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October 03, 2005

Avian or is it Evian Flu?The Bay Area Is Talking

Lincoln Madison and I were doing the same thing at about 11:35 last night. We were watching Nightline's story about the threatened avian flu pandemic.

Tonight's Nightline was one of those to-your-bones scary episodes, like watching a whole summer of Watergate hearings compressed into one 31-minute Ted Koppel show. It was something so big that it brought Senator Bill Frist (Republican) and Senator Harry Reid (Democrat) together, shoulder to shoulder, emphasizing their agreement that this is The Big One. They were followed by HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, who explained that we are not ready to meet the challenge. We're going to get "flooded" all over the world, not just the Lower Ninth Ward.

Lincoln then goes on to have some fun about 'Evian flu as opposed to Avian Flu.

One thing that I was impressed with was Ted Koppel's continuing efforts to stop us short of all out panic. The New Republic (reg req)recently had an excellent piece about why Avian flu may not be the end of the world after all.

The avian influenza, or h5n1 as it is known to scientists, has sparked this attention, with press coverage painting a frightening picture. Pandemic preparations are ongoing: Tests on a new U.S. vaccine recently generated some optimism. But, since the human-to-human communicable disease it is intended to prevent does not yet exist, no one knows whether that vaccine could protect us against a real pandemic strain. Health experts are predicting the worst. Klaus Stohr of the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that seven million will die worldwide; Shigeru Omi, also of the WHO, says it's 100 million, while Russian virologist Dmitri Lvov expects one billion fatalities. Is the Big Flu coming? Judging from such predictions, it must be.

But it's not. The expert predictions don't take into account the evolutionary events necessary to turn an avian flu virus into a mass human killer. In ignoring the evolution of infectious disease, flu experts, science writers, and public health officials are leading us down the same path we've followed too many times before, with Swine Flu, Ebola, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (sars). Each new threat produces a new panic, whether panic is warranted or not.

cency more dangerous than over-reaction? We'll see who turns out to be right.

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Posted by dymaxion at October 3, 2005 12:47 PM

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Seems it is evian!

Posted by: Frank Bridge at October 11, 2005 10:01 AM

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