I quote from an article by Mike Davis in "The Nation": "Avian Influenza is a viral asteroid on collision course with humanity. The flu subtype known as H5N1, now endemic in waterfowl and poultry throughout East Asia ... is the most lethal strain of influenza ever seen, killing chickens, people and even tigers with terrifying ease."
Retiring Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary, Tommy Thompson, when asked what worried him most, cited the threat of a human flu pandemic. "This is a really huge bomb that could adversely impact on the healthcare of the world."
Davis goes on to say in the article, "In October 2000 the Government Accounting Office (GAO) scolded HHS for making so little progress in the development of an avian flu vaccine. It warned that the United States might have only a month (or less) warning before a pandemic became widespread."
Robert Webster of Saint Jude Hospital in Memphis, TN had this to say: "If a pandemic happened today, hospital facilities would be overwhelmed ... Reserves of existing vaccines, M2 inhibitors and NA inhibitors [two types of antiviral drugs] would be quickly depleted, leaving most people vulnerable to infection." The NA inhibitor (Tamiflu) is not a big money maker for the pharmaceutical corporations, because it can't be sold continuously to millions of people like, for example, Prevacid for heartburn or Cialis for "erectile disfunction" Therefore Tamiflu is only made by one corporation, Roche, in a single plant in Switzerland. This is a case were the profit motive just doesn't work and the federal government should quickly step in and see to it that large stockpiles of vaccine and antiviral drugs are available in case the worst happens and the avian flu virus mutates into a strain easily transmitted from human to human.
I conclude with a quote from Republican senator Bill Frist, regarding the possibility of an avian flu outbreak "Hospitals and our long neglected public-health infrastructure would be quickly overwhelmed. ... Millions might perish, with whole families dying..."
Contact your representatives and urge them to take the lead in seeing that we are prepared should an influenza pandemic break out.