Saturday, October 15, 2005

A bird discussion

Effects of the bird flu
Hey, I like the idea of hundreds of millions of people dying and trekking cross-country in the winter to save my family and girlfriend as much as the next guy, but I am not so sure the bird flu is all it is made out to be. So I did a little reading on the Internet.

Source: "The influenza of that season [ed - 1918], however, was far more than a cold. In the two years that this scourge ravaged the earth, a fifth of the world's population was infected. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. This pattern of morbidity was unusual for influenza which is usually a killer of the elderly and young children. It infected 28% of all Americans (Tice)."


"The influenza virus had a profound virulence, with a mortality rate at 2.5% compared to the previous influenza epidemics, which were less than 0.1%"

I have read a lot of scary facts about the 1918 Influenza Pandemic or a modern Pandemic, but I have seen very few hard estimates of what the effect would be today. So I will put together some numbers for you, if the infection and death rates of modern pandemic were similar to what they were in 1918.

1. Population of earth: Around 6.47 billion (source)
2. Population of America: 295,734,134 (source)

295,734,134 x .28 = 82,805,558 infected (rounded up) .
82,805,558 x .025 = 2,070,139 killed (rounded up).

6,470,000,000 x .28 = 1,811,600,000 infected
1,811,600,000 x .025 = 45,290,000 killed

NOTE: Please do not add either those four to two numbers together to get totals. One is for just America (to make it personal); the other is just for the world (to scare you.)

So I turns out hundreds of millions of people will NOT die, but millions will.

Chances of it actually happening
Now what is the chance that the current bird flu will actually turn into a deadly pandemic (I.e. Jump from Human to Human instead of from bird to human and then stop)? Source: "It [ed - 1918 flu pandemic] has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history."

Basically the 1918 pandemic was a one-time occurrence in the recorded history of the world. Which in retrospect is quite short. In my opinion, it is not very likely that a pandemic will occur. I would say it is less likely than a hurricane or earthquake, but more likely than a major asteroid hit. I personally don't know which one is more likely, suitcase nuke or bird flu I will call it a tie between those two.

I personally have not decided to prepare for this specific threat.... now. By preparing for this specific threat, I mean purchasing those drugs that those crazy survivalist keep mentioning I could change my position on this one, once I look into the cost of those drugs. Though I do plan on make general preparations (supplies of food, water, books, and video games), which will help with this specific threat. I know I for one could use a vacation.

Source:""Quarantine" means restricting the movement of still healthy people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease, in case they're carrying it. It's almost always for a brief time; during SARS, for instance, hospital workers exposed to suspect cases were asked to stay home from work during the respiratory disease's 10-day incubation period."

More info: Men's health article (some actual research was done for this article)



Sandcastle said...

There is not a great chance that the bird flu will mutate into a superflu, but the swine flu was a mutated animal flu and it killed more people than any other epidemic (real numbers, not percentage). That is why they are so concerned. It seems like the only worthwhile drug to invest in would be a vaccine, which can't be created until the disease actually mutates.

JR said...

There has not been a single case of human-to-human transmission, but look at the headlines. Nuts.

My great-grandmother was a victim of the Spanish Influenza, just one of 25 million or so people. She lived in New Orleans.

This bird flu is all about headlines right now.

Cubicle said...


It is true the most effective defence is is a vaccine, but general antiviruals do exists.

here is the main one people mention

and here is a report of the bird flue becoming resistant to the above drug

"There has not been a single case of human-to-human transmission, "

NOT a confirmed case, but there are some cases that we are not so sure about.

start here

and here

"This bird flu is all about headlines right now."

I would agree, but if it starts jumping from humans to humans it is going to spread faster than the 1918 bug, because

1) American is more moblie than in 1918
2) The world is more morbil in general than 1918
3) There is more incontintanental traffice than ever before than in 1918.

Even if the bird flu is half as bad as spainish flu, more people will die and the effects could possibly be worse, because of america's mobility.

transientforeigner said...

The panic among health professionals over the avian flu is due to how it has been transmitted. One typically stable and predictable attribute of flu strains is that they cannot jump from birds to humans. The virus is traditionally transmitted from birds to pigs and then to humans. This flu strain has jumped from birds directly to humans in the same way the strain did with the Spanish Influenza. That is why health professionals are reacting with such dire predictions.

It is misleading to look at the incidences of super-flu epidemics through history (one known) and conclude that it is unlikely to happen again. The closer comparison is to look at the number of times the flu has jumped from birds directly to humans (once before now) and to look at what happened as a result. From that analysis preparation is all the more warranted.