Things that keep me up at night
The Independent‘s Jeremy Laurance reports that the World Health Organization is trying to calm people down about avian flu: The World Health Organisation has moved to play down a cataclysmic warning by one of its own officials that a pandemic caused by the bird flu virus ravaging poultry flocks in the Far East could kill ...
The Independent's Jeremy Laurance reports that the World Health Organization is trying to calm people down about avian flu:
The Independent‘s Jeremy Laurance reports that the World Health Organization is trying to calm people down about avian flu:
The World Health Organisation has moved to play down a cataclysmic warning by one of its own officials that a pandemic caused by the bird flu virus ravaging poultry flocks in the Far East could kill as many as 150 million people. The prediction came from David Nabarro, a senior WHO expert on infectious diseases, who was appointed on Thursday as UN co-ordinator for avian and human influenza. He said the next pandemic could claim from five million up to 150 million lives…. While he did not say the 150 million prediction was wrong, or even implausible, he said it was impossible to estimate how many could die. But he reiterated the WHO calculation that countries should prepare for 7.4 million deaths globally, arguing that was “the most reasoned position”. (emphasis added)
Well, I feel much better now. Even more calming is this Time.com report from Christine Gorman:
If, like public health authorities in the U.S. and many other countries, you’re counting on the anti-viral drug Tamiflu (generic name oseltamivir) to save you should bird flu become pandemic, you may have to think again. A Hong Kong expert told Reuters on Friday that a strain of the H5N1 virus isolated in northern Vietnam this year is resistant to Tamiflu. More common human flu viruses have also recently been shown to be developing a resistance to another set of antivirals called adamantine drugs. If the Vietnam report proves true, the implications will be particularly worrisome for public health programs to combat bird flu: Many governments have made stockpiling Tamiflu the centerpiece of their planning for a possible pandemic. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt wants to create a big enough stockpile to treat 20 million Americans, and about $3 billion of the $4 billion the U.S. Senate last week proposed allocating to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare for bird flu is to be used to buy Tamiflu. Never mind the fact that Tamiflu is produced in only one facility in the world, which is unlikely to produce enough to fill everyone’s stockpile for several more years. What this tells you is that the medical, private and public sectors had better have more than one big idea on how to deal with a potential pandemic of bird flu among humans. Debating ? as a number of health experts have done recently ? over whether a pandemic would kill 2 million or 150 million people is kind of beside the point.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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