Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bird Flu could wreck lives as well as bodies

…HA has started a little cache of survival supplies in case the bird flu hits and grocery shelves are emptied and her household quarantined.

…As she wrote before (see March archives), people would probably be taken care of at home.

…But are businesses ready? Would anyone be there to give HA work? Or let her get cash? What if she couldn’t make a mortgage payment?

…Maybe there would be no one at the mortgage company to take it….so this is OK?

…(Weirdly, this bug seems harder on younger, fit people than the babies and old—this is the workforce, basically.)

…These are all things Katrina victims faced. Multiply that by the whole country. Then multiply that by 18 months.

…The White House is releasing a plan that notes that movement around the country would be limited. International flights would be limited and passengers quarantined.

…We could be looking at 2 million deaths, they say.

…Sick workers and those caring for family members would stay home.

…Employees should be at least 3 feet apart…teleconferences would replace face time.

…People exposed would have to take sick leave and stay home.

…Colleges could close so dorms could be used for the sick.

…The military would be involved in a lot of this. Like that’s a surprise.

…In a related story, a computer model showed that these efforts would do little to stop its spread.

…There is no magic bullet, according to one epidemiologist.

…Some people even thought of using the vaccine given to chickens. While some doctors
went eeek-ewww, others seem to be considering it.

…If we had enough antiviral medicine (and if we knew for sure it worked on H5N1) and we gave one-fourth of the people 10 doses before they got sick, only about 84 million Americans, instead of 102 million, would get sick.

…But we don’t have that much. And probably that isn’t going to happen.

…HA still recommends an excellent little book (see right): The Bird Flu Preparedness Planner.


Anne said...

Yikes! Kinda scary. Sounds like Y2K all over again, only with the potential for death much greater.

Wooton's book is also available as a PDF here:

So, he says that the potential for the pandemic is greatest during regular flu season from Dec to March. Does that mean that we're out of danger until next flu season rolls around? Or is it that once the virus mutates to a form that can be transmitted human to human and we start to get a sense of its power, it's just a question of time, flu season or not, before it gets transported to this continent?

Any idea Star?

Star said...

For some reason this pandemic thing is resonating with me. Don't get too alarmed--I am not psychic. I have interviewed Dr Woodson several times--I think it could get going when it went person-to-person, would not have to be flu season. It would come and go, he thinks. Could cut thru a community, then die (!) down, then come back. I think it has gone person to person among people who live with birds and get whopping doses...

Star said...

I emailed Dr W for a better answer. He wrote:

Most flu pandemics begin during the regular flu seasons. The virus prefers the winter for some reason. Once it gets going, the pandemic waves don't necessarily stick to the winter scenario.

Mignon said...

The 2 million "worst-case-scenario" from the Health and Human Services report is based on the 1918 flu pandemic, which only killed 2% of the people infected. So given that this flu is killing more like 50% of the people infected so far, the worse-case-scenario is really much more than 2 million.

It will be interesting to see how people react after the big ABC Bird Flu in America movie, which I think is airing on Tuesday. Will people freak out with fear, or become jaded from the hype...could go either way.

Star said...

Dr Woodson estimates that with proper home care, the toll would only be 8%.

I am not sure the movie will take this either way. I guess we will see.

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