Philosophical Society of Washington

Avian Influenza

David K. Henderson
National Institutes of Health

2203rd Meeting Abstract
Friday, March 10, 2006 at 8:15 PM


Influenza has been a major public health threat for centuries. Pandemics (world-wide epidemics) of influenza have been well documented for the past four centuries, with the best-studied pandemics being those of 1918 (the Spanish Flu); 1957 (the Asian Flu) and 1968 (the Hong Kong Flu). Substantial attention has been focused over the past year on the increasing potential for a new pandemic, in great measure because of H5N1 “avian” influenza that has spread rapidly around the world in chickens and waterfowl. This presentation will first address influenza in historical context. I will then briefly describe the virology and epidemiology of influenza, as well as the unique biology of influenza viruses, specifically noting how the virus escapes human immunity to produce annual epidemics as well as how the virus changes to produce pandemics. I will briefly address the clinical manifestations associated with influenza virus infection and will relate these findings to the pathology induced by the infection. I will close with a brief discussion of how individuals, communities, and hospitals are approaching the issue of preparedness for a possible pandemic.

About the Author:

David K. Henderson is a graduate of Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana, and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He took his postgraduate training in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance California, subsequently joining the faculty at the UCLA School of Medicine in 1978. He then traveled east in 1979 to become the Hospital Epidemiologist at the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland – a position he still holds. He has subsequently held several positions at NIH, including the roles of Coordinator of AIDS Activities for the Clinical Center from 1985 to 1988; Associate Director of the Clinical Center, from 1988 to 1994; and Acting Clinical Director, from 1991 to 1996. In 1994 he was named Deputy Director for Clinical Care of the Clinical Center. In his current role, he supervises all aspects of clinical care in the Clinical Center and maintains responsibility for hospital epidemiology, clinical quality, emergency preparedness and patient safety at the NIH Clinical Center.

Dr. Henderson has been elected to several professional societies and organizations and has received numerous honors and awards, including the Clinical Center Director's Award, the NIH Director's Award (three times), The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Award, and a Special Citation from the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He has been the Academic Councilor to the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. He is a Fellow in the American College of Physicians and a Fellow in the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Beginning in 2001, he was chosen to serve on both the Public Policy Committee as well as the Bioterrorism Workgroup of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. In 2005 he was elected Chair of Division L (Nosocomial Infections) for the American Society for Microbiology and also was appointed at the National Institutes of Health's liaison to the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) for DHHS and CDC.

Dr. Henderson has maintained an active research interest in infectious diseases and hospital epidemiology, concentrating in the area of risk for occupational infections in healthcare providers. His work helped define the magnitude of risk for transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus infection in the healthcare setting, publishing on infections among both patients and providers. He has published more than 100 manuscripts in refereed journals in addition to 50 chapters in medical textbooks. He has been an invited speaker at many national and international academic conferences, including those of the International Conference on AIDS, the Annual Conference of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, the 3rd and 4th Decennial Conferences on Nosocomial Infections, the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, the International Conference on Antiretroviral Therapy, and the International Conference of the Hospital Infections Society. He has served as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on many issues relating to the prevention of transmission of bloodborne and airborne pathogens in the healthcare setting.

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