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Original newssource "The New Federalist" Oct. 3, 2005 Volume XIX, no. 34
Avian Flu Pandemic Is Certainty
By Christine Craig
Washington, Sept. 26, EIRNS- At a policy forum hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars on Spet. 19th, two expert on infectious diseases sounded the alarm. After more than three decades off sliding towards a New Dark Age, the ultimate biological disaster is looming quickly on the horizon: pandemic avian influenza.
Policy makers at a growing number of high- level meetings, nationally and internationally, are focusing on the same subject. Almost all epidemiologists now warn that the spread of this new H5N1 flu virus, which has proven fatal to 50% of the 115 humans so far infected, is inevitable.
Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research, and Policy, and Hlen Branswell, medical write for the Canadian Press Agency, pulled no punches as they presented the alarming statistics about the confluence of circumstances which will lead to, not just a global pandemic, but a global economic meltdown as well.
According to Osterholm, like Hurricane Katrina, the nature of the flu virus and it's hosts, are a kind of inevitable natural disaster. But, unlike Katrina, the flu need NOT be massively catastrophic. Osterholm was convinced, however, that even with a focused and concerted international effort, there wasn't time to make enough changes and develop the infrastructure and technology to avert this particular pandemic.
LaRouche Warned of Biological Holocaust
More than 30 years ago, Lyndon LaRouche had forecast the development and spread of pandemic disease, as a rsult of the looting policies directed against Third World nations by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. A global biological holocaust would result, LaRouche argued, as national physical economies and cultures devolved and collapsed.
Osterholm's public statements began to touch on the theme LaRouche had put forward three decades ago. The major blame, said Osterholm, is the global, "just- in-time" economic system, which has rendered nations unable to amass even the bare necessities to avert catastrophe- vaccines, surgical masks, food, clean water, etc. When the flu strikes, countries will close borders and hoard medical resources within their borders, due to the multinational nature of manufacturing. People, fearful of catching the flu, will hunker down in their homes, refusing to go to work, leaving national economies in shambles.
Healthcare workers will be in impossibly short supply, and hospital beds and equipment, barely adequate in normal times, will be unavailable. Ventilator availability, for example, taxed even during a "normal" flu season, would fall short by the hundreds of thousands in the United States alone, during a flu pandemic.
Vaccination Not Enough
Many of the developed countries are finally starting to address the problem of a lack of vaccine and antiviral production facilities, and some progress is being mad in new vaccine production technologies, but the terrible irony is this: Even if the richest countries could vaccinate all of their people, it would not save them in the midst of a collapsed global economy. As Osterholm commented, "If some miracle comes about where we could have a vaccine quickly that could protect 300 million people, we would still experience tremendous collateral damage with alot of people dying. Because those products that we assume will be there every day for many of our life-saving kinds of things, many of the chronic disease drugs, etc., won't be there. They will stop because the rest of the worlds economy will tank."
As Osterholm emphasized, it's not about money any more- building infrastructure takes time. The global economy will collapse, "the levees will break if we don't act now."
There is ample evidence for the validity of this assessment, with the emergence, in increasingly impovershed and destabilized Third World countries, of catastrophic new diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola, and the expansion of old diseases such as Yellow Fever, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, once thought conquerable through scientific breakthroughs and new technology, plus nation- building policies within the developing sector, aided by developed nations.
Pandemic Potential For Avian Flu
The pandemic potential of avian flu lies in it's genetic flexibiity, which allows it to jump from species to species, dodge host defenses, and change it's virulence within a host. Wild waterfowl, are the natural resevoir of the virus, but it can now infect, other wild and domestic birds and mammals, and increasingly, humans. Only one criterion for a pandemic, has not yet been met: efficient transfer among humans. With every passage among animals, and to and from humans, this eventually becomes more certain.
Emergency action must be taken now, before the pandemic begins:
All governments and agencies must coordinate detailed emeregeny plans, including assets in hand, needs and a protocol for administering anti-flu medications and care, as well as contingency plans for keeping essential activities of government and industry functionaing
Initiate, a "Manhattan Project" or vaccine and antiviral production, using the latest, fastest technologies.
Rebuild and expand public health infrastructure in all nations, including aid to poor countries.