The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'h5n1'
An expert on virology looks at the potential of the bird flu. Extrapolated from mortality rates and 1918 influenza statistics, it could kill one billion people; then again, it might not.
Scientists now estimate that the 1918 pandemic may have killed 40 to 100 million people worldwide. If you take into account the current world population, a direct extrapolation gives you 325 million deaths. If that's not sufficiently scary, there's more. Epidemiologists estimate the 1918 virus killed 2.5% of those infected. But we know that GenZ kills 70% of the people it infects. In other words, the true worst-case scenario based on 1918 could be 1 billion deaths worldwide. This is what Davis means by the monster at our door and why he believes scientists, and the press, are right to sound the alarm.
1 billion fatalities worldwide would be a 1/6 of the Earth's population. Which is a fatality rate comparable to the Black Death or the Great Plague. The social, political and economic ramifications of a loss of 1 billion people would be profound.
Then again, it may never happen. Flu is one of the deadliest pathogens in nature's arsenal, but is also one of the sloppiest. Like all viruses, every time it replicates it makes mistakes, some of which may render it less infective. That is the conundrum of H5N1. It could be a huge threat to the human race or none at all.Of course, flu is also governed by natural selection; less infectious strains compete with more infectious ones, and you can imagine which one would spread more rapidly and crowd the others out of the gene pool. Then again, a virus that is highly contagious but not fatal would have an advantage in reproductive opportunity over one that kills its victims rapidly. (Though causing its victims to melt and splatter infected blood everywhere, as H5N1 does to chickens (though not yet humans) is also an effective strategy.)
Anyway, while it's too early for mass we're-all-going-to-die-I'm-a-teapot hysteria (not that it would help much, as there's not much one can do other than minimising one's exposure), claiming that H5N1 is nothing to be worried about and that life will go on as always (see also: global warming, peak oil) seems foolhardy.
Advice on how to prepare for the coming H5N1 flu pandemic. In short: get out of any major city, stockpile at least 3 months' worth of supplies (food, masks, fuel), and assume that civilisation as we know it will collapse. Also good in the event of a zombie holocaust.
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.