Originally Posted by Obi
You know, I heard a physician interviewed on NPR about this who said he was very frustrated by the amount of alarm his patients were expressing. He has had many of his clients make appointments JUST to talk about bird flu. Many of these same people who are worried about bird flu and came to talk to him are one or more of the above: overweight, smokers, sedentary, high blood pressure, etc. His point? Most people should be far more worried about managing their obesity or kicking their smoking habit than they should be about bird flu. I mean, many of our existing human flu viruses, including the one I had a few weeks ago, are avian in origin.
The reason that health organizations are worried about this is only because if they get a big influx of sick people all at the same time it will strain resources. Really, if you are a reasonably healthy adult you may get sick but it's unlikely you'll die. And if you aren't reasonably healthy, then the best thing you could do is to take steps to correct that, if possible. In other words, kick your smoking habit, try and lose some weight, etc.
I certainly agree that many of the people who are worried about the bird flu are probably more likely to die of existing conditions or their own bad habits. However, it's shortsighted to assume that this avian flu will be like most other flus—a relative few get sick, and fewer die, mostly the elderly and very young. Here's why:
1. The Spanish flu virus of 1918-19 that killed 50 to 100 million people—for comparison, the census count of the total US population in 1920 was 106,021,537—was recently discovered to have originated from a bird flu.
2. H5N1, the current avian flu, is exhibiting some of the same traits as the Spanish flu. Both jump(ed) directly from birds to humans with no intervening animal host.
3. Most of the people killed by the Spanish flu were "reasonably healthy adults." It did not target the very young, the very old, the already sick. It took out those in the prime of life, and it did so quickly and efficiently.
4. Natural flu pandemics occur every 30 years or so. We're due. In fact, we're overdue.
I'm not saying that this avian flu will be a repeat of the 1918-1919 epidemic. So far, it doesn't seem to transfer easily from human to human. All I'm saying is we'd better not get too complacent about it.