Sunday, October 09, 2005

bird flu in the news

A lot more in the news about avian influenza. The de facto Bush administration is working on a plan to deal with a bird flu outbreak. They fear as many as 1.9 million could die in the US, and millions more could be hospitalized. As a talking head on MSNBC said yesterday, the Bush administration is trying to look prepared for this one -- not just wise from a public-health perspective, but in the post-Katrina environment a chance to give the illusion of competence.

The New York Times today says the report shows the US really isn't ready for a pandemic. Could it be because we have systematically starved our public health system over the past 35 years? Yes. It is not a certainty that we will have a bird flu pandemic, but this strain has been persistant, sticking with bird populations instead of quickly fading away (like most bird flus do), and spreading beyond Asia -- outbreaks now reported among birds in Turkey and Rumania.

The State Department hosted a conference on Friday to discuss a coordinated international response to a big bird flu outbreak, should the damn virus gain the ability to jump from human to human. Which looks increasingly likely -- researchers now see changes taking place in the A/H5N1 virus that are typical of the Spanish flu virus, which if you have been paying ANY attention at all, you realize killed aroung 50 million people in 1918-19 -- more than World War I.