Friday, September 16, 2005

More Avian Flu

Taleena comments:

Disaster Planning in this state was recently evaluated by a Representative who is also a National Guard. I was greatly reassured by his assesment of preparedness on a state level.

I have talked to the kid's pediatrician about avian flu and am less unhappy about US preparedness than I was. Whether the avian flu will jump to humans and IF our medications work on it is another ball of wax.

Avian Flu has made the jump to humans in Southeast Asia. The question has become: how contagious and virulent are the strains that have made the jump, and how effective are our current public health treatments and measures.

As to treatments, apparently current antivirals are effective, a vaccination would be much more effective.

As to the public health issues, the reason that I recalled the Swine Flu scare is that it became a metaphor of government incompetence in the late 1970's and helped keep President Ford from re-election.

Recall also the bioterrorism scare in 2002 and the debate about the availability and safety of smallpox vaccine. Was there enough vaccine? Who should be vaccinated? When public health officials and other first-responders began declining to receive vaccination, it was a political death-knell to the program. Again, it made the current administration look incompetent.

Recall last fall when early indicators seemed to show that the prevalent influenza strain of 2004 was going to be especially nasty and that there was not going to be enough vaccine. After a public scare and people scalping non-FDA-approved vaccine doses in grocery stores, the feared pandemic did not occur.

These events are the equivalent to the repeated calls to evacuate the low-lying Gulf coast areas in the face of an approaching hurricane, then having the hurricane swerve or lose severity. Prudent people evacuate with all the attendant costs and risks, then return to find imprudent people have suffered no loss.

The ghosts of the Swine-flu and smallpox campaigns have got to chill the counsels of any administration considering a large-scale vaccination program. Vaccination for any disease is not a zero-risk action. It must be balanced against the probability of infection and the danger of the specific disease.

Public health issues are a thorny problem to libertarian and small-government people like me. It is a case where collective action may be honestly mandated and those that do not cooperate can be honestly compelled. What I demand, though, is that those in charge of public health issues be competent and virtuous. (Which statement has made my inner libertarian put the noose around his neck and kick away the stool.)

What do I propose to do myself? Keep an eye on the news about Avian flu. Become a bit obsessive/compulsive about hygiene and washing my hands after being in public. Worry.

UPDATE: Apparently the Avian Flu lacks the ability to be transmitted from human to human. All cases have so far been from bird to human (hence the name...).

I am not completely comforted by this. Influenza virii change protein coats the way I change my shirt. The ability of Avain Flu to jump human-to-human is just a few seasons away. Its mortality rate is ~50% and the vaccine manufacturers are pounded daily by the groups for giving their children autism.

Worry will continue...

No comments:

Blog List



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution2.5 License.