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"What is the difference between a realist and a dreamer? The realist thinks that someday a UFO will come down and hover over the UN building, and that the aliens will come out of the UFO and offer to share their technology and solve all our world's problems.

The dreamer thinks maybe we can get our act together and do it ourselves."

Russian joke [It's a joke?] cited in William K. Hartmann, A Traveler's Guide to Mars.

11 October 2005

Bird flu facts and fiction

Please see my current blog (at molvray.com/acid-test) for this post. It's filed under the same name and date in the Archives.

The material here is being stolen by a cheesy marketer as filler for a linkfarm.

13 Comments:

Anonymous mistah charley, ph.d. said...

Very sensible and good advice. I'd add one more general category of actions to take in anticipation of a possible pandemic:

Prepare for an interruption of commerce - in other words, have enough food, water, etc. on hand to last for several weeks (or more), just in case the stores are closed or empty if this turns out REALLY bad.

10/07/2005 7:01 AM  
Blogger EZSmirkzz said...

I've enjoyed you reasonable and sensible posts since I first read one at Deepaks place on ID. That was why I linked to you, and this post is another reason why I am glad I did.

10/07/2005 9:36 AM  
Blogger quixote said...

I think the interruption of commerce is going to be the major damaging effect of any flu pandemic, bird or otherwise. Fatalities are tragic, but, *by themselves*, their effect is devastating only on those immediately concerned. The economic effect of SARS, for instance, was humongous.

The suggestion to make sure you have canned goods and clean water for several weeks is a good one in general these days, given our chickenhawk-without-a-head that passes for an Administration.

10/07/2005 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Rich Puchalsky said...

Fiction 2 about quarantine is fine, but Fiction 1 is not really reassuring. If the avian flu mutates to easy human-to-human transmission with a 2% death rate, and 30% of people catch it, that's quite enough to be concerned about.

Fact 1 and 3 are fine, but for Fact 2, I don't know whether face masks are really so useless. Flu doesn't just float on flu-sized particles through the air; it's in water droplets. The water droplets might be caught by the mask even though a bare virus would not.

10/12/2005 6:44 PM  
Blogger quixote said...

I agree that if even a few people die, that's something to be concerned about. The only good fatality rate is zero. I'm not saying we shouldn't be *concerned*, I'm saying we shouldn't race off and do stupid things that feel good (punitive quarantine, taking tamiflu incorrectly) and actually make the problem worse. It's one of those situations where to do right by ourselves, we have to do right by everybody.

The problem with face masks is analogous to that with Star Wars missile defense: sure, even a dust mask will trap the odd virus + something particle, but thousands can get though, so it's really irrelevant. However, as I said, even though they don't stop viruses, they stop you from touching your face, and that DOES stop viruses.

The BBC has a whole series of informative articles:
Quick Guide: Bird Flu
Corporate effects: Firms brace for possible pandemic
and global impact, showing flyways of migratory birds.

Remember that the bird flu virus has NOT yet mutated to a human-to-human transmissible form, and that there is no way to know what that form will look like. It doesn't exist yet. That's why appropriate public health measures (ability to produce and distribute vaccine in weeks, enough antivirals to stockpile and ability to distribute in days) are so important. That's why our frazzled public health system is so dangerous. And why tamiflu producer's Roche's arrogance in putting its monopoly ahead of public health is so criminal.

10/16/2005 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Yusuf Smith said...

In the second, you go to the hospital, get tested, are quarantined for an unspecified length of time, your family is quarantined and unable to go to work, pay the rent, go to school, or do anything they have to do. The money spent on finding and quarantining you and yours is not available to provide an adequate supply of drugs. It's a no-brainer that in the second case you'll rush to the hospital and turn yourself in. Not.

Is anyone really talking about doing such a thing? During the 1665 London plague it was called "shutting up", and was acknowledged to have increased mortality rates by ensuring that members of infected people's families got the disease. No doubt it'll do the same with bird flu.

10/16/2005 10:20 PM  
Blogger quixote said...

Oddly enough, given how stupid it is, the answer is yes. US may use military quarantine to contain flu - Bird Flu - MSNBC.com. (Just one of dozens of links by searching on 'Bush flu quarantine') This is the Shrub's idea of the best course of action. Maybe somebody at the CDC can find out what his phone number is and get him to listen, but the track record on reality-based interventions with this administration are not good.

10/18/2005 9:33 AM  
Blogger quixote said...

Oct 21, update re Roche, flamed above (approx. Oct. 15th) for arrogance. Two or three days ago, bad PR and the ability of governments to force compulsory licensing on grounds of national need, forced Roche to begin discussing licensing. Better late than never? Don't know. I've certainly lost all respect for them. Lots of other people probably have too.

10/21/2005 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Bob Payne said...

"The risk is especially high for air travellers because the airlines save money by recirculating air without filtering it well enough, by keeping the air too dry because that's cheaper, and by keeping its oxygen content too low, likewise because that's cheaper."

Follow up: We live at high altitude, Lake Tahoe--7,000 feet to be exact. We have found that virus born sickness (colds and flu) are not as frequent up here. Are we just dreaming or does high altitued offer protection? Is it better to have dry air in an airplane with a flu case or two aboard?

10/22/2005 5:50 PM  
Blogger quixote said...

7,000 feet ... We have found that virus born sickness (colds and flu) are not as frequent up here

Interesting. No, I've never heard of any preventive effect of high altitude. My guess would be that folks living at Lake Tahoe don't live in high densities, and are also healthier and fitter than the average.

10/24/2005 10:18 AM  
Blogger Sanjay said...

With some certainity, it can be said that bird flu is in the incubating stages here in India.

I'm not sure why people are so paranoid about bird flu. Bird flu is *far* more fatal to birds than humans. Calm down, take a step back and breathe.. and stop hoarding tamiflu.

10/29/2005 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that no one is "walking on the sunny side of the street" (US slang for being optimistic) with regard to bird flu--every time you look at the papers, the governments of the Western world are "whinging" (how I love that word) about how the old pensioners are dragging down their economies by being such a drain on Social Security, Medicare, etc.
If the bird flu rips through the population and kills off all these old farts, the economic effects will be POSITIVE rather than negative.
As you do your holiday shopping this year in the crowded malls and terrible traffic, imagine how nice it would be if half of all these people cluttering up the landscape would go away.
The only way commerce will take a blow is from the panic caused by bird flu; the long term beneficial effects of gettting rid of surplus population will more than make up for it.

11/18/2005 12:22 PM  
Blogger quixote said...

(Hmmm. A tad heartless, but I gather that some historians think the Black Death may have helped bring in the Renaissance for exactly that reason.

Of course, in the interests of promoting the subsequent Enlightenment, all readers of this blog should be among the survivors....)

11/19/2005 1:49 PM  

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