Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The sky is falling and we're all going to die.

I'm willing to make fun of this Strib article because I won't be around to be wrong if it comes true.

Bird flu seen as the next pandemic
Animal diseases emerging in foreign countries are on course to threaten U.S. families, agriculture and the economy in ways that we've never seen, epidemiologist Michael Osterholm said Monday in Minneapolis.

Osterholm, who is associate director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense for Homeland Security, told a national conference of agricultural bankers that he believes the bird flu epidemic in Southeast Asia will become a lethal pandemic.

Last week, the World Health Organization sounded a similar alert, urging preparations for such a pandemic as a matter of national security. And on Monday, researchers at the National Institutes of Health announced initiatives to step up research to stave off an outbreak and develop a response should it hit.

Osterholm projected that a pandemic could kill about 30,000 Minnesotans, 1.7 million Americans and 177 million people worldwide in its first year. The world is unprepared, with inadequate amounts of vaccine or even face masks, he and other experts say.

If the bird flu virus mutates into one that spreads easily among hogs and people, that would slam travel to a halt and cripple the economy, he said.

"This is going to be the most catastrophic thing in my lifetime," Osterholm said. "When this situation unfolds, we will shut down global markets overnight. There will not be movement of goods; there will not be movement of people. This will last for at least a year, maybe two."

Other new threats linked to agriculture include new mosquito-borne diseases that have yet to enter the United States, he said. And since the 2001 terrorist attacks, he said, little has been done to protect the nation's food and water supplies from terrorists.
First Osama bin Laden and now parakeets. What's next? Salamanders and armadillos?


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