While I am grateful to the NY Times and WaPo for a day off from the Plame affair, I really didn’t want to read this:
Public health officials preparing to battle what they view as an inevitable influenza pandemic say the world lacks the medical weapons to fight the disease effectively, and will not have them anytime soon.
Public health specialists and manufacturers are working frantically to develop vaccines, drugs, strategies for quarantining and treating the ill, and plans for international cooperation, but these efforts will take years. Meanwhile, the most dangerous strain of influenza to appear in decades — the H5N1 “bird flu” in Asia — is showing up in new populations of birds, and occasionally people, almost by the month, global health officials say.
If the virus were to start spreading in the next year, the world would have only a relative handful of doses of an experimental vaccine to defend against a disease that, history shows, could potentially kill millions. If the vaccine proved effective and every flu vaccine factory in the world started making it, the first doses would not be ready for four months. By then, the pathogen would probably be on every continent.
Theoretically, antiviral drugs could slow an outbreak and buy time. The problem is only one licensed drug, oseltamivir, appears to work against bird flu. At the moment, there is not enough stockpiled for widespread use. Nor is there a plan to deploy the small amount that exists in ways that would have the best chance of slowing the disease.
This isn’t going away, it can’t be negotiated, so we better start preparing. Just as a curious side note, the the late night crazies at Art Bell’s Coast to Coast have been fretting about this for years.