Friday, October 24, 2008


I think that the lack of serious flu outbreaks, especially since the non-events of Swine Flu, Russian Flu, SARS, and initial over hyped Avian Flu scare in combination with the always touted "flu shots" have worked to breed a level of complacency that could prove to be catastrophic for the population of the United States.

We've been bombarded for years with dire warnings about the coming "pandemic". The fact of the matter is that we haven't seen a true pandemic since 1968.

The Asian Flu of 1957-58 killed an estimated 69,800 people in the United States. The flu appeared in two waves, one appearing between October and December of 1957, and the second between January and February of 1958. Total worldwide deaths attributed to the Asian Flu stands at two million.

In 1968, I actually remember this even though I was only four at the time, another flu raced through humankind. Some of you also may remember the Hong Kong Flu. Estimated US deaths were near 34,000 people.

That would be like killing everyone in my town. Six times.

The evening news was filled with stories of the spread of the flu, and I remember the tension in the house as my mother and father watched Walter Cronkite and Roger Mudd on the CBS news. Total worldwide deaths are estimated at 700,000.

In each outbreak, the highest rates of infection were among school age children aged five to nineteen. The rates of infection were also high among pregnant women, and young adults aged 20 to 30. The elderly suffered the highest mortality rates.

1968 marked the end of the pandemic influenzas for the 20th Century.

However, it was not the end of the threat of a potential pandemic.

1976 is the year the American Public was threatened with the "Swine Flu". It was discovered in the area immediately surrounding Fort Dix, New Jersey, but never spread beyond its initial area.

1977 The Russian Flu. The most severe outbreak was limited to an area of northern China. It affected primarily those under the age of 23.

1997 Avian Influenza Subtype H5N1. "Bird Flu"is the more common name we are familiar with.

1999 Avian Influenza Subtype H9N2. Also known as "Bird Flu".

The Bird Flu is interesting in that it appears that its primary transmission vector is from infected birds directly to humans. In other words, it is difficult for a human to contract the virus. There does not, at this time, seem to be any verified case of human to human transmission. There have been 122 verified cases of human infection with a total of 62 deaths.

This is where the significant area of concern is.

The influenza virus mutates readily due to its structure. It is able to recombine with other viruses easily, swapping traits between the two viruses. The fear is that the Bird Flu virus will find a virus that likes humankind. The two viruses will begin the swapping of genetic code. Eventually the Bird Flu virus will adopt a gene to allow the Bird Flu to change into something that is able to hop from human to human as easily as it hops from bird to bird.

Watch this YouTube video courtesy of Hybrid Medical Animation ( for a visual overview of the process:

Bear in mind that out of 122 people, 62 of them died. Even with today's modern miracles, there was a greater than 50% mortality rate.

As of November 2005, the virus has been detected in most areas of the world in migratory bird populations.

May of 2005 was the first detection in pigs. Swine are thought to be where most flu viruses make the jump from animal hosts to human hosts.

There is the possibility that the virus will mutate itself out of being a threat to mankind, but so far it appears to be on track to become more of a threatening pathogen.

Current estimates of world wide deaths resulting from a pandemic Bird Flu are a conservative CDC (US Centers For Disease Control And Prevention) number of 1.7 to 2 million. Dmitri Lvov, Director of the Ivanovsky Research Institute of Virology, estimates a potential ONE BILLION deaths globally in the FIRST SIX months of a Bird Flu pandemic.

The conservative numbers of two million people would, in all probability, not significantly affect the day to day operation of the world. However, one billion people could pose a significant challenge for our modern, increasingly interconnected world.

Think of what could potentially happen if a significant number of key people were unable to perform their duties due to illness or death? Air traffic controllers, pilots, truck drivers, police and firefighters, doctors and nurses, longshoremen, military personnel, nuclear plant operators, train engineers, farmers, ranchers, butchers, etc. Now couple that with a serious storm, either atmospheric, or what we are currently experiencing economically.

I think it becomes rather obvious for the potential of a serious breakdown in the supply chain, and the normal functioning of our society.

Now, what can you do to prepare for the potential of a flu pandemic?


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