Be afraid, Americans, be very afraid

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    Martin W

      No matter the facts about H5N1, the myths and the supposed possibilities continue to make for some remarkable media stories.
      Is there, perhaps, a competition underway – see who can do best job of scaring the bejesus out of people, including Americans in particular?
      Gotta be good in the ratings wars, hasn’t it?

      Oprah Winfrey had a crack at scariness lately; a fair attempt I thought. Laurie Garrett likes to fearmonger of course – cited her in another thread here, and she pops up in this story for a quote.

      So here comes Brian Ross, ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent, with more shock horror (makes you wonder what on earth the regular investigative correspondents are like). Read hard and you’ll notice H5N1 has caused less than 100 human deaths in 10 years; but otherwise facts are hard to come by – with much claptrap re wild birds, which – we’re told – are being tracked by spy satellites!

      In a remarkable speech over the weekend, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommended that Americans start storing canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds as the prospect of a deadly bird flu outbreak approaches the United States.

      Ready or not, here it comes.

      It is being spread much faster than first predicted from one wild flock of birds to another, an airborne delivery system that no government can stop.

      “There’s no way you can protect the United States by building a big cage around it and preventing wild birds from flying in and out,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Michael Johanns said.

      U.S. spy satellites are tracking the infected flocks, which started in Asia and are now heading north to Siberia and Alaska, where they will soon mingle with flocks from the North American flyways.

      “What we’re watching in real time is evolution,” said Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. “And it’s a biological process, and it is, by definition, unpredictable.”

      Industry Precautions
      America’s poultry farms could become ground zero as infected flocks fly over. The industry says it is prepared for quick action.

      “All the birds involved in it would be destroyed, and the area would be isolated and quarantined,” said Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council. “It would very much [look] like a sort of military operation if it came to that.”

      It is the droppings of infected waterfowl that carry the virus.

      The bird flu virus, to date, is still not easily transmitted to humans. There have been lots of dead birds on three continents, but so far fewer than 100 reported human deaths.

      But should that change, the spread could be rapid.

      ABC News has obtained a mathematical projection prepared by federal scientists based on an initial outbreak on an East Coast chicken farm in which humans are infected. Within three months, with no vaccine, almost half of the country would have the flu.

      That, of course, is a worst-case scenario — one that Lobb says the poultry industry is determined to prevent with an aggressive strategy to contain and destroy infected flocks and deny the virus the opportunity to mutate to a more dangerous form but one that experts say cannot be completely discounted.

      The current bird flu strain has been around for at least 10 years and has taken surprising twists and turns — not the least of which is that it’s now showing up in cats in Europe, where officials are advising owners to bring their cats inside. It’s advice that might soon have to be considered here.

      Ready or Not, Bird Flu Is Coming to America

      oh dear, how sad to see such drivel in mainstream :sick:

      good for sales of canned tuna and powdered milk in the short-term, perhaps.
      Perhaps, too, people could stock up on reading material. Such as on Y2K bug, swine flu and so forth.

      Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/03/14 13:35

      Martin W
        Robert G. Webster is one of the few bird flu experts confident enough to answer the key question: Will the avian flu switch from posing a terrible hazard to birds to becoming a real threat to humans?

        If the virus does mutate, it does not necessarily mean it will be as deadly to people as it is to birds. But experts such as Webster say they must prepare for the worst.

        “I personally believe it will happen and make personal preparations,” said Webster, who has stored a three-month supply of food and water at his home in case of an outbreak.

        Frightening Warning
        “Society just can’t accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility,” Webster said. “I’m sorry if I’m making people a little frightened, but I feel it’s my role.”

        Most scientists won’t put it that bluntly, but many acknowledge that Webster could be right about the flu becoming transmissible among humans, even though they believe the 50 percent figure could be too high.

