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January 20, 2006

On 'Figuring Out The Flu'

Topics: Health Issues

flu-vaccine-240x150.jpegDr. Henry I. Miller writes today in TCS Daily that "to prepare for a possible catastrophe, we need to be aggressive, innovative and, above all, resilient. In society, as in biology, survival requires nothing less."

The current outbreak of H5N1 avian flu in Turkey -- birds infected in more than 20 localities, about two dozen confirmed human cases and four deaths within about a month -- may be a kind of dress rehearsal for what an actual pandemic would look like in its earliest stages if the virus were to mutate and become transmissible from person to person.
As Dr. Miller points out, public health experts and virologists are concerned about the potential of the H5N1strain because it already possesses two of the three characteristics needed to cause a pandemic: It can jump from birds to human and can produce a severe and often fatal illness. If additional genetic evolution makes H5N1 highly transmissible among humans -- the third characteristic of a pandemic strain -- a devastating world-wide outbreak could become a reality. It's impossible to predict the timing of the last evolutionary step since mutations occur each time the virus replicates, and the more H5N1 viruses that are produced the more likely it is that the event will occur.

We should all heed the warning, and you should read all of what he has to say.

Think about it, as avian flu spreads and more birds are infected, there are trillions more virus particles in existence every day. And of course along with the increase in virus particles comes a corresponding increase in the chances of that last evolutionary step to disaster, ocurring.

Posted by Richard at January 20, 2006 11:59 AM

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