Avian flu is on its way, and we are not prepared
Never let it be said that I ignore signs sent to me by the internet gods.
Today two of the smartest folks I know separately wrote me and urged me to blog about the rising threat of avian flu and the developed world’s dangerous inaction. Instead, I’m going to let them do it for me.
Tom’s Dispatch is hosting a stellar piece of writing by Mike Davis, author of the just-released The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. It is a fairly easy-to-read primer on the threat the flu poses and the state of our preparedness (which is not — spoiler alert — good). Here’s a taste:
As for a universally available “world vaccine,” it remains a pipe-dream without new, billion-dollar commitments from the rich countries, above all the United States, and even then, we are probably too late.
“People just don’t get it,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, the outspoken director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota recently complained. “If we were to begin a Manhattan Project-type response tonight to expand vaccine and drug production, we wouldn’t have a measurable impact on the availability of these critical products to sufficiently address a worldwide pandemic for at least several years.”
“Several years” is a luxury that Washington has already squandered. The best guess, as the geese head west and south, is that we have almost run out of time. As Shigeru Omi, the Western Pacific director of WHO, told a UN meeting in Kuala Lumpur in early July: “We’re at the tipping point.”
Taking a slightly more can-do tone, WC’s Alex Steffen challenges bloggers and civilians alike to spread awareness of the threat in hopes we can collaborate our way out of it. He also has links to a number of resources and background materials. Of particular interest is this guide to spreading the word without spreading panic, by two World Health Organization communication advisors.
I highly recommend you read both pieces, educate yourself about the danger, and start pushing your state and federal representatives to put money behind serious preparation efforts.