...or, don't believe the hype, it's a sequel
The great thing about a blog site is that you get to make predictions which if you are correct, give you the ability to point everyone to the archived blog saying "told you so".
Here's my prediction. The so called bird flu, the chicken disease that has killed a wopping 59 people in the world, the disease that cannot (and will not) be transmitted from human to human, but is going to sweep the world. The chances of the bird flu becoming an international pandemic killing seqdrillions of us, crippling world economies, causing the closure of international borders and generally creating fear, panic and loathing not seen since the last witch was burnt or since we routinely expelled lepers from our midst, are negligible. This is not to say some variety of "the flu" will emerge, but this is extremely unlikely to have any of the virulence of the bird flu, I'll explain why in a minute.
Given the mass hysteria over this issue one must reasonably infer that the globalised project of dumbing down society to the point where it collectively gobbles up any and all shite that the media thrusts down its throat is all but complete. Makes you wonder if they've put something in the water. We have become as compliant as ewes happily marching off to braindeath by stupidity to the beat of media and authoritarian hype.
I have previously argued that science, rationality and critical thought seem not merely out of fashion but actively discouraged by proxy. In an almost Orwellian sense we favour a pernicious, postmodern, democratic approach to normative bullshit generation, the festering ground is suburbia, the genesis the six o'clock news. Prepare for certain death.
If enough people believe it, or if we read it in the paper it must be true. Never mind the fact that this virus has to first mutate (um, that means "evolve" folks) into a form that can be passed from person to person. One can't help but wonder how many individuals enamoured by "Intelligent Design" as an alternative to Evolutionary Theory have their medicine cupboards chocka with Tamiflu. As if the almighty himself has placed this virus here, just to smote us all down.
The twisted ethics of response to current mass panic about bird flu is equally dubious. A small company in Wellington is now selling survival kits for 500 bucks, cashing in on the bovine stupidity of a percentage of the population with IQ's close to their School Certificate maths marks. How much can a few of cans of baked beans, a box of panadol and some bottles of water cost. Apparently you can get the deluxe kit, it contains gourmet meals and a bottle of Lindaur Special Reserve - at least you'll enjoy the end of the world.
You get a sense of dejavue, I've been dreaming of the US suddenly finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And I must admit, I myself profitted somewhat as a result of the Armageddon that was to follow the New Years Eve party of 1999 although I certainly didn't sell overpriced survival kits. I wonder if I'll be around for the second coming of Jesus Christ, and who I wonder will get the television rights. Flak jackets and fire extinguishers are bound to be hot commodities given the predicted amount of brimstone and flames.
Of course the whole scenario has replaced Iraq as the topic of choice for front page US newsprint. Interesting given Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defence was a previous Chairman of Gilead Sciences, company that developed and owns the rights to Tamiflu, the only supposed "cure" for bird flu. Of course Roche who manufacture and market Tamiflu on behalf of Gilead can't supply enough to freaked out risk averse westerners around the globe - ripe for the plucking.
Currently the waiting list for the snake oil, (ah-hem Tamiflu) is about 3 months, of course the pandemic could have already swept through the globe killing trillions by then. If you'd rather be stacking bodies as opposed to being stacked yourself you could try eBay where Tamiflu is selling for up to NZ$260 a course.
Getting in on the act is the night in shining armour, the Risk Management Society of New Zealand, seemingly obsessed with Bird Flu busily publishing press releases I suppose they've found their mission, yet they've never heard of Peak Oil a real and tangible threat to our society and economy. A bunch of concerned middle class men in suits, accountants, lawyers and project managers are now telling us how we ought to combat a nonexistent pandemic. (reminds me of the "corporate" board of directors of Seatoun School who intelligently banned a lunch time chrisitian kids club, to a wannabe academic like myself the worrying words ring in my ears "I work in the real world mate, I know better" )
I want to finish with some rational comments on the evolution of Bird Flu. We must keep in mind that currently there is no (or very little) evidence to suggest that Bird Flu can move between human hosts, furthermore the virulence of the virus amongst bird (chicken) hosts is extremely high, that is it quickly immobilises (hospitalises) then kills it's host. The correlation between transmittability and virulence is important. For bird flu to become a pandemic amongst humans it first must mutate to a form that is easily transmittable, the host needs to remain mobile so the virus can spread around for a pandemic to emerge. It should be noted that a highly virulent virus (such as the current bird flu which of course cannot be transmitted between humans) kills it's host faster thereby accelerating it's own demise and reducing the time available for transmission.
A successful virus is one that is highly infectious but allows it's host to live as long as possible. Viruses that are highly virulent often quickly burn themselves out when hosts die. Thus less virulent forms of the virus will be selected for after initial localised outbreaks. My guess is that the correlation between transmissability and virulence will be negative. That is, the bird flu if ever it mutates into a form that can be transmitted from human to human host and thus emerges with pandemic characteristics there will be a significant reduction in the virulence of the virus. Very sick people will become immobilised, hospitalised and isolated. Lesser forms of the virus, which don't immobilise and hospitalise patients will quickly move through the population, those catching it will survive and develop antibody immunity.
There are more important things to worry about than bird flu. Hopefully in a few weeks or months I'll point those that need pointing, to this archived blog entry and say, told you so.