Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Avian Flu Common Sense

Tom Bethell is a level-headed fellow and a practiced observer/commentator. He has a few thoughts on the Avian Flu scare worth considering:

Avian flu has been grossly exaggerated and it's time someone said so. There have been all of 60 deaths, worldwide. The same virus infected 18 people in Hong Kong in 1997. Then, two years ago, there were a handful of cases in both Vietnam (population 83 million) and Thailand (population 66 million). In both countries combined, 20 people, known to have been working with chickens, contracted influenza symptoms. All this is from the New England Journal of Medicine.

... Public-health departments annually come up with something to scare us. Remember SARS? That was another huge scare. In the end, 770 people died worldwide. To put that in perspective, about 55 million people die around the world every year, 2.4 million of them in the United States. It is said 1968 was another "pandemic" year; 34, 000 Americans died of flu. But about that many die of flu every year -- most of pneumonia.

...The media plays along for several reasons. They fall for the argument it is better to be safe than sorry. Also, scary headlines sell newspapers. So the press and public health agencies have a shared interest. One wants a bigger slice of the budget and the other wants greater circulation.

...By 2000, some 25 million Africans were said to have AIDS. This was seen as a threat to U.S. national security. African nations could not provide for their own security; half of those under 15 were destined for an early death; populations were threatened with collapse, and so on. Twenty years later, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is one of the world's fastest-growing. It has increased by more than 300 million since 1985, or by more than the total population of the United States.

Some pandemic. But the Bush administration fell for that one, too, and came up with $15 billion to combat it.

NIH, like NASA, loves budget dollars.

Another way to put it: perhaps the Impending Doom is a shortage of Federal Tax Dollars. It is NOT Impending Doom that the taxpayer has no money. Never. Nope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, that's good to hear, not surprising, though. I just have to let my daughter read it. Every Monday morning, she says she thinks she's got the Avian flu.

I would tell her what I really think she's got, but then I would have to listen to non-stop complaining about how insensitive I am toward someone who has the Avian flu.