Even after 18 months, little preparedness for H5N1 bird flu

Docs fear world not ready for bird flu pandemic:

“I hope H5N1 won’t be able to acquire transmissibility because this is an extraordinary quagmire,” Robert Webster, a world-class expert on the virus, said at the annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy meeting this week in San Francisco.

“Don’t become complacent. We need to put into place every possible way” to stop this virus from transmitting from human to human, he said….

“Like the Spanish flu, if (the bird flu is) going to acquire transmissibility, it has been estimated it will take something like 10 critical mutations,” Webster said.

What’s troubling to me as the former editor of ZDY2K, which was about the potential problem with some computing systems ability to transition to the 21st century (grossly overblown and I had to try to debunk doomsday scenarios constantly), is that the ads appearing H5N1 stories like this one on Physorg.com, are playing the over-prepare card already. Folks are giving up on government and the market to provide a response to bird flu.

It’s times like this that government—even if most conservatives are misarchists who hate government and the idea that it can work—can have a huge impact. And the U.S. could certainly use some good-saving-lives PR. If we would just put a lot of money to work to develop a vaccine in an open-data environment, it would not be necessary to scare half the world’s population into thinking it’s every man, woman and child for themselves.

This is one of those times when government should believe it can create a solution. It could do it by guaranteeing to buy all the vaccine needed to inoculate people in hot zones or by inventing the vaccine in government labs and giving it away after paying for production.

Seriously, if the United States wanted to earn some global karma to make up for all the wasted good will after 9/11, eradicating bird flu would be a high-yield project. So, get on with it, already. And gaining a little more faith in Americans deciding to work together through government wouldn’t be the worst thing to achieve, since the more we work together through whatever organizations lend themselves to particular projects, the better we will be as nation.

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Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.