Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Whatever happened to Bird Flu?

I have just watched a documentary about the top ten deadliest pathogens; it had all the usual suspects on there, Ebola, HIV, Malaria, Anthrax, Bubonic Plague, Smallpox, Cholera, etc, etc. As well as influenza; which got me thinking whatever happened to Bird Flu, everyone seemed so sure it was going to be one of the biggest disasters in history. I used to read everyday how the killer flu was spreading from birds to humans at an alarming rate, that the virus had one of the highest death rates, and was similar to the flu virus from 1918, commonly known as Spanish flu, which killed between 50 – 100 million people, far more than the First World War. I remember watching documentaries saying how the virus might move when it finally mutated into an airborne pathogen, and that the death rate could be as high as 500 million. Most alarmingly about the bird flu virus was that it was more harmful to the young, meaning it had the potential to wipe out the youth of the world. Yet none of this has happened, we had the Mexican flu scare or swine flu, the alarmist nonsense which terrified the world for a couple of months probably costing the economy billions of dollars. At the time I thought it was the calm before the storm, I thought that we are over reacting to Swine Flu and this would mean we might miss the potentially more deadly Bird Flu.

What does it all mean? Is it still a danger? Or was it over exaggerated; as we humans seem to do quite often, so we can create more apocalyptic nightmares for our children. I suppose there still is the potential for it to hit and devastate the world, but I do find it strange how it seems to have disappeared so quickly from the major alert it was causing less than 18 months ago to now.

I wish we as a species could be a bit more logical in our approach to the supposed critical, apocalyptic, doom scenarios some believe will happen to cause the end of our civilisation. We love to build them up, to make these possible global killers far more dangerous than they probably are. In fact I would say we cause more harm by this doom mongering than if we just were truthful and said yes there is a chance Bird Flu may hit, but it is small, and we are doing everything we can to prevent it. There is also a chance, a super volcano might explode, or an asteroid or comet may hit, the planet. Then of course (I had to mention it) to nasty global warming and badly named climate change, as well as nuclear bombs, earthquakes, oh let’s not forget Nostradamus’s bullshit prophecies. There is also the religious nut jobs, who seem to want the world to end, and I nearly forgot Tsunamis, they say the large slab of one of the Canary Islands may fall into the Atlantic and send a massive wave over 100 metres high across to hit the Eastern Seaboard of America. Aliens may come like Independence Day and blow us up, or like the X-files, and infiltrate us. I am being a bit facetious, but they are all as likely as one another, but as my mother used to say, you are more likely to be hit by a bus, so should we really worry about them all. Who knows?

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