Sunday, June 26, 2005

It can't happen here

Who could imagine our government acting like this?
Bird flu is now as much of a danger to Britain as terrorism, ministers have been told by the Government's official emergency body.

Top officials from the Civil Contingency Secretariat (CCS), part of the Cabinet Office, told a cabinet subcommittee last week that a flu pandemic - which it believes could kill 700,000 Britons - is now one of the most serious threats facing the country.

Plans are being made to close schools and cancel sporting fixtures in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, and official advice on how to try to avoid being infected will be ready for publication this summer.

Cobra, Britain's emergency committee, will co-ordinate attempts to fight the virus. But the Government accepts that, if the flu reaches Britain, there is no hope of stopping an epidemic, and that the only hope is to mitigate its effects. (The Independent)
George W.'s cabinet obviously knows something the British cabinet doesn't. Like evolution is a secular hoax, so we don't have to worry about the virus adapting. That means I don't have to worry about reports like this:
The unusual behavior of the avian flu has gotten stranger: The virus, which caused no confirmed cases last summer in Vietnam, is continuing to infect people this year.


"Everything suggests, that the situation we are in now, there is a greater risk for a pandemic than for many decades," said Dr. Peter Horby, a medical officer and epidemiologist for the World Health Organization in Hanoi. "The situation is much more complex than a year ago."


"This year, there doesn't appear to be a stop," said Klaus Stöhr, head of WHO's global influenza program in Geneva. "Every human case is worrisome because there is another chance for the virus to [mutate] and a higher chance for a pandemic to occur."

WHO confirmed four human cases this month in Vietnam, and news reports suggest two more cases have been identified this past week. By comparison, the country had no reported cases between April and late summer last year, Stöhr said.


When the avian flu first started infecting people in late 2003 in Vietnam, Horby said, it was expected to be around weeks or maybe months before subsiding. But now, he said, "we are almost in a chronic outbreak situation."


Stöhr said it was unclear why human cases have not receded this summer. It could be better surveillance or more instances of bird-to-human transmission. Or perhaps the virus has become more adept at infecting people.

"We have to plan our actions more urgently now that the virus is with us," Horby said. "There is no respite."


Unlike previous pandemics, where a virus underwent a major genetic overhaul all at once, [Dr. Michael] Osterholm said the avian strain has been changing gradually since it was first identified in 1997. He believes the virus will continue to transform, increasing the likelihood it will ultimately lead to a pandemic. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
I'm glad I live in the US, where avian flu isn't a problem. I'd be pretty scared if I lived in the UK.

P.S. If despite this, the threat of bird flu still bothers you, look for the launch of the FluWiki (announcement tomorrow).