I'd also like to wish the best of luck to my esteemed opponent, Off_the_Street, who is a true gentleman if ever there was one.
Now let's get this show on the road!
First we have to understand how one deals with a disease pandemic, in order to determine the feasibility of dealing with this particular threat.
As I see it, key phases of a global response would be four-fold: Early Prevention, Diagnosis, Containment and, finally, Cure.
The prevention phase is defined by the disposal of infected animals, thus curtailing transmission to humans. Preventative measures must necessarily
include waterfowl and domesticated birds, along with domesticated mammals such as pigs and cats, as they have also been identified as carriers for the
Farmers are reticent to reveal infected animals to the authorities because of the economic losses that go hand in hand with honesty in this case. The
health authorities rely on a scorched earth policy, destroying all animals in concentric circles many kilometers around each infected farm, this
results in an enormous impact on the local, rural economies.
Even if every farmer were honest and sufficiently selfless to turn over infected animals, many cases of avian flu are asymptomatic. This means that
infected animals, specifically waterfowl such as ducks, often go undetected for their entire lifespan, while they infect everything around them.
Short of slaughtering every bird and mammal in Asia, prevention is always going to be dangerously imperfect. Even the process of slaughtering the
animals is dangerous, because it is most often conducted by poorly trained villagers lacking in even the most basic protective clothing and quarantine
Asian countries may vaccinate chickens in an effort to halt the spread of the disease, but this could be disastrous, or ineffective to varying
degrees. Just as bacteria become resistant after widespread exposure to antibiotics, so does influenza grow more virulent as it evolves to overcome
Diagnosis is a very important step in dealing with an avian flu pandemic. If virologists don’t know exactly what they’re up against, they have no
hope of combating it. This can’t begin in earnest until the pandemic is already underway, reducing response time drastically, and limiting the
ability of western nations to supply the appropriate vaccines to the hotbeds of disease in Asia. The disease could cross the globe in as little as a
month or two, while it would take up to a year to manufacture enough vaccine for just one country. The implications are enough to make one
Containment is the third, and perhaps most important stage in dealing with any disease. In order to halt the spread of avian flu, borders would have
to be closed, international flights cancelled, and trade brought to a standstill. It was impossible to contain the pandemic of 1918, which killed
upwards of 20-40 million, and that was before the advent of commonplace international air travel and densely populated urban sprawls. We got lucky in
1997, when we narrowly avoided a pandemic, but everyone knows, luck can’t last forever. Leading researchers in the field maintain the opinion that
it’s not a question of if we will see another avian flu pandemic, but when. Smart money is on sooner, rather than later.
Containment is made impossible by another factor, which is the migratory nature of the waterfowl that act as primary vectors for the disease. Every
area they fly over is at risk, from Australia to Europe and everywhere in between. So total containment is out of the question, and partial
containment might as well be none at all when you consider the fact that it only takes one infected human in a city of ten million or more to cause
staggering loss of life. There are more than 25 mega cities in the world, each with more than ten million residents. Asia has more mega cities than
any other region, and it just so happens to be the spawning pit for avian flu. Connect the dots if you dare.
Cure is the final line of defense. If you can’t prevent or contain a pandemic, you have to treat it before it kills every infected individual.
Here the problem lies in numbers. There isn’t a nation on earth that can make enough vaccine for everyone, even working together we can’t produce
enough of the right vaccine for the people most at risk. This means that while some nations will be able to shield a percentage of their citizens
from harm, the majority of nations will be caught behind the 8 ball.
Avian flu is, by all estimates, the single greatest threat to world health. It cannot be ignored, it cannot be contained, and it cannot be