December 16, 2006


The Chicken Littles Were Wrong: The bird flu threat flew the coop. (Michael Fumento, 12/25/2006, Weekly Standard)

A year ago in these pages I clucked at all this, laying out the evidence that the alarmists were wrong, that avian influenza type H5N1 would not become readily transmissible from human to human and therefore not become pandemic--meaning a global epidemic. (See "Fuss and Feathers: Pandemic Panic over the Avian Flu," November 21, 2005.) Some of the arguments I made have quietly caught on. For instance, health officials, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, no longer talk about an "overdue pandemic" (because there is no pattern to when pandemics occur; they are never "due" or "overdue"). But the damage has been done. A Harvard School of Public Health survey of adults who have children revealed that 44 percent think it "likely" or "somewhat likely" there will be "cases of bird flu among humans in the U.S. during the next 12 months." Less than a fifth of respondents considered it "not at all" likely.

Not coincidentally, an avian flu bureaucracy has become entrenched. Like all bureaucracies, it will fight to survive and thrive, egging on governments to provide ever more money. The alarmingly titled 2006 Guide to Surviving Bird Flu is published by no less than the Department of Health and Human Services. Never mind that no one in this country has yet even contracted bird flu. Congress last year allocated $3.8 billion to prevent the ballyhooed catastrophe (Bush requested almost twice that amount). The latest "scary news," promulgated in the November 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine by über-alarmist Robert Webster of St. Jude Memorial Children's Hospital, is that human cases of H5N1 contracted from birds are continuing to increase. Indeed, confirmed cases for 2006 are running ahead of those for last year. But the difference is slight; 97 worldwide for all of last year versus 111 through the end of November 2006. This difference could be entirely explained by better surveillance. Moreover, the real concern is not sporadic bird-to-human transmission, but human-to-human transmission. Far more people die of tuberculosis in an hour than all those known to have died from H5N1.

So it's time to revisit the allegations and show that as small as the risk was a year ago, it's nevertheless dropped considerably since.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 16, 2006 9:50 AM

And were we not told two decades ago that AIDS would ravage the heterosexual community, just as it did the gay/drug using one?

And of course global warming will. . .

Posted by: obc at December 16, 2006 11:07 AM

Basic hygiene wins the day again.

Posted by: erp at December 16, 2006 5:49 PM

It must somehow be Bush-Rove's doing.

Posted by: Dave W at December 17, 2006 8:58 AM