Does The Avian Flu (H5N1) pose a threat to the United States?

Let’s review the facts of the case before pressing for an answer:

1) According to the CDC, antibodies that protect humans against viruses do not exist because Influenza A viruses originate in birds. This makes each one of us vulnerable. The elderly, sick, young children, babies, pregnant women, as well as other high risks are even more likely to become ill. Because of this lack of antibodies in the global population, the deaths involved could be comparable to The Spanish Influenza (atrributed for killing over 500,000 Americans & at least 20 million worldwide)

2) The H5N1 virus has been mutating rapidly. While the virus’s current form hasn’t appeared to have successfully adapt to infect humans, the general consensus is that it is only a matter of time. Some still have been infected by direct contact with poultry or contanimated surfaces, but scientists also believe some human-to-human infections have occurred, too. Since few humans have become ill AND that the virus is constantly changing, developing an anti-virus to handle this strain isn’t possible now. Not only do humans need to be infected, the genetic strains that infect them need to be isolated BEFORE an anti-virus vaccines can be developed.

3) Even if a cure or treatment is found, manufacturing any drug will take a great deal of time. According to reports I have read, there are 4 drugs that can treat these various flu strains. The Asian Flu and Hong Flu have appeared to develop some resistance to a couple of these drugs.
Two medicines available in this category, generically known by the name Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), are also not proven against the current strain of H5N1. The same report also states that the effectiveness of these drugs may relie on already being present in the body for them to work. Because treatment might rely on several doses instead of just one dose, the small supply becomes even more limited.

4) Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota who also
is a U.S. government adviser, has been quoted to say that he is concerned about the lack of preparation that our country has done. Even in the face of disease pandemics, Mr. Osterholm doesn’t believe that we have considered the reality of this threat.

5) Our government has recently released a 381-page plan that calls for quarantine and travel restrictions. It also concedes that such measures “are unlikely to delay introduction of pandemic disease into the U.S. by more than a month or two.” The plan outlines a worst-case scenario in which more than 1.9 million Americans would die and 8.5 million would be hospitalized with costs exceeding $450 billion. (Oct 10, 2005 – San Francisco Chronicle) While The President has mentioned imposing quarantines in the case of an emergency, the plan does not specifically mention the use of military in such a circumstance.

6) Remember the FEMA response to Katrina?

So, the short answer, here, would be no.


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