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August 17, 2005

Avian Flu Panddemic Probably Certain

-- by Dave Johnson

Has Time Run Out?

The new U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt told the Associated Press in early August that an influenza pandemic was now an "absolute certainty," echoing repeated warnings from the World Health Organization that it was "inevitable." Likewise Science magazine observed that expert opinion held the odds of a global outbreak as "100 percent."

In the same grim spirit, the British press revealed that officials were scouring the country for suitable sites for mass mortuaries, based on official fears that avian flu could kill as many as 700,000 Britons. The Blair government is already conducting emergency simulations of a pandemic outbreak ("Operation Arctic Sea") and is reported to have readied "Cobra" -- a cabinet-level working group that coordinates government responses to national emergencies like the recent London bombings from a secret war room in Whitehall -- to deal with an avian flu crisis.

Little of this Churchillian resolve is apparent in Washington. Although a sense of extreme urgency is evident in the National Institutes of Health where the czar for pandemic planning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warns of "the mother of all emerging infections," the White House has seemed even less perturbed by migrating plagues than by wanton carnage in Iraq.

Posted by Dave Johnson at August 17, 2005 4:10 PM

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With Matt off the air I haven't been paying a great deal of attention to events in the bird flu world (though I see the odd headline passing by from Effect Measure in FTD's excellent new portal design) - however Dave Johnson at Seeing The Forest has ... [Read More]

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Comments

Mass hysteria promoted by people who would be the beneficiaries of government funds to fight said viral plague.

Truth be told, it rests on a bunch of assumptions. Like: "If" the virus mutates to be able to be transmitted from human to human, and "if" the victim survives long enough (most infections last 3-5 days) to infect others, and "If" they are healthy enough to go out of their house/hospital bed to infect others (something that they are not), and "if" the medical services are not able to "nip it in the bud early". To many "ifs" for me to worry much, but I live in the reality-based community, not the hysterical-based community.

But, if you want to take preventive measures to save many human live, just wipe out the migratory bird population.

Posted by: Pericles [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2005 5:09 PM

Avian Flu Panddemic Probably Certain

Probably certain?

Dave, you need an editor.

Posted by: richard [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2005 5:20 PM

As in a mirror, detached and nonchalant, our republican betters (pun intended), turn and admire themselves. Pericles is confident that God is with him, and he will be among the 2 out of 3 infected, who survive the ordeal. But the seemy side of that wager is the irreducible "if" attached to 34 percent mortality. We are already warned, today, that mutagenic crossover may already have begun in northern Vietnam.

Pericles' comic suggestion, "just wipe out the migratory bird population" is all the evidence one requires of a mind that is almost 16 years old. But the Bush Administration, as we have sadly surmised, is also not adult.

For them the idea of invulnerability is not an idea, but an article of faith. Suffering is something they accidently might see, if there's nothing else on TV. This is the pass to which we have come. This is the pass to which they have brought us.

In the 1918 and 1919 "Spanish flu" pandemic, it was remarked how those who were most robust, the hale and young and muscular, were the very ones, who in their millions, died like flies. We have been accultured and lulled by the presumption of flu killing only the weak, elderly--those whose health is already marginalized. Few Americans are prepared to understand that little in our natural immunity as individuals can stand up to this kind of "crossover virus".

A fallback position of quarantine, could quickly put America in a state of complete stagnation, until the virus burns itself out. And if predictions hold true, and there are only a couple of million doses of prototype vaccine and limited supplies of anti-virals; it will be strategically necessary to innoculate caregivers in our hospitals. And even then, the capacity of these institutions could be quickly overwhelmed.

Is it a microbe that is poised to kill us?--or is it a different pathogen?-- the fatally damaged policy of fatally damaged and deficient leaders? We know that these same leaders kill at the end of their networks with casual and detached abandon, never looking at the evil fruits of their effort. "One dies of war like any old disease" wrote Wilfred Owen. And republicanism in its present form is a little like an old disease, mutated, as Death presents his sythe, low on the horizon.

Posted by: Copeland [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2005 8:40 PM

Wow Copeland, nice prose, make you feel like a self-righteous philosopher? What you said really amounts to nothing; no evidence, no critical thought, just emoting.

About my migratory bird statement: it was a serious policy suggestion under consideration by health officials worldwide. They are annihilating Barred Owls to protect Spotted owls, so why not target migratory birds for reduction or wiping out to protect humans? Or do you consider humans the equal to birds?

I have a lot of experience and done a lot of reading in this area, and surveying the literature, past and present, of epidemics leads me to believe this is being way overblown. There have been overblown epidemics which never happened in the past, you realize.

Anyhow, my suspicion is that this is being used by the left to expand the governments already massive control of the finances of Health care. The virologists and MDs who are arguing for this out of an (unconscious) drive to expand funding I can understand; it is myopic, but understandable. The left using this to force this country to their vision of utopian socialized medicine because of their socialist theology I think is repugnant.

Posted by: Pericles [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2005 8:56 PM

The cure is always worse than the disease according to right-wing mentalities.

Inaction, traceable back to Calvin Coolidge, is their mother's milk. And their belief in Providence (their very own Providence, to be sure) is what makes them impervious to the virus. Next case.

Posted by: Copeland [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 17, 2005 9:26 PM

The military doesn't get treated like a special interest group; the assumption is made that the military exists to protect us. Having worked for years in the dept. that developed the original flu vaccine, supervised the extensive tests of the polio vaccine, developed various other vaccines in use now, I want to point out that medicine and public health are NOT merely special interest groups. It is possible to carry cynicism much too far, and the good ol' boy Republicans are about to risk the health and safety of all of us because of their cynicism about science. Too bad that we'll die right along with them! They're not gonna catch on until they're watching their own healthy kids die.

What's going on is that it's expensive to make vaccines, this requires a lot of quality control, and they don't bring in much profit. Much less profit than expensive pills to kill toenail fungus or heartburn, so that's where the money and research goes. and the welfare of the country be damned. That's why there was a shortage of the flu vaccine last year.

Keep in mind that Bush was pushing to vaccinate the entire country against smallpox, for political reasons and not for public health reasons, not all that long ago. If there were any sense of public responsibility or of concern for the public welfare, there would be a crash program underway right now to make a large supply of a vaccine against the avian flu. We're certainly capable of doing this. This is not even that hard or that expensive to do, and would have been taken taken for granted just a few years ago. What in the world has happened to public morality? Has the country gone morally blind?

Just in case anyone assumes that well, MJ just represents this special interest group, I'd better point out that I changed fields years ago. If we do have a pandemic, God knows we'll have asked for it!

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 7:14 AM

Maybe the reason for their unconcern is because they are sure they will have the best vaccine available and they have shown they have nothing but contempt for the rest of us so we don't matter. They can afford to lose a few million of us as long as there are enough left to keep the corporations going.

Posted by: banjopuk [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 9:01 AM

I think WHO ought to control this situation because it is possible to carry cynicism much too far, and the good one boy Republicans are about to risk the health and safety of all of us because of their cynicism about science.
.

Posted by: Susan R at January 26, 2006 1:51 AM

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