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View Diary: H5N1 And The Long War Against Flu (158 comments)

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  •  Example to examine for lessons? (2+ / 0-)
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    1864 House, SciMathGuy

    There was another world-threatening crisis not all that long ago. Remember Y2K? The press was really excited about that one, and had everyone waiting at the end of 1999 to see if everything was going to crash and shut down. When it didn't happen, Y2K got turned into a joke.

    But, the reason it could be turned into a joke was because a huge effort was taken all around the world to check legacy computer code, go over critical systems, etc. and fix the problem before it happened. But, because there was no disaster, many people took that to mean it was a panic over nothing.

    The longer an outbreak of bird flu takes to appear, the less concerned people will be about preparing for it, lulled into complacency. We've spent the last 7 years being told to be afraid of lots of things, so anything that doesn't seem to be an immediate threat tends to get put on the back burner.

    I wonder if it would be effective to find ways to tie preparation for an H5N1 outbreak into other health issues that might not be getting as much attention, but could show immediate positive results so that they'd tend to build self-sustaining momentum? While it might detract from direct efforts to prepare for H5N1, the broader strengthening of the world's healthcare systems might more than compensate for that if done with attention. In other words, pursue broader aims that attract more support in order to advance a more focused agenda.

    I will admit that when I see things like the governor and legislature of Louisiana putting so much time and effort into the drive to stamp out the theory of evolution, I despair of rational actions from the politicians on matters like this, where science MUST trump politics. At the risk of sounding very cynical, I have to wonder what the response would be to an epidemic that preferentially targeted the wealthiest 1% of the world.

    We've seen how victim demographics can slow a response by authorities, as with AIDS initially and with New Orleans. I suspect preparations for H5N1 would pick right up with the right celebrity victim getting media attention.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 10:01:25 AM PDT

    •  excellent point (3+ / 0-)
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      xaxnar, 1864 House, SciMathGuy

      but, the reason it could be turned into a joke was because a huge effort was taken

      That is exactly right.

      I would be happy to rebuild public health infrastructure to cover the possibility/inevitability of a pandemic OR prep for a pandemic, which will rebuild public health infrastructure.

      However you get there is good.

      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

      by Greg Dworkin on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 10:09:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Great idea, but... (0+ / 0-)

        ... in this country, all of those Y2K preps were made by bidnesses paying good money for some work that they needed to keep their bidnesses making moolah. When it comes to health care, especially public health care (read: health care for everyone, rich and poor alike), rebuilding will be a bigger problem - because so many folks don't want to fund it at all. Why bother? The rich in this country are sure that they can always go to their doctors and buy their medicines and go home and get well. For the poor - let 'em eat chicken soup (assuming that any chickens survive).

        BTW - Are you aware that 70% of smokers who die are nagged to death?

        by SciMathGuy on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 12:20:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's why (1+ / 0-)
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          I make the point about victim demographics. Who gets excited about poor Chinese farmers dying because they live with their flocks right outside the door? But, if Wall Street bankers suddenly started getting H5N1 over their expense account lunches it would be a very different story.

          The top people in the administration and Congress get really great health care; at some level they don't feel health threats the way the rest of us do - but they DO worry about being accused of spending too much money at election time. If we treated H5N1 as seriously as the administration has hyped terrorism, it'd be a different story altogether. The fact that more people may die from flu than 911 or the Iraq war raises no more concern among them than the warning "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." did.

          Hell, last time I looked, CDC had a lot of overseas disease surveillance positions unfilled because the administration was insisting on screening the ideological purity of the potential candidates.

          "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

          by xaxnar on Sun Jul 13, 2008 at 02:27:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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