James Nactwey, a photojournalist, recently won a prize of $100000. He decided to reinvest this money into a special story which he needed to tell - and which he could not get funding for. The story has been released, it's about extreme drug resistant tuberculosis.
It's really starting to bug me how nobody can talk of the H5N1 virus without adding a word like 'Deadly' or 'Lethal' in front of it.
Inevitably this causes people to worry and then calls go out for people to not panic, feeding the cycle.
Currently it is neither lethal or deadly. It really isn't. Since 2003 H5N1 has killed less than 100 people worldwide. Regular flu kills many more people each year, here are the figures for the USA. Last week, in the UK some 10000 people died from respiratory illnesses (though none reported as influenza).
Yes, it is true that flu viruses mutate. It is also true that these mutations can have disasterous consequences - however there is nothing to say that a particular virus will mutate. What is certain is that it will happen. Sometime.
We're currently on the lowest possible level of pandemic alert., admittedly, level 3 (out of 6 where 6 is pandemic) is the highest the alert has been in about 40 years.
Whilst we wait for that, let's not blow things up out of proportion. H5N1 is not a nice thing, if you're a duck.
It is not currently transmissable between humans - and so this does not a pandemic make. Regular flu is much more of a problem as of right now - but it's less newsworthy.
Yes, H5N1 should be monitored. Yes, we should be alert to the possibility of mutation, and act quickly if it does. However, let's not scaremonger... doing so will only lead to the 'Cry Wolf' syndrome.
Until it does mutate, let's just talk of H5N1 and not 'The Lethal H5N1 Virus', shall we?
- Egypt finds deadly bird flu virus
- India finds deadly bird flu virus
- France confirms lethal bird flu
- Germany confirms bird flu cases : Germany has confirmed that two swans found dead in the north of the country had the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus
- Slovenia finds Bird Flu in Swan : Slovenia has confirmed that a swan found dead in the north of the country had the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.
- Virus on Britain's Doorstep (dramatic music) Fears of bird flu arriving in Britain have increased after France confirmed that a wild duck has died of the deadly H5N1 form of the disease.
- The Nigerian Government is blaming an outbreak of Bird Flu upon smugglers. I think the reasoning is that the smugglers want to destroy Nigeria's poultry industry so that they can import poultry at a profit (story via Aaron Rowe).
- First Indian Bird Flu death (a poultry farmer, unsurprisingly).... when it's the guy living next door to the poultry farmer, that's when we need to worry about pandemics.
There have been reports that China has been covering up it's true extent of SARS infection, if true, this could be very damaging long term.
It's just been reported that SARS may have reached South Africa, and that a case has shown up in SouthWestern Ontario (the first in the area, though Ontario has had several cases. Texas has also had some cases, as have several other countries.
As you will no doubt be aware, there is currently a scare on about something called 'SARS'. Whilst I'm amazed that none of the talking heads have tried to play on fears of a biological attack, I'm quite thankful for it. To my mind SARS doesn't seem virulent enough, for such an attack. However, with my wife in Kolkata at the moment, I wasn't happy to be reading about the fact that though SARS is not a problem, common pneumonia is. Ah well, last time she went they were having a few cases of plague.