Bird flu will kill us all
Like religious convictions and global warming, I suppose it depends upon whom, or what, one chooses to believe.One side of the cuckoo fence claims a potentially cataclysmic pandemic (global epidemic) that could kill up to 2 million Americans, with a “best case” scenario of only 200,000 American deaths.Okey-dokey. The other side claims government and corporate heads are conspiring to create the type of panic that will allow them both to make over $200 billion in worldwide vaccine sales.Sounds pretty cut and dry.So which is it?The only thing scientists on both sides seem to agree on is the name “H5N1,” which is nothing more than a standardized coding system of proteins involved in the virus itself. From that point forward they tend to agree as well as Sunnis and Shiites.Recent history has seen a number of major flu pandemics, beginning with the most devastating in 1918 that killed more than 500,000 in the U.S. and anywhere from 20 million to 50 million worldwide (I can only assume the act of counting was more difficult back then). For those searching for magical beings or evil New World Order type governments to blame for the curse, it was believed to have originated in Kansas. Feel free to draw your own “intelligent” conclusions.After that we had the 1957 Asian flu (first identified in China) that caused roughly 70,000 deaths, followed by the Hong Kong flu of 1968 killing about 34,000.H5N1 emerged in 1997, and marked the first time that an influenza virus jumped directly from birds to humans, which is of course the main reason behind all the hyperbolic reactions of today.According to scientists at WHO (World Health Organization), at least seven strains of H5N1 have evolved since, each connected in one way or another with poultry, affecting almost 200 people, killing half. Notice the use of the word “evolved”? For those still stuck in the 14th century, it is formally called evolution, and has been occurring daily for the past 3 billion years or so on our planet.These little H5N1 buggers constantly adapt to an ever-changing environment in order to survive, just like every other living entity that has ever existed on this planet, including those with the ability to gamble during March Madness. Think about that next time some of you are trying to convince yourselves about the planet only being 6,000 years old and you are living your entire life for the sole purpose of being lifted up to Neverland while the rest burn in hell.But I digress.Make no mistake about it, these tiny little microbial creatures do indeed exist, and their sole purpose is to survive, regardless of the consequences to other trivial life forms that happen to get in their way.Hence the fear.Evidently we learned nothing from the SARS panic of 2002, or even worse, the swine flu scare in the mid-’70s. That was the one allowing pharmaceutical companies to rush out and produce 5 million vials of questionable vaccine while the nation jumped up and down in collective panic, and ended up causing more deaths (along with the Guillain Barre paralysis syndrome) with the vaccine than the swine flu epidemic itself, which of course never actually materialized. And now (last Sunday) we have the National Jewish Front claiming the bird flu outbreak in southern Israel is God’s punishment for the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank disengagement.Yep, that’ll help calm the masses. Plus I’m sure it means a great deal to the families of those that have died from the bird flu in southeast China, being that they’re so closely related and all.Anyway, we must understand that most of the people who have acquired H5N1 were bird handlers in continuous contact with sick birds. We just need to relax, take a step back, and realize that the odds are better for each of us to win the lottery on the same day we get struck by lightning than getting the BS (Bird Super) flu.Eat right, exercise, take vitamins, get plenty of sleep, and for Pete’s sake stay away from coughing and sneezing birds with runny beaks.While some will equate it with the coming of the Apocalypse, I put it along the lines of CostCo coming to Eagle County. We’ll see what happens if and when it gets here.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com Vail, Colorado
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