Monday, March 20, 2006

A Cloud on the Cusp of Spring

The prospect of avian flu mutating to the point of allowing human-to-human transmission continues to be a potential global disaster of unprecedented proportions. One expert's estimate is that up to 50% of the world’s population could perish.

I watched Dr. Robert Webster of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, being interviewed on ABC News last week. The scientist’s matter-of-fact discussion of his certainty that this plague will come to pass was bone-chilling. This interview excerpt shows just how seriously he takes the bird flu threat:

"I personally believe it will happen* and make personal preparations," said Webster, who has stored a three-month supply of food and water at his home in case of an outbreak.

"Society just can't accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility," Webster said. "I'm sorry if I'm making people a little frightened, but I feel it's my role."

*emphasis added

There is a U.S. government website,, dedicated to the subject of avian flu. The site contains recommended advance preparations in the event of a human outbreak, and relevant medical and news developments. The CDC also has an extensive website dedicated to the virus, packed with information and linked to the official government site. I have both sites bookmarked.

Let’s hope and pray that human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus never develops. But if it does, we can never say we weren’t warned.