The Next Pandemic - Can We Get It Right This Time?
Two years ago, we were hit with COVID-19. The national pandemic plan that had been carefully crafted for dealing with such an eventuality was in short order scrapped. Instead of focusing on quarantining sick people, protecting the most vulnerable, and pushing therapeutic or even prophylactic use of drugs like hydroxychloroquine that were cheap and effective we did the unthinkable. We locked down healthy people, mandated the wearing of useless cloth masks, forbade therapeutic treatment, and bet our lives on the effectiveness of radical, experimental “vaccines” that have proven at best useless.
Our response to this pandemic was a complete failure. After decades of supposed preparation for such an eventuality, we were undone by the forces of corporate greed and government overreach. Real science took a back seat to the need to make money and extend the power of bureaucrats and politicians.
All of the misguided COVID-19 pandemic measures are now being scrapped. Despite the desire of government bureaucrats to control every aspect of our lives and Big Pharma’s unquenchable thirst for profit, the COVID-19 theater measures are being dismantled.
Politics has intervened. Midterms are coming, and Americans are heartily sick of being ordered about.
Unfortunately, in the real-world things keep happening. New diseases keep emerging. The necessity to prepare for something potentially much worse than COVID-19 is just as pressing as it ever was.
Right now, a highly pathogenic avian influenza is spreading through poultry populations across the United States. To date, almost three million birds, mostly chickens, and turkeys have died. As of early February, the disease had been identified in 23 poultry farms in 12 states. Since then, it has cropped up in several additional states.
The number of birds infected is immense. Some of the farms where the disease has been identified house tens of thousands of birds. Once the disease has been found amongst a population all the birds at the location have to be destroyed.
The immediate impact of this wave of bird flu will be felt at the supermarket. Consumers already rocked by inflation will find they are paying more for turkey and chicken as well now. But it could get much, much worse.
Bird flu does not commonly cross over to humans. When it does, though, it is deadly. Fifty percent of all the people who have contracted bird flu since 1997 have died. Contrast that with COVID-19, which kills significantly less than 1% of the people it infects.
To date, the saving grace has been that bird flu does not readily spread to humans. To get it you have to spend a lot of time around birds and be in close proximity to them.
The reason H5N1 does not spread easily between people is that it has not acquired the ability to be transmitted by aerosol or in respiratory droplets like the flu or COVID-19. As we have found out in trying to develop vaccines against COVID, however, viruses mutate. In fact, large, industrial farms, housing tens of thousands of birds, provide the ideal environment for infectious diseases to spread and mutate. Scientists advise it may only take a few mutations for the bird flu virus to attain airborne transmission.
Multiple scientific studies have warned that bird flu may be much closer to becoming a pandemic threat than is currently thought.
“Thus, avian A/H5N1 influenza viruses can acquire the capacity for airborne transmission between mammals without recombination in an intermediate host and therefore constitute a risk for human pandemic influenza.”
“Our findings emphasize the need to prepare for potential pandemics caused by influenza viruses possessing H5 HA, and will help individuals conducting surveillance in regions with circulating H5N1 viruses to recognize key residues that predict the pandemic potential of isolates, which will inform the development, production and distribution of effective countermeasures.”
“Avian A/H5N1 influenza viruses pose a pandemic threat. As few as five amino acid substitutions, or four with reassortment, might be sufficient for mammal-to-mammal transmission through respiratory droplets.”
If avian flu mutates as feared the results could be devastating.
“The H5N1 virus continues to evolve and spread, with additional human infections occurring in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, and Thailand. If this virus acquires human-to-human transmissibility with its present fatality rate of 50%, the resulting pandemic would be akin to a global tsunami if it killed those infected at even a fraction of this rate, the results would be catastrophic.”
There’s already troubling evidence that bird flu may be increasing its spread into human populations. In January, UK health authorities reported that a man in Devon who kept ducks as pets had contracted H5N1 bird flu. In November, the WHO said it has been monitoring a slow surge in human infections in China caused by a known but less common bird flu subtype, H5N6. In February 2021, the Russian government revealed that seven poultry farm workers fell ill from yet another subtype, H5N8.
Other bird flu strains have been surging into humans as well. The Chinese government disclosed last June that a man who had developed an infection with a flu strain never before seen in humans, H10N3. Since 2013, China has recorded more than 1,600 human cases of yet another strain, H7N9.
None of this means that we are facing an imminent threat of bird flu spreading to the human population. What it does show, however, is that the threat of future pandemics is real and that we must be prepared. This time we were dealing with what amounts to a bad flu season, and we failed catastrophically at every turn.
Next time we may not be so lucky. Next time we may be dealing with a disease with a much higher fatality rate. The incompetence of petty bureaucrats, the cowardice of our political leaders, and the greed of corporate America will not just be an assault on our freedoms. It will get millions killed.
We need to get our house in order. We need to fire the people who failed this time, reform the institutions that let us down and make real preparations for serious work. There will be another pandemic. Of that, we can be sure. The only real question is – can we get it right this time?