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Friday, September 16, 2005

Epidemic Fears

Fresh on the heels of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, for which we were apparently woefully unprepared, despite adavance warnings by meteorologists about mega-hurricanes and engineers about the vulnerability of New Orleans's levees, comes a new worry.

Avian Flu Epidemic.

Experts worry that this may be the next major health disaster, and warn that we are not well prepared. From ABC News:
It could kill a billion people worldwide, make ghost towns out of parts of major cities, and there is not enough medicine to fight it. It is called the avian flu.

...Like most flu viruses, this form started in wild birds — such as geese, ducks and swans — in Asia.

"They die of a pneumonia, just like people," says William Karesh, the lead veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society. "When you open them up, you do a post-mortem exam. Their lungs are just full of fluid and full of blood."

Karesh has been tracking this flu strain for the last several years as it has gained strength, spreading from wild birds to chickens to humans.

..."The tipping point, the place where it becomes something of an immediate concern, is where that virus changes, we call it mutates, to something that is able to go from human to human," says Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.
Apparently, despite the US contracting out $100 million of vaccine, and Bush's warning of the danger at this week's UN Summit in New York, there is no real game plan to deal with an epidemic if it breaks out.
According to Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, Bush's call to remain on the offensive has come too late.

"If we had a significant worldwide epidemic of this particular avian flu, the H5N1 virus, and it hit the United States and the world, because it would be everywhere at once, I think we would see outcomes that would be virtually impossible to imagine," he warns.
Read the article. Scary stuff.


Blogger Noam S said...

Its good to be prepared, but the likelihood of a major epidemic is low. I wouldn't stay up at night with worry.

5:17 PM  
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