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A Little Perspective

by @ 7:43 am on October 18, 2005. Filed under Bird Flu

Don Surber injects a little perspective in the increasing panic over Avian Flu.

29 years ago tomorrow, I stood in line in a gymnasium in Darmstadt, Germany, to roll up my sleeves and take a Swine Flu Shot. Surprisingly, it was one of the few times in my brief military career that I didn’t bitch all day. Everyone else did. They were wondering what the fuss was and why soldiers were being the guinea pigs for this vaccine.

I remember standing in line for a Swine Flu shot as well. I was a kid at the time and remember going with my Mom and standing in line at some armory somewhere in Central New Jersey for the first of what was supposed to be a series of three shots. As it turned out, we never got shot # 2 or 3 because it turned that the vaccine was causing more problems that the flu was. Yet another case of the cure being worse than the disease.

As Don points out, the avian flu has killed just 60 people in two years.

60 people? In two years? Out of 6 billion people? That is a 1 in 100 million chance of catching this crap over a two-year period. You stand a better chance of winning the Powerball (and that’s worth $340 million this week).

Oh it could kill millions, right? Just like SARS was supposed to kill millions. Just like killer bees from Africa were going to kill millions. Just like Mad Cow disease was supposed to kill millions.

So why the panic ?

I suspect WHO and other public health bureaucracies use these minor (1 in 100 million) causes of death to justify their existence and scare budget writers to give them more money. You ever hear of anyone attacking CDC as pork? Yet half the buildings in West Virginia named for Robert C. Byrd involve health spending.

Far be it from me to attribute such base motives to people, but it sounds pretty logical to me. Why the panic over avian flu when other easily treatable diseases are killing millions each year ?
Is it possible that avian flu could develop into something more serious ? Yes, and we should be prepared for it if it does. That doesn’t mean, however, that we need to pretend that the sky is falling.

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