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January 17, 2006

Is bird flu overhyped?

Andrew Weil answers "yes" in the Time, where he tries to downplay the threat of bird flu. His arguments on the possibility of containment are quite weak, but he does express a view I have heard in a number of recent articles.

One implication of this type of argument is that we are spending too much energy and resources preparing for a pandemic that may never come. Commenting on the latest developments from Turkey, Effect Measure's Revere offers a good response:

We know some things, but mostly we are in the dark about what changes will turn this virus into a full-fledged pandemic strain. We may be one tiny change away or (in the best case) this is a change headed down an evolutionary cul de sac (not likely, but possible).

[...] It is not time to panic, because it is never time to panic. But making appropriate preparations in your area might be prudent.

It is important to remember that the best prevention measures we can take are probably not avian flu specific. The top priority should be to strengthen local health care systems, read more here. This preparedness should prove very useful in any disease outbreak, natural disaster or terrorist attack. The bird flu "hype" will hopefully lead to better institutions and planning, certainly positive developments, even if we get lucky with H5N1 and it turns out to be nothing more than a scare.

Posted by dymaxion at January 17, 2006 07:35 PM

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