Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Truth About Pandemics

What is the truth about the potential for a pandemic caused by something like the H5N1 bird flu virus?

Some folks run around screaming that the sky is falling — while at the same time, others calmly assure the populace that there's nothing much to worry about because this flu is unable to transmit easily from birds to humans. So, what's the truth?

The results of two recent studies indicating how scientists intentionally mutated the H5N1 virus into a form that could cause a deadly human pandemic are being held back from public disclosure by the World Health Organization (WHO) until after experts complete their assessment of the risks. After a high-level meeting of scientists and security officials, an agreement was reached to keep details of the virus mutations secret until further risk analysis has been finished.

Scientists at Erasmus Medical Center and at the University of Wisconsin claim to have discovered that it takes only a few mutation steps to allow H5N1 to bridge the bird-human gulf while retaining all its deadly characteristics. And just how lethal is H5N1? Of the roughly 700 people worldwide who have been infected, half of them died. That's a very high death rate among flu pandemics.

Here's the part where all this starts to look like a Frankenstein movie — Biosecurity experts are sounding alarms that the mutated forms of the virus could escape into the environment, or fall into the "wrong" hands and be used as a bio-weapon to create a pandemic that might exceed the 1918-19 Spanish Flu that killed 40 million people worldwide.

Last December, the U.S. National Science Advisory board for Biosecurity (NSABB) requested that two leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, withhold information about the mutation research for fear that it could be used by bioterrorists to develop a bio-weapon.

These aren't some lunatic conspiracy theorists — these are the top minds in the business. And they're concerned.

So, how concerned should you be? And what can you do about it?

Right now, humans can contract H5N1 through close contact with ducks, chickens and other birds that are carriers for the disease. The problem birds are pretty well confined to Asia right at the moment, but that could easily change to include other parts of the world. When the virus mutates so that it can survive in the upper respiratory tract, it will be able to be transmitted from bird to human and from human to human through the air we breath. Then it's only a matter of time until someone who is infected boards a commercial airline and… well, you know the rest.

In a full-blown pandemic, the safest procedure is tight quarantine for months, while researchers race to develop a vaccine. The problem with mutating virus is that even if a vaccine is developed it will likely be generations behind the latest mutation.

It's not a pretty scenario. If this thing that has been created in the scientific laboratories gets out, be prepared with everything you need (food, water, medical supplies, sanitation items, etc.) to live inside your home without ever opening a door or window for several months. It's total lockdown.

No comments:

Post a Comment