        Renowned Bird Flu Expert Warns: Be Prepared

        Looks like it’s time some folk in white coats came to round up dear Robert, so he can head off to join the Tooth Fairy Bird.
        All that flu hunting seems to have left him believing in magical mutations, yet bypassed by even scant knowledge of natural selection.

        Still, media can continue producing titillating articles on Mr Neutron Flu – it really, honestly is the most dangerous disease on the planet.

        17 March article by Marc Siegel criticises Webster silliness:

        “… I’m sorry if I’m making people a little frightened, but I feel it’s my role.”

        I disagree. As one of the top flu experts in the world, Webster’s role is to track influenza in the test tube, not to make sweeping speculations that are not based on science and do far more harm than good. By his estimate, we should be destroying every bird in the world right now before we all perish in a pool of pathogens.

        The cost of bird flu hysteria

        Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/03/17 08:35


          Martin wrote:

          Frightening Warning
          “Society just can’t accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility,” Webster said. “I’m sorry if I’m making people a little frightened, but I feel it’s my role.”

          Looks like it’s time some folk in white coats came to round up dear Robert, so he can head off to join the Tooth Fairy Bird.
          All that flu hunting seems to have left him believing in magical mutations, yet bypassed by even scant knowledge of natural selection.

          The cost of bird flu hysteriaPost edited by: martin, at: 2006/03/17 08:35

          One half of the population dying off would be natural selection. One hopes all those who poo-poo, without benefit of any expertise on the subject whatsoever, the idea of avian flu mutating to a human-human transmissable strain, or, in fact, any notion that our comfortable lives might be subject to sudden and dramatic change will, thanks to their total lack of preparation, be especially hard hit, thereby, through natural selection, increasing the intelligence of the species.

          Martin W

            Thanks, John – tho perhaps you missed the correct thread, likely intending for humour.

            Mentioning natural selection the clue here, since – as you well understand – natural selection of flu won’t permit it to become so lethal.

            Ta for the giggle and Toodlepip,

            Martin W

              Just as actual news on H5N1 rather quieter than of late, as it continues in Mr Neutron role (it really, honestly is the most dangerous disease on earth) comes announcement of made-for-tv movie, Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America

              Despite the early warning, the H5N1 virus has mutated into a version that can spread from human to human — shown in eye-opening detail whenever the microbes start to permeate the atmosphere – across races, nationalities, genders and ages.


              – that should be good for the H5N1 profiteers, and others in the Flu Fearmongering community.
              Perhaps I should start another site, on scary bird flu, make a bit of dough selling masks, unproven remedies, survival guides etc etc; add some mumbo-jumbo that seems based on religion.
              The movie, incidentally, looks rather as a novel I’d vaguely planned, back in the days before came across evolutionary biology and pathogens info, which scuppered my plans I’m afraid.

              Martin W

                More scary predictions in America, from yet another expert who seems oblivious to natural selection (evolutionary biology):

                It’s not a matter of if… but a matter of when. Those were the words of Dennis Perrotta, associate professor of epidemiology and biosecurity with the University of Texas School of Public Health, as he addressed the Angelina County Pandemic Influenza Task Force this past week in a workshop session held at Angelina College. "We are long overdue for pandemic influenza. If history is a predictor of current events — and it usually is — it’s going to happen," Perrotta said. People who know, like scientists and officials at the Center for Disease Control, have been talking about the threat of pandemic influenza for 10 years now, he said.

                "Now it’s important to know because of the 100 or so (human) deaths of the 200 or so cases (of bird flu). That’s a lot of people dying. It’s a striking number." Throughout the ages, Perrotta said, influenza started in birds and ended in people. The virus right now is large in birds and has affected only a small number of people, he said. But once it mutates, developing the ability to spread from person to person, and if it still retains the 54 percent kill rate that it is showing now, he said, "that’s a global pandemic."

