Letters to the Editor  |   May 2007
Step Forward to Stop Bird Flu
Author Affiliations
  • Dale L. Austin, BSN, MA
    Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, Inc Dallas, Texas
    Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Article Information
Disaster Medicine / Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment / Pulmonary Disorders
Letters to the Editor   |   May 2007
Step Forward to Stop Bird Flu
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2007, Vol. 107, 199. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2007, Vol. 107, 199. doi:
To the Editor: The editorial by Michael M. Patterson, PhD,1 in the November 2005 issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association reflects the important role that the osteopathic medical profession has to play in addressing the potential influenza pandemic resulting from the spread of the avian influenza virus, H5N1. To quote Dr Patterson1 in his concluding sentence, “The osteopathic medical profession [must remember]...the lessons of its heritage and [have] the courage to prepare itself to teach those lessons to others.” 
Now is the time for the osteopathic medical profession to step forward and provide leadership. Dr Patterson's editorial mentions that mortality rates from influenza during the 1917-1918 pandemic were reduced from a national average of 6% to an average of 0.25% for patients treated with muscular relaxation and osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), and that mortality rates from pneumonia during that pandemic were cut from as high as 75% nationally to 10% for osteopathically treated patients.1,2 If these dramatic statistics are indeed true, then does not the osteopathic medical profession have a societal obligation to train its allopathic colleagues, other care givers, and families in these life-saving techniques? 
As Dr Patterson1 indicates, the use of OMT in the treatment of patients with influenza would likely result in the following benefits: 
  • reduced hospitalizations
  • minimal reliance on medications
  • improved patient immunity and defense mechanisms
  • improved “self-care” regimens through the involvement of patients' family members
  • additional clinical experience for osteopathic medical students
I reiterate, the time is now—before the pandemic begins—for the osteopathic medical profession to provide leadership on the problem of avian influenza and to share its knowledge about OMT with the rest of the world. 
Patterson MM. The coming influenza pandemic: lessons from the past for the future [editorial] [published correction appears in J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2006;106:3]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2005;105:498-500. Available at: Accessed May 7, 2007.
D'Alonzo GE. Influenza epidemic or pandemic? Time to roll up sleeves, vaccinate patients, and hone osteopathic manipulative skills [editorial]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2004;104:370-371. Available at: Accessed May 7, 2007.