Bird flu is getting a lot of press lately. Reports from various sources as diverse as the President of the United States and the head of the World Health Organization, say it is a new disease that is going to have us all dropping dead at any moment. It has already been announced as a pandemic. There is a mad scramble to get stocks of medicines assembled. Plans are being made for bringing the military into the picture. Something is seriously wrong here and it isn’t the flu. We have a bureaucratic disease and it promises to be far more dangerous than any flu epidemic.
Bird flu poses no great threat to humanity. This disease is simply too lethal to its victims and too fast in killing them to ever pose any significant threat to mankind. With a 50% or so mortality rate occurring in about 5 to 7 days after infection this disease cannot live long enough to spread. It also assures prompt detection. Quick effective countermeasures can be applied. It may be a problem, but H5N1, as this virus is known, is not going to be a mass killer.
A pandemic disease of great danger has a unique pattern for its transmission and lethality. A dangerous pandemic disease will only have a moderate mortality rate in the order of 1% or 2%. This will allow the disease to survive and infect. It will spread slowly and incubate for fairly long periods of time. This provides effective transmission to large numbers of victims. H5N1 simply doesn’t fit the bill. Even in a fairly mutated form this disease has little or no prospect of ever being a serious threat. The high rates of morality for bird flu and its fast transmission will make great headlines. It will not make a great epidemic. This bird flu will die out too fast to amount to anything. This is why the disease after 7 years has only produced a few deaths.
The flu is truly a dangerous disease. In any given year the USA will lose between 10,000 and 50,000 people to the flu. It will make ill in varied degrees of seriousness between a million and 5 million persons. A truly serious flu epidemic could kill millions and make sick large parts of the population. We definitely need much more effective measures to deal with the flu in whatever form that arrives each year.
As Americans roll up their sleeves each year for flu shots and our pharmacies stock up on remedies, the bill for the flu is very high. We spend billions on this. Shockingly these methods are almost worthless.
Flu vaccines being the most effective technical control for the flu are hit and miss at best. Often the flu vaccine provided has no effect on the strain that arrives. Even when it is effective, it only works for about 70% of the people who get it. The mutational behavior of the flu makes vaccine a questionable strategy at best.
While Tamiflu, Amantadine and other drugs may be effective against the flu, they require application almost immediately with the onset of the disease. Their expense makes them limited to groups of the population least likely to be affected. The prescription process, which requires one to visit an MD and then the pharmacy, imposes a time restriction that nearly destroys any effectiveness of these medicines. Americans faced with a genuine and dangerous flu epidemic are likely to watch helplessly as they get medicines too late to have any real effect. Even then the medicine will be only available to the segment of the population least likely to have a problem.
Hand washing is an old technology that is profoundly effective against the flu. It works against all epidemic diseases with very high effectiveness. The level of its effectiveness is dramatic. Hospitals face serious disease threats daily. Many of these diseases lack any effective treatment and are profoundly dangerous. The universally effective measure that contains all of these diseases, is hand washing. It always works. It really doesn’t matter which disease.
No person needs to be treated for a disease that they do not catch. Hand washing stops, or severely reduces, the transmission of nearly every infectious disease. Hand washing stops the transmission of the flu with near total effectiveness. Effective hand washing is the cheap effective and a certain end to the flu. This is already known.
Even your politicians know about hand washing. Every candidate for public office learns to wash their hands repeatedly and often on the campaign trail or they just don’t make it. Hand shaking is possibly the most effective disease transmission method known. A politician who does not wash his hands gets too sick to win office. Rest assured the highest priority for any Presidential trip is to make sure that the hand washing is attended to. As soon as President Bush gets away from the cameras, he washes his hands.
So why are officials in a “panic?” The answer is that they are not in a panic. They are flying to the disease. They wash their hands! They are conducting a shake down by terror of the population of the world. The reasons are many. They all come down to power and money. Big Pharma, is up to shaking down the taxpayers. Politicians are after power. It all comes together. Why else would they propose sending soldiers around to solve this problem? A public campaign to encourage hand washing would solve the problem.
As we have seen, the solutions that are being proposed for mass governmental management of emergencies do not work. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have showed the utter futility of such “emergency management plans.” The cost of these solutions gets higher and higher while the effectiveness gets lower and lower. This is a mafia shake down racket with a disease or a storm as the mob enforcer. The collection agent is the bureaucracy of the government.
Don’t be a part of the latest panic. Learn to wash your hands and generally be clean. Teach others to do the same. Get your schools and public officials to back this up. Get the building codes changed so that bathrooms are friendlier to clean hands. This is really cheap. It doesn’t take away your freedom. It takes away the power of the government. It stops the germs as well.