Bird flu may infect 20 percent of world's population, kill millions

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Past Pandemics have claimed many lives.
Disease Year Death toll
Spanish Flu 1918/1919 50 million
Asian Flu 1957 1 million
Hong Kong Flu 1968 1 million

The science journal Nature devoted a special section to the Asian H5N1 virus, or "Avian Flu", highlighting the danger it poses to world populations, and cautioning that unless steps are taken soon, it could lead to the deaths of many millions and lead to a major economic crisis. Their analysis shows a danger of it mutating into a strain with a lethality similar to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Michael Osterholm, a scientist at the University of Minnesota, gave grave caution about the situation. "Time is running out to prepare for the next pandemic... There is a critical need for comprehensive medical and non-medical pandemic planning at the ground level that goes beyond what has been considered so far."

Preparations being made for flu pandemic
There is a crisis plan being drawn up in New York City. The Asian bird flu could mutate and cause a pandemic.

The plan addresses quarantines, testing, overcrowding in hospitals, and rationing of vaccines and treatments.

New evidence suggests the bird flu may be moving to stage 5. When stage 6 is reached, there could be a rapid spread of the flu.

The next pandemic is projected to originate in poultry in Asia, due either to the H5N1 virus adapting on its own or mixing with genetic material from a human virus. In the journal, virologists at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam strongly urged better organized research into outbreaks in Asia, calling the current efforts patchy and uncoordinated, saying, "We propose establishing a permanent global task force to control a flu pandemic, in which relevant agencies would work together with leading research groups from different disciplines." The annual cost of this task force would be less than $1.5 million annually.

Deaths due to the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak reached between 20-50 million people, on the order of roughly 2% of the Earth's population of nearly 2 billion at the time; the Earth's population has increased by more than threefold since then. This disease spread around the world in the course of six months, killing 25 million. India was particularly hard hit, with 17 million deaths. Half a million died in the USA, and 200,000 in the UK. It is estimated to have afflicted about 20% of the world's population to some extent, before it vanished eighteen months after its initial outbreak.

Sources

  • Global human flu pandemic [1]
  • Bird Flu jumps to cats [2]
  • China sounds avian flu alarm [3]
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