1. Katherine Sacksteder on November 18, 2005 at 6:57 pm

    You’re right, it’s likely not the first case of avian flu. But let’s take a step back and think: what exactly are we worried about? Avian flu is caused by a particular strain of the flu virus. We first saw it eight years ago, and recently evidence was presented that it is genetically related to the flu virus that devastated the world in 1918, killing 10 million people. So sure, that’s scary. But the genetic relationship of the current avian flu appears to be tied to its virulence, not to ease of transmission. Because right now, it’s pretty hard to get the avian flu without being in close contact with a diseased bird. What does this mean? It means that a certain type of mutation has to happen to this virus to allow human to human transmission, which is when we can start to worry. How bad it could be if that happens is anyone’s guess. But when TB kills 3 million people every year (airborne transmission), HIV kills 3 million people every year (sexual/blood transmission), and malaria kills 1 million people every year (mosquito transmission), I’d vote that we worry about something else.

    [If you want to know more about Katie, check out her TB blog at http://tuberculosis.typepad.com/ -Shabbir]