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Friday, October 21, 2005

Why People Are Worried About Bird Flu

We now know that the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919 appeared to be a pretty direct jump from birds to humans. H5N1 is infecting humans from birds, and appears to be jumping from the occasional human to another.

This graph should show why public health authorities are concerned (from the Woodson monograph):

Pandemics hit quickly, and this one came close to doubling the annual death rate. Most of the deaths occurred in October of 1918:

As you can see, the death rate escalated in September and then shot up in one month. Most people who got the disease did not die, but many were very sick and could not work, and others were afraid to go out. Many businesses could not operate for a few weeks.

Excellent, excellent link- the numbers and graphs, as presented, are fightening.

I only wish that infoprmation re public and private preparations were more forthcoming.

Given the ease of travel, politicized media and obvious lack of preparedness, I'm not hopeful things will go well.
They didn't in 1918, that's for sure!

I think if we get our act together and plan a bit we can deal with this sort of incident. We have antibiotics and people can stockpile masks, etc. That and good hygienic practices in daily life can cut down the number and severity of cases, hopefully preventing the hospitals and clinics from being overwhelmed.

But daily life will have to change for that to happen.
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