equipment. In addition to breathing system filters, Pall provides a broad "safety net" of technologies to help reduce nosocomial infections. Hospitals in a number of countries around the world are turning to the Pall-AquasafeTM filters to reduce patient exposure to dangerous waterborne microorganisms such as Legionella from their water systems. Pall also provides filters to protect the blood supply from pathogens, including infectious "mad cow" prions. In a related area, Pall technologies are used in the development and processing of biopharmaceuticals including antiviral medicines and vaccines, where they help ensure purity and speed production.
Experts Speak Out on Pandemic Preparedness
To help prepare for an influenza outbreak, international experts including representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Canadian Critical Care Pandemic Provincial Committee will discuss influenza risks and protective measures in a global web-based interactive teleconference, sponsored by Pall Corporation (NYSE: PLL), on January 18, 2006. The webinar entitled "Pandemic Preparedness: Transmission of Influenza and Other Infectious Disease and the Role of Breathing Filters in the Clinical Setting" is designed for healthcare systems and disciplines likely to be affected by infectious diseases, such as avian flu. It is especially relevant to first responders, emergency room physicians, infection control officers, anesthesiology practitioners, surgeons, respiratory and pulmonary specialists, nurses and public health officials.
Speakers include Daniel B. Jernigan, M.D., MPH, Acting Associate Director for Science, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion National Center for Infectious Disease, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, providing an overview on the routes of influenza transmission and an update on avian flu; Laura Hawryluck, M.D., MSc, FRCPC from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and the Critical Care Pandemic Triage Provincial Committee, on applying lessons learned from the SARS outbreak; Klaus Zuchner, Ph.D., Department of Anaesthesia Technology, University Hospital, Gottingen, Germany; and Andreas Widmer, M.D., Division of Infectious Diseases, University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland, covering both clinical experience and microbiological benefits of breathing circuit filtration as a barrier to transmission.
About Pall Corporation
Pall is the global leader in the rapidly growing field of filtration, separations and purification. Pall's business is organized around two broad markets: Life Sciences and Industrial. The Company provides leading-edge products to meet the demanding needs of customers in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, transfusion medicines, semiconductors, water purification, aerospace and broad industrial markets. Total revenue for fiscal 2005 were $1.9 billion. The Company headquarters are in East Hills, New York with extensive operations throughout the world. Visit Pall at www.pall.com.
Webinar Registration: "Pandemic Preparedness" will be held on January 18, 2006, 10:00 AM EST (3:00 PM GMT). The conference will be approximately one hour in length and include an interactive Q&A.
Healthcare professionals can register to participate at the following link http://invite.
Media are invited to listen in. Special arrangements will be made for responding to media questions and interviews with speakers where schedules permit. Contact Marcia_Katz@pall.com.
Photos and more information on Pall's family of Breathing System Filters and avian flu can be found on http://www.