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Bird Flu

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USA Today has a long piece on those who are preparing, overpreparing, and scoffing at H5N1.

One skeptic is Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist an author of a book on fearing to much:

“We’re going to have a lot of problems if we keep alarming ourselves about things that aren’t going to happen,” he says. If the H5N1 virus starts to spread among humans, it could become less virulent, or it could fizzle out, he says.

Siegel doesn’t discount the possibility of a future pandemic, only its likely imminence.

“There are a lot of disagreements among public health experts, but one thing everybody agrees on is there is no sense that this is about to happen.”

I think Siegel should have been asked about probabilities. If there is a 5% chance that in 2006 the avian flu will change into one that is easily passed from human to human, and which remains as deadly as the current human fatality rate indicates, then what ought governments to be doing now?

“Should we be scared? That depends on who you ask,” concluded an AP report from mid-October.

Prudent government officials will do basic planning –if we had to quarantine flu victims, where would we do it?– and interested parties will keep their eye on the WSJ.com’s avian flu news tracker.

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