The Flu Wiki

For those wishing to contribute their expertise to knowledge of human and animal flus in preparation for the forecast pandemic flu a la the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, there’s now a Flu Wiki. The organizers have declared October 3 to 9, 2005 as Pandemic Flu Awareness Week. None of the organizers at the time of this posting have much information about themselves or their own expertise. While the site’s purpose is more as an information service for preparedness, an open wiki from a non-health or science agency is the very last kind of Web site anyone should use as a expert source for health or scientific information. I know I would feel better if this site were affiliated or endorsed by a public health agency or two. The site runs on the PmWiki software.

7 Responses to “The Flu Wiki”

  1. DemFromCT Says:

    OTOH, if there were such a site run by, let’s say, CDC, we wouldn’t need a Flu Wiki. it is precisely because CDC does not that we do.

    We’ll be happy to take Flu Wiki off-line when a comparable official or authoritative source appears. In the meantime, Flu Wiki’s links page will take you to offical resources, experts, etc.

    Flu Wiki is non-commercial and will not endorse products, drugs, purveyors of same, etc. And if you’ll check the history of Wikipedia, you’ll find an amazingly good track record of accuracy.

    It’s also a non-partisan site and will not put political spin on events, at least outside of its opinion forum.

    It’s a wiki… if anyone finds inaccurate information, or opinion labeled as fact, you (the reader) are invited to edit and fix. That’s how wikis work… thousands of fact-checkers working to get it right.

    Nonetheless, the points made here are well taken. The Flu Wiki doesn’t claim all knowledge resides there. It’s main strengths are easily found links to sources like the CDC etc, where you can read the public health agency’s recommendationd for yourself. And by putting state and local pandemic plans on line where each can read the other, we hope to strengthen the hand of the very public health agencies you refer to and we all rely on.

    In a true pandemic, local communities will by necessity need to help themselves, not just rely on the government. To the extent that communication can help, we intend to contribute and do our part. Nor are we trying to panic anyone. Preparation, not panic, is the preferred approach.

    Thanks for your review of the site. Check again over time, as the contributions of many strengthen what we have to offer.

  2. David Says:

    Thank you very much for your counterpoint. Without checking back on the Flu Wiki, I Googled “pandemic site:gov” and came up with, on the first page of hits, a very thorough and authoritative site on the Influenza (Flu) by none other than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some of the information is also available in languages other than English. There’s also a special page on the avian influenza. So why would you claim that the CDC doesn’t do what you’re doing, which is basically to educate and inform the public, as well as plan for an outbreak and assist local public health agencies with their planning, when in fact they do? If you go to the References & Resources section of the CDC site, you’ll see there are all kinds of useful resources there, including other sites, response plans, and even software called FluAid for public health agencies. The World Health Organization also has an excellent site on planning for an influenza pandemic, and also provides data through another site called FluNet.

  3. K.G. Schneider Says:

    Right on. LII has a nice flu collection, too,

  4. DrWeb Says:


    Good, thoughtful post on this.. see my blog item, too..


  5. DemFromCT Says:

    So why would you claim that the CDC doesn’t do what you’re doing, which is basically to educate and inform the public, as well as plan for an outbreak and assist local public health agencies with their planning, when in fact they do?

    Actually, the effects of a major pandemic go way beyond what public health traditionally covers. You may check authorities such as the WHO and CIDRAP on this point: see ‘World as we know it’ may be at stake: UN pandemic czar from the Canadian press and this expert’s opinion from Foreign Affairs. This is not just a ‘bad’ flu season.

    In a pandemic, there’s no ‘outside’ to get help from (everyone is affected). And the disruptions that potentially can happen are not in the least covered on the CDC site. Community-level preparations are a must. Supply chains everywhere might be disrupted.

    Read the provided links. The idea isn’t to scare anyone, it’s to take a realistic look at the potential issues and work in advance for solutions to such local problems as who would deliver care to the homebound, how would we cope if 20% of the utility workers are out sick, etc.

    And then show me where this is covered at the sites you cite.

  6. DemFromCT Says:

    P.S. Another reason for the do-it-yourself approach:

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    Published on: 10/03/05
    Washington — Amid growing concerns that avian influenza will develop into a deadly pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is under fire by some in the scientific community for hoarding data crucial for vaccine development. The allegations come as CDC has issued new and controversial rules on what data, documents and other information it will — and will not — share with the public.

    Open government advocates are critical of the CDC’s “Information Security” manual, the 34-page document that gives officials 19 categories to shield data from public scrutiny without obtaining a “secret” classification.

    That runs counter to CDC’s mission, says Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ project on government secrecy, which first published the leaked manual on its Web site.

    “The CDC is not the CIA,” Aftergood said. “Withholding data is not just bad public policy, it is bad science,” he said, because it impedes the processes of peer review and the scientific replication of results. He called the CDC’s policies “just baffling.”

    Tom Skinner, spokesman for CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, could not respond when asked about the manual on handling “sensitive but unclassified” information, which was released July 22, because he had not seen it. He asked a reporter to e-mail a copy to him.

  7. cassandra Says:

    Thanks for the post. Systems of recruitment, appraisal and promotion are designed to ensure that only people with adequate qualifications and experience get to work on important projects,or to exercise power. I would rather not want to undergo open source surgery. However, I think the premise on which you set out to criticize the wiki is wrong. You seem to assume that the wiki’s goal is to replicate existing information or to compete with the authority of public health agencies.

    But that’s not the case.

    Much of the knowledge the Flu Wiki community tries to gather has yet to be produced. Local authorities have no plans and are not prepared to respond to a public health crisis on the scale of an influenza pandemic.

    But the problem is not only one of leadership failure at the local level, of course. As you can see on the WHO’s web site, more than 40 countries around the world have national contingency plans in place in the case of a pandemic. What about the United States?

    Take a guess.

    Or learn from today’s LA Times and from this commentary by revere (a FluWiki editor) on the effect measure blog that the United States is “rushing”, as it were, to complete its national (!) contingency plan –- “perhaps this week”.

    In the United States of America, a pandemic contingency plan does not exist as we speak.

    Or read the Atlanta Journal Constitution or revere’s comments, again at the effect measure blog, to learn about the CDC’s failure to share flu data, meaning that flu researchers don’t know what sequences and samples CDC has or even how many. The US government and the health agencies of the US are effectively hindering vaccine development.

    What is missing from this picture?

    Transparency, accountability and leadership.

    The FluWiki can be understood as an effort to develop different ways of organising and preparing at the local (your geographic location) and global (the internet) community levels, effectively bypassing the secretive hierarchies and unaccountable internal processes of failing agencies by capturing and sharing the insights that communities can bring to the table. The FluWiki does not contest the locus of decision making power or the legitimacy of the decision makers. However, barriers to involvement in decision-making processes should not be erected for political reasons. It seeks to encourage collaborative problem solving and to share a discussion about priorities and ethics in the event of an influenza pandemic.

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