May 9, 2006

Don't Panic

Gregg Easterbrook does more than football. He also writes timely takedowns of overblown fearmongering. Check out his thumping of Bird Flu Panic:

All this for a disease that since 2003 has killed 113 people worldwide. During the same span, about 4 million have died worldwide in traffic accidents. The number of these deaths is rising steadily in most nations, with road fatalities on track to become the world's third-leading cause of death—that is, traffic accidents look exactly like a pandemic. Also since 2003, at least 6 million people worldwide have died of diarrheal diseases, with about 1.5 million of those deaths attributed to rotavirus, which has spread in pandemic fashion. Yet the panic button has been pushed only for bird flu. Why?

I still believe that the best solution to bird flu remains "Stay away from any bird you see with a cough."


Laura said...

The fear, of course, is not the current form of the bird flu. The fear is that, as viruses are prone to do, this virus will mutate into a form which transmits easily between humans.

We may scoff at the idea of a flu which has only killed 113 people worldwide, but we'd also do well to remember the Spanish Influenza of 1918 which killed 675,000 Americans. According to a report I heard a few months back on NPR, that epidemic also started out as a bird flu. The flu spread quickly, and one can only imagine how quickly it could spread in these days of constant international contact via overnight flights that could bring infected people to all parts of the world before they even knew they were sick.

While I agree that widespread panic over the situation would be a bad idea, I don't think preparing for the possibility is unreasonable. After all, if the virus does mutate, I think we'll all be at the front of the line for the vaccine.

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