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LETTER: 'Proper outbreak response' needed to deal with Avian Influenza threat

'Guelph Wellington is uniquely positioned to pilot strategies to manage outbreaks of all kinds and share our experiences with other Canadians,' writes Novometrix president
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GuelphToday received the following Letter to the Editor from Jeff Wilson, the president of Novometrix, in response to the poll, Most wouldn't pay for a national-scale H5N1 vaccination

We read with interest the Guelph Today poll regarding Avian Influenza (AI) vaccination. 

The poll reflects a widespread distrust of one-size-fits-all public health interventions. This has been fueled, in part, by an understandable reaction by the public to the Covid-19 pandemic response in Guelph Wellington and across Canada, which did not adhere to established best practices.

Best practices for outbreak response follow a well-established formula which has been validated multiple times in Canada in outbreaks such as the Walkerton waterborne disease tragedy. The steps consist of four pillars:  

  • Pillar 1: Create a fully inclusive, transparent and accountable expert leadership team

  • Pillar 2: Create a complete and transparent information and data framework to guide interventions

  • Pillar 3: Implement and evaluate interventions based on Pillar 2

  • Pillar 4: Communicate fully, honestly and transparently with all stakeholders 

AI constitutes a national emergency. With luck, it may blow over. On the other hand, it has many of the hallmarks of an infection that could cause catastrophic human mortality across the country - well beyond what we experienced with Covid-19. The correct response is not panic. Nor is it implementing half measures. There is only one effective response: immediate implementation of Outbreak Response Best Practices as defined in The Pillars of Outbreak Response, under a formal Quality Management (QMS) approach. 

Novometrix Research created a national expert, collaborative leadership team to address AI under the Pillars in 2023 and has been spearheading collaborative projects to advance the approach ever since. We have been implementing a similar approach to address the homelessness epidemic in Guelph, in parallel. As a consequence, Guelph Wellington is uniquely positioned to pilot strategies to manage outbreaks of all kinds and share our experiences with other Canadians. But we need the public’s help to share what constitutes proper outbreak response - and what doesn't. And to provide support and encouragement to our elected officials in their efforts to convince national and provincial leaders to do the same. 

Jeff Wilson DVM, DVSc (pathology), PhD (epidemiology)
President, Novometrix Research