Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bird Flu Watch

"...the World Health Organisation has thus far confirmed only 173 cases of avian flu in humans, but more than half of those people died. And the virus has been spreading rapidly westwards from East Asia as far as Western Europe. A small genetic mutation could greatly facilitate its transmission from birds to humans and between humans. "

From a Niall Ferguson column in the London Telegraph.

Also, H5N1 Blog points to an excellent online world map in the WaPo showing the spread of bird flu, tracking the last three years.

NPR's All Things Considered had a three and a half minute segment last Thursday discussing the bio-physics involved with a dreaded mutation of the virus from its current B2B and B2H form into a H2H pandemic model. (Bird to Bird, Bird to Human, Human to Human...)

As in the case of hurricanes, there is a smug, pregnant silence in Washington. No one seems to tire of waving the bloody shirt when it comes to rattling sabers at Muslims, advocating vigilante behavior on our Southern border or spending breathtaking amounts of earmarked pork from the Treasury. One would think that the specter of a global flu epidemic presents a much more rational and productive motivation for nations to seek cooperation over conflict, but that thinking seems to be politically unfeasible.

In the past, preparations for epidemics that never materialized (think Swine Flu) resulted in negative political fallout for those who were later smeared with the "over-reaction" epithet. So much for being better-safe-than-sorry. Seems to me the only real way to win with preparations for a pandemic is to lose and lose big. That would be cause for a great sigh of relief. Unfortunately too few people would agree.

Great comment here from Meryl Yourish...

China received global condemnation for dragging its two point six billion feet in reporting cases and sharing information on epidemics last year, failing to contain the virus and allowing it to spread into other countries.

Will Egypt receive condemnation for failing to contain the virus and take an active role in controlling it?

Go ahead. Hold your breath. The blue will go nicely with the upholstery.

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