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Bye bye, bird flu?

The bird flu hysteria that gripped the world’s media outlets and health organizations has been subsiding for some time now. It’s been a number of years since the first panicked reports of the H5N1 virus emerged. Sure, this week Thailand registered its first bird flu fatality this year, but the virus hasn’t mutated into a ...

The bird flu hysteria that gripped the world’s media outlets and health organizations has been subsiding for some time now. It’s been a number of years since the first panicked reports of the H5N1 virus emerged. Sure, this week Thailand registered its first bird flu fatality this year, but the virus hasn’t mutated into a form that can be transmitted between humans and the world hasn’t suffered an avian influenza pandemic. And now, it looks like the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline may have created a cheap vaccine.

Initial trials have been very successful, and the worst side-effects appear to be limited to “a mild fever”. The vaccine can be mass-produced easily and costs no more than $7 a shot. Glaxo is already speaking with a number of international bodies and health NGOs – not to mention George W. Bush and officials at the Gates Foundation – about distributing the vaccine en masse by 2007. Perhaps we’ll soon add bird flu to the list of recent health scares like SARS that never lived up to their billing. But what will we do about all those stockpiles of tamiflu?

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