The Null Device

H5N1

A doctor/blogger has a horrifying account of a possible coming bird flu epidemic:
I saw fifty patients that day. Almost all of them were wearing masks, some as rudimentary as handkerchiefs. One came in with a sprained ankle. Another showed up to discuss her diabetes. The other forty-eight came in with panic attacks, frayed nerves, stories of people they knew who were dead or dying, and questions galore. But it was the quiet ones, the ones with headaches and muscle aches and low grade fevers that terrified me the most.
Those persons who had received the regular flu shot in the fall gained a slight protection against the new pandemic strain of the flu. The years supply was exhausted quickly, however, and counterfeit vaccines were selling for $100 on the internet. Despite the governments warning people still paid for them. A five day course of antiviral medication was selling for $5,000, even though it was only weakly effective by February.
And, further down in the comments, a few tips for how to avoid getting the bird flu (or any other type of flu):
It has recently been determined that most pulmonary illnesses are spread by hand contamination, not coughing or sneezing as previously believed. If you are out in public or around those who are during an outbreak, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer six times a day will reduce your chance of catching flu by 80%. If there is obvious contamination, use soap and water. Antiseptic soap is not significantly more effective than ordinary soap in this regard. Consciously force yourself not to touch your face in public until you have sanitized your hands.
The worst public sources for air and surface contamination are public restrooms and restaurants. Avoid them. Sanitize telephone handsets and often touched surfaces in work areas, especially doorknobs. Parts of automobile interiors can also be cleaned.
Another newly discovered trick that may work is ordinary store-bought cranberry juice, which has been determined to inhibit cellular adhesion by several viruses, in quantity. It is unknown if it would work for avian flu, but drinking copious amounts as a possible prophalaxis should not be too much an inconvenience, if that is all you've got to protect yourself with.
There will undoubtedly be shortages of several items once an outbreak has occurred. Surgical masks, protective glasses, latex gloves, sanitary wipes and rubbing alcohol may all become scarce, so it is not unreasonable to stock up now.

There are 4 comments on "H5N1":

Posted by: El Bizarro http://bizarro.typepad.com Tue Oct 4 21:01:28 2005

Sorry, but I find this crap hard to swallow when many parts of Africa and South America are gripped by REAL and DEADLY epidemics like Cholera, Malaria, TB and Sleeping Sickness. Whoops! Sorry, I forgot, they're not rich or white so their suffering doesn't rate. Maybe if thousands of us did get wiped out by an epidemic then we might have some compassion for the poor, but seeing how much further inwards the US has turned after Katrina I seriously doubt it. Articles like this have the stink of big pharma, the same big pharma that wants our governments to spend millions of flu shots (whatever happened to the idea of acquired immunity) which as the good doctor in this article glosses over, only provide a slight boost. At the same time, big pharma refuses to spend another cent on cures for the REAL EPIDEMICS whose death tolls rage in the millions each year and also refuses to drop the patents on the cures it may have accidentally discovered while trying to find a treament for obesity of some such thing. Hard to kn

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org Tue Oct 4 21:25:24 2005

I also heard that 70% of the drug companies' budgets go on buying out and burying potential cures for profitable diseases like cancer. Or so a paranoid Marxist type once told me over a few pints.

Of course, the 1918 influenza epidemic was real and did kill millions. If it happened once, what's to say it can't happen again.

Posted by: El Bizarro http://bizarro.typepad.com Wed Oct 5 22:30:49 2005

Your paranoid Marxist drinking buddy is kind of right, they do spend a lot of money buying up patents but it's no where near 80% of their budgets and certainly not cures for cancer. They do love their patents though and I would say they probably spend the largest percentage of their budgets convincing (mostly yanks) that their spanky, brand new patented products are so much better than those daggy old out-of-patent ones.

Yeah, the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic was real but little things like piped water, widespread environment control (the type in offices and apartments, not in the fevered imaginations of drunk Marxists) and the fact that we no longer communicate with each other face to face mean that another Influenza epidemic unlikely. More unlikely I would say than Malaria reappearing in Australia thanks to climate change...

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org Wed Oct 5 23:58:32 2005

Though, OTOH, there is more rapid communication in the form of international air travel, and it would only take one carrier to board one of the numerous flights to an uninfected area to carry the disease.

The rationale I heard was that treatments for cancer and other terminal illnesses (i.e., leasing the desperate's lives back to them for USD$1000 a month) are a major revenue stream, and cures (as opposed to treatments) would kill that, so the pharmaceutical companies do their best to ensure that such cures never surface. Of course, the question arises of how long they could keep that sort of thing up, between the mapped human genome, patent-busting Brazilian drug companies and the potential for massive public outrage if any of it leaked out.

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