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"In the absence of a pandemic, almost any preparation will smack of alarmism, but if a pandemic does break out, nothing that has been done will be enough." - Tony Abbott, Australian Minister for Health
The Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared," begged the question, "Be prepared for what?" The founder of the Scouts replied, "Why, any old thing." With another pandemic inevitable, the best we can do is mediate the consequences. This means doing our best to avoid falling ill, developing contingency plans to survive the infection, and making all necessary preparations to endure social chaos. "The objective of pandemic preparedness can only be damage control," said top WHO flu expert Klaus Stöhr. "There will be death and destruction."
It may be too late to soften the disease impact of the pandemic, but it is not too late to prepare. We need to take steps so that people who are spared by the pandemic influenza virus aren’t done in by starvation, cold, chronic diseases, or contaminated water," writes one prominent risk management specialist. "We don’t want people who are spared by the virus done in by riots either."
Civil society is expected to disintegrate, triggering violent social disturbances as populations attempt to flee contaminated areas or engage in mass looting. After Katrina hit, it took only 48 hours for 20% of New Orleans’ police force to disappear and drug addicts in withdrawal to claim the streets with gunfire. FEMA director Brown said his agency was forced to work "under conditions of urban warfare." And that’s only one city in crisis.
Experts fear that civil unrest could be a tipping point for instability in a number of governments around the world "as their economies implode." There is a concern that even early on in unaffected countries, panic and chaos could erupt as the world media reports the daily advance of the pandemic. One CDC economist was asked to predict the social fallout. That was outside his realm, he replied, "Go ask the fiction writers what could happen."
Currently in humans, H5N1 is good at killing, but not at spreading. There are three essential conditions necessary to produce a pandemic. First, a new virus must arise from an animal reservoir, such that humans have no natural immunity to it. Second, the virus must evolve to be capable of killing human beings efficiently. Third, the virus must succeed in jumping efficiently from one human to the next. For the virus, it’s one small step to man, but one giant leap to mankind. So far, conditions one and two have been met in spades. Three strikes and we’re out. If the virus triggers a human pandemic, it will not be peasant farmers in Vietnam dying after handling dead birds or raw poultry - it will be New Yorkers, Parisians, Londoners, and people in every city, township, and village in the world dying after shaking someone’s hand, touching a doorknob, or simply inhaling in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mathematical models suggest that it might be possible to snuff out an emerging flu pandemic at the source if caught early enough, but practical considerations may render this an impossibility. Even if we were able to stamp it out, as long as the same underlying conditions remain, the virus would presumably soon pop back up again, just as it has in the past.
This book explores what those underlying conditions are. The current dialogue surrounding avian influenza speaks of a potential H5N1 pandemic as if it were a natural phenomenon - like hurricanes, earthquakes, or even a “viral asteroid on a collision course with humanity” - which we couldn’t hope to control. The reality, however, is that the next pandemic may be more of an unnatural disaster of our own design.
The Book. Bird Flu - A Virus of Our Own Hatching
"...In addition to providing practical take-home tips for protecting oneself from the flu, the author elegantly demonstrates that the evolution of the devastating influenza virus, as well as that of numerous other zoonotic pathogens, stems directly from the proliferation of confinement agricultural systems. Every person concerned about human and animal health and welfare, self-preservation, and justice should read this book." - Bernard Rollin, PhD, University Distinguished Professor, Colorado State University
"The book is timely, well written, and very comprehensive from any reader’s perspective." - Julie Gerberding, M.D., Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Roche is feathering its nest with windfall profits from the bird flu drug, with 2005 third-quarter group sales approaching $20 billion.
Roche is no stranger to price fixing. In 1999, the corporation pleaded guilty to a worldwide conspiracy to form a cartel to criminally “raise, fix and maintain” prices for vitamins sold in the United States and elsewhere. Roche was fined $500 million. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this record fine was the highest criminal fine in history.
The United States has only enough Tamiflu stockpiled to cover about 2% of its population. Who’s going to get it?
At this point, there will be none left over for the general U.S. population. Do the math: Excluding military appropriation, there are nearly ten million health care workers and more than two million public safety workers such as police and firefighters, more than twice the mid-2006 stockpile. Even among countries with the highest per-capita stockpiles in the world, like Australia, only 10% of the national stockpile is expected to reach the general population.