                Even if it has a kill rate of even 25 percent, that’s a huge impact, he said. A pandemic strain will cause severe disease in humans because the global human population will not have pre-existing immunity, and it will spread rapidly from human to human. The pandemic will move around the world in six to eight weeks, he said. Twenty to 30 percent will contract influenza during the first wave. …

                The threat isn’t the bird, he said. The threat is human. "More times humans get in touch with birds, more of a chance of human to human contact … that genetic magic might happen." …

                It will be like tornadoes that are spawned from a hurricane — one disaster brings other related ones.":ohmy: During such an outbreak, Perrotta said, medicines may or may not help. "Healthcare will be overwhelmed." The first vaccine will not be available for four to five months until after the pandemic arrives, and even then, it will be in limited quantity….

                Expert paints grim picture of global bird flu outbreak


                  I’ve started to write a concept for a film I’d like to make based on the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

                  It will be mainly a love story during the pandemic.

                  Anyone think that that is a bad idea? Would anyone here like to see that? My aim is not to fear monger, but since it was one of the biggest plagues in human history, I suppose it should be told.


                  Martin W

                    Sounds interesting, tho doesn’t belong in this thread.

                    Martin W

                      More fearmongering from US – even as Americas yet to record a single case of H5N1, even in a chicken.

                      Police will be guarding hospitals, and shipments of medicine, food and fuel if the deadly avian flu pandemic sweeps the province, experts planning for a possible outbreak are saying. Dr. Michael Mills and OPP Sgt. Andy Taylor painted a frightening picture of the pandemic’s potential effects for delegates at a police services board conference on the weekend. They warned of civil disorder, and the likely suspension of school, entertainment and sporting events if the illness were to strike here.

                      To cope with the coming global threat, Taylor told the Burlington conference that people need to stock up on supplies such as food, water, medicine and batteries so families can be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours, keep washing their hands and stay at least a metre away from others to avoid contact with infected water droplets from coughing and sneezing. Mills suggested people should also buy life ins for their survivors before premiums are jacked up and get a seasonal flu shot to avoid being sick when or if the bird flu hits during the annual influenza season. "The intent is not to scare people but it is the reality," said Taylor, a key member of the OPP’s pandemic planning team. It is preparing for how police would deal with civil unrest as a result of food and fuel shortages and protect hospitals from a surge of sick people demanding treatment.

                      Although medical experts have no idea when the avian strain might reach Canada, latest Ontario estimates suggest 7,000 to 20,000 people will die, Taylor said. As well, 4 million people in Ontario will become ill, about 2.3 million will need medical treatment and 18,000 to 65,000 will be hospitalized. Many will die, Mills said, within 24 to 48 hours from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as the virus causes lungs of seriously infected victims to fill with blood and fluid. Other critically ill could last for more than a week before dying of secondary infections. The province has a "death surge plan" to deal with bird flu casualties, Taylor said. With a pandemic expected to disrupt transportation of food and borders likely to be closed to shipments, it won’t take long for grocery store shelves to become bare. "If trucks aren’t flowing, there will be nothing on the shelves and food shortages could create civil disorder," Taylor said.

                      Mills said "panic and chaos" inevitably would lead to criminal activity. With police expecting a 20 to 40 per cent manpower shortage from sickness and absenteeism, minor property crimes likely would be ignored and R.I.D.E. and seat belt campaigns halted. "We are expecting a significant number of requests for security for both shipments of vaccines and shipment of viral medicine as well as protecting vaccine distribution and food and fuel," Taylor said. Human-to-human infection from the deadly virus known as H5N1 has yet to occur although as of this week, 113 of 205 people infected in 13 countries have died from contacting the illness from virus-carrying poultry and wild birds. [try reading that again: 113 human deaths, worldwide; that’s in nigh-on ten years. None from a wild bird]

                      Mills, who heads the pandemic planning for Burlington’s Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, said once the virus mutates to where humans begin infecting humans, widespread transmission "will be unstoppable" with many people unknowingly infecting each other. "People will pass this on before they even know they’re infected because the onset of symptoms don’t appear until a day after you’re infected," Mills said. "This is not a tsunami. This won’t be over in five hours. It’s going to be around for a long time." Mills said the virus wouldn’t be contained easily, indicating an infected person, showing no signs, could easily infect others in an airplane. Passengers would then transmit the illness to others on the ground when they land. Unlike the Spanish Flu of 1918, which circled the globe in five months, killing 40 million to 100 million, this avian strain will spread much faster, Mills said.

