Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More Bird Flu

I posted a link to my previous bit on the bird flu scare to a motorcycle e-mail list I am on. I receved a response that disagreed with me, so I burned an hour and did a bit more reading to craft a response to him.

I agree - there is a chance of a pandemic. However, mortality on the scale of 1918 (~1% to 2% of the worlds population, 66 to 132 million dead today), I am doubtful.

We have some vaccines. We acutally have health care - a large number of the deaths were from opportunistic secondary infections, pneumonia among others. We are paying attention to what is going on.

Mortality rates for the two flus are different as well - the 1918 flu had roughly a 3 to 5% mortality rate, allowing people to continue to circulate and spread the disease. H5N1 currently has over a 50% mortality rate in humans, which limits transmission vectors - dead
people can't spread flu.

Finally, the breeding conditions for human vectors of the flu just don't exist. According to evolutionary biologist Paul W. Ewald of the University of Louisville, [the 1918 flus'] lethality evolved in the trenches, the trucks, the trains and the hospitals of World War I. (

Why the stink about it?

More or less, "Follow the Money".

The biggest benefactors to flu scare are health organizations (David Nabarro, WHO) and drug makers. The drug makers are relatively quiet, but Mr. Nabarro, who stands to gain much influence, prestige and funds for this cause, is beating the drums of war, with statements like "150 million dead" and that this H5N1 is impacting "the survival of the world as we know it". (

Dr. Morris Chaftez says "[...] I don't know if the avian flu is gonna come, but the threat of it is the way people get power and resources." (

Tamiflu, one of the vaccines against bird flu, is being ordered in container loads, creating a good profit for Gilead Research. By the way, Fortune Magazine reported that Donald Rumsfeld, US Sec. of Defense and another drum-beater, has a $25-million stake in Gilead. Follow the Money. (

Enough there - I'm starting to sound like a tin-foil hat dude.

Anyway, I'm sceptical. Any time I see something on CNN night and day, the bullshit detectors start going off. The news media are glomming unrelated quotes and facts together to scare people and drive advertising sales - "There is a bird flu" + "A pandemic (if it happened) would kill a lot of people" does not equal "This bird flu IS a pandemic and WILL kill people", but the media fails to address that. Headlines of:

Killer Asian Bird Flu to kill 150,000,000!

sell more papers than headlines like:

Bird Flu May Infect Humans

Or even better:

Scientists Don't Know If Flu is Coming

(that one is from Scientific American, 11/2005)

Normal Handwashing Prevents Disease

(again from SciAm)

Anyway, you get the point. Yes, we need to research infectious diseases. And everyone should have a 2 week stockpile of food and water in case of any emergency - blizzard, flood, flu, hurricane, civil insurrection, job loss or terrorist attack. Or just if you get hungry! But this fear mongering by the politicians, power seekers and profit mad media makes me sick. Is there a vaccine for that yet?


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