Killer Flu Pandemic Feared
Vol: 28 Issue: 31 Saturday, January 31, 2004
Killer Flu Pandemic Feared
Following weeks of denial, China officially confirmed bird flu cases in Hunan and Hubei provinces and that suspected cases were being investigated in Shanghai and in the provinces of Anhui and Guangdong. It did not identify the kinds of birds that had been found to be infected.
The announcement came three days after China confirmed its first case of bird flu, which was found in duck carcasses on a farm in the southern region of Guangxi.
Guangdong, near Hong Kong, is the province in which the earliest cases of what was to become known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) were reported in November 2002. Bird flu has been found in 10 Asian countries, and has so far killed 10 people in Vietnam and Thailand. Thailand exports large quantities of chicken to Europe.
If the virus mutates it might be possible for humans catching it to pass it on to other humans, threatening a flu pandemic.
Once a virus gets into a flock it is virtually impossible to control except by mass culling. That means that economic losses are large. It is suspected that Thai government has been hiding its outbreak of avian flu for months to protect its export trade.
A Dutch vet died last year, and now deaths are being confirmed around south-east Asia. It is the first time that a flu, common among chickens and other birds, has spread to people.
Humans catch avian flu from close contact with chickens or even eggshells containg bits of chicken, well, poop! (Sorry. I know some of you are having your breakfast)
World-health authorities worry that the virus might mate with the human influenza virus and, along with other viruses, could unleash a pandemic.
I am old enough to remember getting shots for polio and smallpox and a host of other diseases before I finished the third grade. I remember when I was looking for my first job that for almost anything involving food handling, or being a barber, or a half-dozen other occupations, you had to have a regular TB test — and have the certificate to prove it.
We were the first generation to fully enjoy the benefits of the miracle drugs and advances growing out of the development of sulfa drugs and the discovery of the tetracyline drug family in 1948 by Elion and Hitchings.
By 1974, modern medicine had basically declared most killer diseases either extinct or easily treatable by the administration of antibiotics. Modern medicine declared it had conquered infectious disease.
Most of those extinct diseases actually stayed extinct for awhile, but now they are back with a vengeance, extinct no longer, and many are now immune to most modern antibiotic drugs.
You don’t need a TB certificate to work at McDonald’s anymore, but a new drug-resistant strain of TB has pushed TB back into the top contender for the world’s leading killer.
The 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic infected one fifth of the world’s population. An estimated 675,000 Americans died during the pandemic. That was ten times as many who died during World War I. Of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe, half of them fell to the influenza virus and not to the enemy.
The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years. The death rate for 15 to 34-year-olds of influenza and pneumonia were 20 times higher in 1918 than in previous years. People were struck with illness on the street and died rapid deaths.
The name came from the early affliction and large mortalities in Spain where it allegedly killed 8 million in May, 1918. It is believed to have begun with pigs. Most experts believe that flu viruses reside harmlessly in birds, where they are genetically stable.
Occasionally, a virus from birds will infect pigs. The swine immune system attacks the virus, forcing it to change genetically to survive. The result is a new virus.
Two other flu viruses spread all over the world since 1918 – Asian flu in 1957 and the Hong Kong flu in 1968 – and both mutated in pigs.
(It is interesting that 4,000 years ago, God warned the Israelis not to keep pigs or eat pork? The Jews call them ‘unclean’. Science is starting to catch up, although I dearly love bacon)
When asked of the signs of His coming, Jesus spoke of a generation that would;
” hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6)
That describes the 20th century. Check.
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:”
I don’t think it is inaccurate to say that pretty much covers what little we’ve experienced of the 21st century, do you? Check.
“and there shall be famines,”
Africa is starving, so is India. North Koreans are boiling grass and eating leather. Much of what was the old Soviet Union is living in abject poverty. Food crops last year world wide were far below estimates. Wars raging all across the continent, mostly Muslims against Christians (and everybody else) make the famine situation ever worse.
“and pestilences,” deadly, infectious disease. Check.
“and earthquakes, in divers places.” Check. (But that is for a different Omega Letter.)
While all these have been part of the human condition, in each case, the instances are increasing in both frequency and intensity. In the case of pestilence, thirty years ago we announced we had conquered most infectious disease. Now the instances of infectious disease are both more frequent and certainly more intense.
(A ‘flesh-eating disease’ intense enough for you? Killed Muppeter Jim Henson and ate the leg off a former Quebec premiere. I think its pretty intense).
The 1918 Spanish Flu became a pandemic because thousands of doughboys were either going to Europe or coming home, carrying it both ways. The same applied for other soldiers in the conflict. It was the most rapid mobilization in history.
It marked the beginning of modern trans-oceanic travel. And the first truly world-wide pandemic. But not the last.
Revelation 6 tells of the ride of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse who deliver judgment during the Tribulation Period.
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the FOURTH PART of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
We aren’t there yet. But, as I mentioned yesterday, the writing is indeed on the wall.