It sends a chill up my spine when I realize that the same folks who brought us a mismanaged Iraq war, bungled hurricane relief efforts, and a host of other debacles, are in charge of protecting Americans from a potentially devastating avian (bird) flu epidemic.
Bernadine Healy, M.D., a former director of the National Institutes of Health, said that we are “Unprepared for Bird Flu” in a recent issue of U.S. News & World Report. Her uncheery assessment starts off with:
When the avian flu brewing in Asia hits our shores--as most experts believe will happen--and if it maintains its virulence as it morphs--as it is almost a sure bet to do--into a fast-spreading human form, infecting tens of millions of people, the scenario that unfolds will be unlike any other Americans have ever seen.
And it gets scarier from there: “Hospital wards will be choked with thousands of victims young and old. They will be hooked up to respirators, lying in comas, and dying as their heart and blood vessels fail massively.”
My own doctor told me, “It isn’t a question of if a deadly flu pandemic will sweep the world. It’s a question of when.” Once the avian flu evolves into a human strain (creationist denials of evolution won’t stop this from happening), it will take time to develop a vaccine. And then, more time to make and distribute it.
It’s good that the U.S. government is starting to spend money on preparing for an avian flu epidemic. The Senate has moved to appropriate $8 billion, but that’s peanuts compared to what is being spent in Iraq.
President Bush, you say that we’re fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them here. How about applying that same reasoning to battling the avian flu? Dr. Healy says that decisive steps have to be taken now so that hundreds of thousands or even millions of Americans won’t die when a pandemic hits.
We need a frank and open public discussion if we intend to beat back the many challenges of caring for the sick in a time of pandemic. Catapulting medical care half a century backward is not inevitable, even if it looks that way at the moment, and the prospect is instantly abhorrent if you imagine that you, or those you love, are among the flu-stricken. Already, I see visions of Katrina: finger-pointing as the census of lost souls begins to add up, the feds faulted for not bringing in the cavalry. It doesn't have to be.No, it doesn’t. But the track record of the Bush administration is pitiful when it comes to dealing with disasters. So it’s understandable why lots of people have been stocking up on the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, causing the maker, Roche, to suspend private shipments to the United States.
The federal government is stockpiling Tamiflu. But given the agonizingly slow bungled fashion in which the feds distributed supplies to Hurricane Katrina victims, I’m not expecting that a FEMA employee will be on people’s doorsteps handing them a Tamiflu packet if they come down with the avian flu.
So I’ve ordered a goodly supply of Cold-fX from a Canadian company, Posiwell. This is a ginseng-based product that has been proven effective in clinical trials. Prevention is the best treatment, and Cold-fX seems to strengthen the immune system. I’ve also got some n95 masks to protect against avian flu sitting in our medicine cabinet.
Hopefully a flu pandemic won’t hit the United States. But since there’s a good chance that it will, I don’t advise trusting that the Bush administration will take care of you.