Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Avian Flu Pandemic: Genuine Concern Or Hype?

[First, a quick disclaimer. The author of this post is by education a chemical engineer and businessman, and therefore has no medical expertise to rely on. Plus he did not sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.]

Flu pandemic could trigger second Great Depression, brokerage warns clients

A major Canadian brokerage firm has added its voice to those warning of the potential global impact of an influenza pandemic, suggesting it could trigger a crisis similar to that of the Great Depression.

Real estate values would be slashed, bankruptcies would soar and the insurance industry would be decimated, a newly released investor guide on avian influenza warns clients of BMO Nesbitt Burns.
The autumn of 1918 should have been a happy time. For the first time since 1914, the Allies were winning the Great War, American manpower breaking the stalemate and ultimately forcing Germany to sue for peace on November 11th.

Deseret News: Pandemic of 1918

But it was not. Instead, the United States and the world were in the grips of a truly global pandemic. At least 25% of the American population would contract the flu, and 500,000 of those would die. Worldwide, the toll was at least 20 million. And mot terrifyingly of all, the relative health of the victims seemed to make no difference. Indeed, a disproportionate number of the victims were healthy men and women in their twenties and thirties - the prime of their lives. (Utah was hit hard by the pandemic. Some reports I have seen claim that in terms of percentage of population, only Pennsylvania suffered more dead.)

Odds are, this is the first time you had heard of this. The 1918 pandemic seemed almost to cause a collective amnesia in the American memory. For an event that affected so many people across the world, it recieves curiously little mention in the history books. Recently, this has started to change.

As the story of the 1918 flu pandemic has emerged from the shadows, at the same time concern over the possibility of a new pandemic has arisen. The SARS epidemic of 2003 has only intensified these worries. The unique breeding ground furnished by South Asia and the recent bird flu epidemics have caused scientists to conclude that a new flu pandemic is imminent, and it will start in Asia. They urge preparation and vigilance.

But how much is enough?

Ultimately, I don't know what to make of it. Part of me thinks this is just a lot of hype; but...

So I yield the floor. What do you think?

More information/articles:
Deseret News: "Pandemic of 1918"
Yahoo! News
Winds of Change: "Playing Chicken with Avian Flu"
Winds of Change: "H5N1: An Influenza Pandemic Strain?"


At 11:10 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

Interesting. I had never heard of the Spanish Flu pandemic. It is possible that this Asian bird flu could turn into a really nasty bug. This should be much more worrisome than devastation from quark strangelets, or engulfment by The Nothing.

There are things you can, and should, be doing to prepare. Live a more healthy lifestyle! Get in shape, get rid of junk food, drink more water = superior immune system. That's really your best, and only defense against these viruses.

As a side note: during the cold war Russia developed some nasty biological weapons. Let's hope they disposed of them properly, because if some of their "superbugs" ever got out, they'd make the Bubonic Plague seem like a mere sniffle.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

To learn more: type "Dr. Alibek" into Google.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Tyler said...

Great. More to worry about.


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