                      Brace for bird flu, urge experts Local pandemic scary spectre Food shortage, chaos predicted

                      Martin W
                        By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

                        WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A film about a fictional bird flu pandemic that will air on television on Tuesday has experts worried it will panic some people and convince others that legitimate warnings are mere hype.

                        “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America” features scenes with actors wearing spacesuit-like protective gear, a terrified populace and an ending scene in which most residents of an African village lie dead.

                        and now, the curious thing; Osterholm – a major fearmonger, recently telling Oprah of all that will ensue, inc many millions of deaths, economic woes – finds himself trumped in the scary predictions dept:

                        “I am not happy,” said Mike Osterholm, a University of Minnesota public health expert who has been warning about and consulting on the threat of an influenza pandemic.

                        “I worry that this could very well be portrayed by many as ultimate example of sensationalism,” Osterholm told reporters in a telephone briefing on Monday.

                        Experts fear bird flu movie may spur panic

                        Martin W
                          Asia’s killer bird flu virus is coming and could reach the United States as early as this fall, an expert said this week.

                          How prevalent it is will depend on how the strain mutates, said Sharon Medcalf, associate director of the Center for Biopreparedness Education in Omaha.

                          “Most of our experts are saying it’s not a matter of if, but when,” she said during a program at Broadway United Methodist Church. “But I’m an optimist. We don’t know what that mutation is going to produce.”

                          Eventually, the virulent H5N1 strain will be carried into North America and the United States – probably by migratory birds, Medcalf said.

                          “We anticipate seeing H5N1 coming down when birds come back during migration this fall or this winter,” she said.

                          Bird flu on its way

                          Ho hum… :whistle:

                          Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/09/09 11:04

                          Martin W

                            British Medical Journal editorial includes:

                            Somewhere, I imagine, there’s a small group of people proud to be counted among the Friends of Avian Flu, or FAF for short. I suspect they have a catchy mission statement, such as “Keeping the nightmare alive,” and lapel badges of vaguely bird-like shape.

                            Their challenge is to keep bird flu forever in the public eye. This should be getting harder, as influenza H5N1 is proving particularly resistant to undergoing the killer mutation that would allow efficient human to human transmission of the virus. Ten years after the strain first appeared in humans, it has killed just 191 people. This is despite the most propitious of circumstances: millions of people and poultry living in very close proximity in South East Asia. Although these deaths are a tragedy for the victims and their families, it’s as well to remember that a similar number of people die on the roads world wide every 84 minutes.

                            Traditionally, we’ve blamed the drug companies for talking up the risks of diseases, or even inventing diseases, but this is not the case with bird flu. The track record of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) as a treatment for H5N1 is decidedly mixed, and its use in seasonal flu has been linked to suicides and neuropsychiatric symptoms in Japanese teenagers. FAF has incorporated this pharmaceutical failure into its story for bird flu: The Drugs Don’t Work. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

                            FAF knows that the best way to generate column inches is high profile scientific conferences with well oiled media machines, and in this week’s BMJ Richard Smith, our previous editor, reports on a session he chaired at a conference of Health Technology Assessment International (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39255.606713.DB). Some of the observations were familiar: the inevitability of the pandemic and the possibility of drug resistance. But others were relatively new: the terminological mutation from “avian flu” to “pandemic flu,” in recognition of H5N1’s failure to mutate genetically.

                            FAFfing about

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