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October 13, 2005

The Right Idea on Bird Flu - Won't Happen

-- by Dave Johnson

There's a simple idea that will help prevent Bird Flu from mutating into a contagious form easily passed between humans. The idea is to give regular flu vaccinations everyone who might come into contact with infected birds. This way the Bird Flu virus won't get a chance to mix with regular contagious flu.

The way that viruses mutate is by mixing with other viruses. They exchange genetic material. So if a deadly but not-easily-passed virus like Bird Flu mixes with the more common easily-passed but not-as-deadly versions of the flu, the result could be a deadly easily-passed version.

From Asian Shots Are Proposed as Flu Fighter,

"The idea is simple," said Dr. Daniel Perez, a flu virus expert at the University of Maryland. If a poultry worker is unlucky enough to catch both conventional and avian flu, Dr. Perez said, the fear is that the human and bird viruses will mix in a process called reassortment. The mixing might create a virus that would spread easily from human to human, leading to a global pandemic of avian flu.

But if the workers are vaccinated against human influenza, he said, "they can't catch it, so you won't get reassortment.

So why is this not likely to happen?
[. . .]One reason is cost. "If the health care budget of Vietnam is about $7 a person, that would be enough for one flu shot," said Dr. Earl G. Brown, a virologist at the University of Ottawa. (In the United States, the wholesale price of a flu shot is about $10. Doctors typically charge $25 or more.)

For that reason, the money for flu shots would have to come from the West. "

A worst-case Bird Flu scenario could kill 1/4 of all people and leave the rest of us in poverty for years.

Where DOES our money go? It mostly goes to our military budget and to tax cuts for the rich. The military budget is officially about $425 billion, but this figure does not include intelligence, nuclear weapons, or veterans' benefits and health care. It also doesn't include the cost of the Iraq war.

Posted by Dave Johnson at October 13, 2005 8:36 AM

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Does anyone know what the WHO is doing about this? Hopefully, they would take the lead and get the flu vaccine where it's needed.

Posted by: MJ at October 13, 2005 10:44 AM

Unfortunately you are too right, Dave! WON'T HAPPEN ..

Posted by: Helga Fremlin at October 13, 2005 11:44 AM

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