H5N1 Bird Flu kills nearly every person who contracts it, and it looks like it is learning how to jump from human-to-human.
Recombinics.com reports "H5N1 has clearly evolved and has become markedly more efficient at transmitting among humans, and has done so via recombination," and that, "H5 will clearly be resident in humans worldwide."
Today, an article in the Guardian reports that the UN official in charge of bird flu response efforts warned that "a global influenza pandemic is imminent and will kill up to 150 million people." A World Health Organization said the "best case scenario" would be 7.4 million deaths globally.
Yesterday, the US Senate approved spending $3 billion on anti-viral medications, "including one intended to fight avian flu."
Finland is planning to buy "5.2 million doses of a vaccine against the deadly bird flu, allowing it to protect its entire population."
Reader comment: Ken Seefried, CISSP says: Noted your BoingBoing post (among waaaay too many others). Thought I might make an observation.
The current set of statistics (76% fatality (per the Financial Times)...oh mah gawd!) seem to be based on reports that:
- 55 people caught it. That we know of.
- 48 people died. That we know of.
- All in essentially third world countries. With all that entails from a health care perspective.
Even the an original researcher takes the time to mention "Although this 76 per cent human fatality rate looked terrifyingly high, Dr Cox said it might be exaggerated by under-reporting of less serious cases of H5N1, which might not be recognized as avian flu." There could be one, one thousand or one million unreported non-fatal cases. With 1,000 unreported cases the fatality rate becomes, what, 4.5%? Bad, to be to sure, but not the second coming of the Black Death. Is it possible that in a third world country with 80 million people (say, Vietnam), much less the entire region from with the cases have been drawn, that there might be some unreported, non-fatal cases?
N.B. - There might also be unreported fatal cases, but let's be realistic...it's a lot harder to miss a dead body than someone with the sniffles.
I'm not saying that H5N1 isn't going to be a show stopper, world- beater pandemic or whatever. I've actually written two white papers for very large US corporations on business continuity issues associated with pandemic breakouts, primarily because I'm sure there's going to be something like this, some day (like there will certainly be a catastrophic earthquake in San Francisco or a Cat5 hurricane that will clobber New Orleans, but I digress). I'm merely pointing out that what has been reported so far seems to me to be more hysteria than science.
And Recombinomics is an interesting source. They seem to be in the business of anti-viral technology. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just sayin'....