A doctor responds to the epidemic of fear surrounding bird flu
Don't take my word for it. Doctors are downplaying the hysteria over bird flu. Here is an excerpt from an article by an internist which appeared in the LA times.
RedNova News - Health - An Epidemic of Fear
Why the overreaction? For one thing, direct comparisons to the Spanish flu of 1918, a scourge that killed more than 50 million people worldwide, has alarmed the public unnecessarily. In fact, there are many scenarios in which the current bird flu won't mutate into a form as deadly as the 1918 virus.
And even if we accept the Spanish flu scenario, health conditions in 1918 were far worse in most of the world than they are now. Many people lived in squalor; 17 million influenza deaths occurred in India, versus about half a million deaths in the United States. There were no flu vaccinations, no antiviral drugs, and containment by isolating infected individuals wasn't effective, largely because of poor information and poor compliance.
Today's media reach could be a useful tool to aid compliance. Of course, the concern that air travel can spread viral infections faster may be valid, but infected migratory birds were sufficient in 1918.
Unfortunately, public health alarms are sounded too often and too soon. SARS was broadcast as a new global killer to which we had zero immunity, and yet it petered out long before it killed a single person in the United States. SARS was something to be taken seriously, but the real lessons of SARS, smallpox, West Nile virus, anthrax and mad cow disease weren't learned by our leaders - that potential health threats are more effectively examined in the laboratory than at a news conference.