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January 24, 2004

Odds and Ends - Newsworthy Stories Not Getting Much News

The Next Pandemic
In 1997 there was an outbreak of virus H5N1. The virus was not defeated by any medical interference. Instead, the virus self-defeated by not being able to agressively go from human to human.

The virus did, however, infect 18 people in Hong Kong. Of those 18, 6 died. Thus a virus with a human mortality rate of 30% exists. Virologists from America, the U.K. and Hong Kong all thought the virus was lost due to it's inability to travel. The virologists were wrong.

In 2003, the virus was found again in Hong Kong. This time it was only found in two people; father and son. The father died.

This virus is a bird flu virus. Virologists feel that this type of virus (the bird flu virus) is extremely capable of evolution. In fact, this possibility is what the medical journal The Lancet calls "massively frightening."

In December of 2003, Vietnam had the outbreak. Since then, to date, six people have now died in Vietnam.

The fear now from virologists is something that is horrifying; if a human has the normal human flu virus in his/her system, then catches the bird virus, a mutation will occur within this human creating a part human and part bird virus. Since humans have no natural defense to the bird virus, coupled with the new ability of the virus to aggresively travel from human to human, the outcome would be catastrophic, or what is commonly refered to as a pandemic.

So, the next question is how to stop the virus? Scientists and virologists believe it can not be contained through quarantine, as they did with SARS. Obviously a vaccine is in need. The World Health Organization is working on a "prototype vaccine against the bird flu as aggressively as possible". However, once the WHO has achieved a vaccine, even a prototype, it would take a minimum of six months to manufacture. All international organizations agree that this would not be enough time.

So, what's next? If the virus traveled to America (which it will if it becomes mutated) a massive amount of government funding, in essence a health care emergency triggered by the Homeland Defense Department, would most certainly have to happen. With no budget surplus readily available another emergency transition of funds would have to happen.

The effect of this on the world economic market has not been publicly discussed.

How can you avoid getting this? If an outbreak happens, humans would be required to wear bio-masks when out of the house. And, that would not ensure safety. It would simply be a "good idea".

Sources: Wired Magazine 02/04, "Beating Back the Next Pandemic".
Associated Press, Bird Flu Outbreak Worries Global Expert, 01/24/04
Taipei Times, Discovery of bird-flu virus leads to chicken slaughter
New York Times, Thais Infected With Bird Flu; Virus Spreads
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza Viruses
Korea Times, Bird Flu Virus Continues to Spread

Posted at 9:47 PM


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Add Indonesia to the list of countries dealing with the recent outbreak of avian flu, H5N1, which first appeared in South Korea in December, 2003. Indonesian officials are obviously very sceptical, but vets in Bali and Java have already reportedly [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 25, 2004 5:11:05 PM


SARS continues to hurt Toronto's economy a year after it hit.

If this virulent stain of bird flu ever makes its way to North America it will have devestating long term effects on the economy.

Posted by: Federation of Metro Toronto Tenants Associations at Feb 28, 2004 10:28:17 AM