Friday, September 30, 2005

The next crisis II 

A follow up to yesterday's bird flu post. The AP reports that the UN is getting very concerned.

A top U.N. public health expert warned Thursday that a new influenza pandemic could come anytime and claim millions of lives unless officials to take action now to control an epidemic in Asia.

Dr. David Nabarro of the World Health Organization called on governments to take immediate steps to address the threat at a news conference following his appointment as the new U.N. coordinator to lead a global drive to counter a human flu pandemic.

"We expect the next influenza pandemic to come at any time now, and it's likely to be caused by a mutant of the virus that is currently causing bird flu in Asia," he said.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu has swept through poultry populations in Asia since 2003, infecting humans and killing at least 65 people, mostly poultry workers, and resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of birds. The virus does not pass from person to person easily, but experts believe this could change if the virus mutates.

Nabarro said with the almost certainty of another influenza pandemic soon, and with experts saying there is a high likelihood of the H5N1 virus mutating, it would be "extremely wrong" to ignore the serious possibility of a global outbreak.

"The avian flu epidemic has to be controlled if we are to prevent a human influenza pandemic," Nabarro said.

The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more than 40 million people, and there were subsequent pandemics in 1957 and 1968 which had lower death rates but caused great disruption, he said. In a new pandemic, Nabarro said, "the range of deaths could be anything between 5 and 150 million."
There was a time when the UN brought instant credibility to a story like this in my mind. Now I'm not so sure about anything. Still, something as unpredictable and potentially dangerous as bird flu seems to warrant paying attention even to what the UN has to say.


By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Fri Sep 30, 11:49:00 AM:

You know why the bird flu is spreading... Bush didn't sign the Kyoto protocol. That's right. Stupid Bush. That's just like this administration, spreading bird-born contagion all willy-nilly like... what about the children? ...for god's sake the children. I'm calling my congressman.  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Fri Sep 30, 03:49:00 PM:

I'm curious why pandemics seem to have been eliminated or the effects greatly reduced. Is it that we are more careful with hygiene?

Isn't it true that lesser developed countries are more affected by the flu than the developed world? Is this a world health problem or a less-developed world health problem? I'm not suggesting that we can ignore the problem if the developed world is not affected. I simply want to understand the issue.  

By Blogger Matoko Kusanagi, at Tue Oct 04, 03:24:00 PM:

Academics i know studying avian flu do put out those death numbers, perhaps even as high as 10% population kill, but the timeline is wrong--they estimate 5-10 years until the first pandemic. The virus has to mutate to be human-human transmissable.  

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