September 18th, 2005 – 8:39 pm
Tagged as: Health,Politics

If G.W. Bush and his crew can’t handle a hurricane hitting the Gulf coast, how are they going to handle this?

Bird flu, which originated in China and South-east Asia, is being spread by migrating wildfowl, infecting domestic poultry. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warned this month that it will reach every continent. Last week Russia reported a third outbreak among chickens in Chelyabinsk in the Urals, on Europe’s doorstep.

So far about 60 people are known to have died from the virus, about half of those infected. Experts fear that it will mutate to spread rapidly among people, killing tens – perhaps hundreds – of millions worldwide. Last week Dr Lee Jong-wook, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said the mutation was inevitable and “just an issue of timing”. Publicly the Government says that more than 50,000 people are likely to die in Britain, but privately it is preparing for up to 750,000 deaths. Earlier this year Professor Hugh Pennington, one of the country’s experts, said that the British death toll could reach two million.

Oh, yes, and in addition to all of those deaths, it might well wipe out the economy for those that are left alive.

The study used a giant computer model of the British economy. It found that even a relatively mild pandemic, with 50,000 deaths, would cut Britain’s GDP by a staggering 8 per cent or £95bn, cost 941,000 jobs, and “affect every aspect of life in Britain”.

Professor Thea Sinclair, who led the research, says that a more serious pandemic, killing hundreds of thousands or millions of Britons, would have “truly catastrophic” effects on the economy.

This simulation was just for the British economy, but you can probably extrapolate the results pretty well for the rest of the developed world. Of course, while President Bush has started making some noises about preparing for the problem, watching these guys make a total mess of both Iraq and Hurricane Katrina has firmly convinced me that their ability to actually do anything effective (other than spinning things for the press) is pretty much non-existent. It would be nice if the mainstream American media could actually try and inform people about it though, so that there’s at least some hope of government action.

You can find more information of the bird flu (aka avian influenza, aka H5N1) here and here.


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  1. 1

    Funny you should suggest the media should inform people about it, we just suggested that governments should take the lead:

    Comment made by on September 18, 2005 @ 10:24 pm

  2. 2

    After reading your post, I’d say that I definitely agree with you about the steps that governments need to take.

    However, I also feel that unless pressure is put on them by their own populations, there’s little likelihood of those steps actually being taken, particularly in the U.S., where those currently in power don’t seem to think the government needs to care about public health unless terrorists are somehow involved.

    Comment made by Michael on September 18, 2005 @ 10:54 pm

  3. 3

    The US certainly seems to be taking note of the potential for harm now, but it may be too late. Whether it was Katrina which woke the President up or just his holiday reading about the 1918 pandemic, we’ll never know, but the fact remains that in the last few weeks the President has taken an interest in the subject. I expect action to follow the words, but suspect that they may still be too little too late.

    Keep reading for all the latest ‘bird flu’ news as it happens, as well as comment which would make a newsdesk editor’s lawyer quake in his boots!

    Keep up the good work bloggers!

    Comment made by on September 22, 2005 @ 2:49 pm

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