The Beasts of the Earth
Vol: 40 Issue: 25 Tuesday, January 25, 2005
A worrying new study has concluded that a Thai girl who died last year of ‘bird flu’ — also known as H5N1 — probably transmitted the disease to her mother and her aunt.
If true, it would be the first documented case of human-to-human transmission of the deadly flu virus. People normally catch bird flu from infected birds, usually chickens and ducks.
Health experts have been worried that the H5N1 bird flu virus could one day mutate into a form that passes easily between people, perhaps leading to a major flu pandemic that would rival the Spanish flu of 1918.
A report issued by a team of medical investigators is due to be published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Journal released the study early to coincide with a conference given by The University of Michigan “Bioterrorism Preparedness Initiative”.
“It’s ringing alarm bells that tells us we need to be concerned about H5N1 — and that avian influenza could be the next pandemic,” Dr. Andrew Simor of Sunnybrook and Women’s Health Sciences Centre in Toronto told CTV News on Monday. “If not this year or the next, the following year.”
The girl was hospitalized last September with a fever, cough and sore throat. She died the next day. Thai health officials believed she contracted the virus from infected free-ranging chickens in the house that she and her aunt shared.
Her mother, a garment factory worker who travelled from another province to care for her daughter, had no contact with birds.
The mother spent 16 to 18 hours with her daughter in the hospital on Sept. 7 and 8, hugging and kissing her. She fell ill herself on Sept. 11, dying 12 days after her daughter. An autopsy showed the mother tested positive for bird flu.
Investigators originally thought the aunt had acquired the virus from the same source as the girl. But it typically takes two to 10 days for someone to become ill after exposure to an infected bird and the aunt had gotten rid of the chickens days before the girl became ill.
The aunt, who had cared for the hospitalized girl for 12 to 13 hours, became sick 17 days after her last exposure to poultry, making it likely that she got her illness from the girl as well. The aunt survived.
The string of deaths — which include five this week alone — has prompted the World Health Organization to ring alarm bells about the high fatality rate. More than 70 per cent of those infected in this latest outbreak have died.
When the World Health Organization starts comparing a new flu virus to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, it is something that should cause everyone to sit up and take notice.
The 1918 epidemic was the worst epidemic the United States has ever experienced. It was so virulent that it caused the median life expectancy of Americans in 1918 to drop by ten years. More than a half-million Americans died after contracting the virus.
World-wide, it was so deadly that it killed between 25 and 40 MILLION people in 1918-1919. The strain was unusual in that it killed young and healthy victims, as opposed to more common influenzas which caused the bulk of their mortality among the old and infirm.
People without symptoms could be struck suddenly and be rendered too feeble to walk within hours; many would die the next day. Symptoms included a blue tint to the face and coughing up blood.
Nobody was safe from the Spanish Flu. The only inhabited place of any real size that wasn’t touched by an outbreak of the virus was the island of Marajo at the mouth of the Amazon River.
In the case of H5N1, the incubation period after exposure is between two and ten days. It takes less that 12 hours to fly from anywhere in the world to almost anywhere else.
A person could become infected in Asia, hop a plane to the States, ride mass transit and eat in restaurants for a week before coming down with any symptoms.
Everybody who came in contact with that first person would also have between two and ten days to infect everybody they came in contact with. H5N1 could duplicate the 1918 pandemic in a matter of weeks, rather than months.
“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.” (Revelation 6:8)
The rider on the pale horse begins his deadly ride at some point during the Tribulation, and before his ride is over, a quarter of the population of mankind will be dead, from either war, famine or ‘the beasts of the earth’.
The word translated ‘beasts’ is ‘therion’ in Greek, and means a ‘venomous beast’.
H5N1 is a viral infection that scientists fear has crossed over from the beasts of the earth to human to human transmission. A virus is, in and of itself, a living thing — a ‘venomous beast’ by definition.
Taken together with the other signs of the soon return of the Lord, we have something of a loose time frame. For two thousand years, that time frame was ‘someday, eventually.’
For this generation, the ability to kill a quarter of mankind with war, famine and infectious disease fits into a time frame of today, tomorrow, or, as Dr Simor observed, “if not this year or the next, the following year”, depending on the ‘if-then” factor. .
IF Iran doesn’t get nuclear weapons, IF the Paks and Indians don’t nuke each other, IF North Korea doesn’t use its atomic bombs, IF a vaccine is discovered for H5N1, IF terrorists don’t get their hands on bioweapons, IF no global war arises out of our newly articulated policy of spreading democracy into the Third World, and IF the Middle East conflict doesn’t spark a global thermonuclear war first, THEN, maybe it might take a little longer.
But before all this, “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-18)