There's an AP story from PhillyBurbs this morning about Bird Flu showing up in a new mammal. First it was cats, now it's a stone marten:
BERLIN - A weasel-like animal called a stone marten was infected with the deadly bird flu virus, marking the disease's spread to another mammal species, a German laboratory said Thursday.
I'm no microbiologist, but I know that the virus jumping to another mammal is not an encouraging sign. It's an indication that the virus is evolving to function in new species or, if you're an Intelligent Designer, it means that an all-knowing higher power wants to use Bird Flu to kill mammals as well as birds - so far cats and stone martens have made the hit list. Either way, it's not good news for human beings, who have already been dying, in limited circumstances, from Avian Flu.
If the virus figures out how to jump easily to people and then from person to person (or if people incure the Intelligent Designer's wrath) it would be pandemic time.
I'm not suggesting panic. In fact, I'm suggesting the complete opposite, which is why I'm going to point you a very helpful and hopeful post over at my go-to flu site, Effect Measure. The essay is entitled, "Three Points About Bird Flu to Tell Others" and was written to help out a woman who is being asked to educate her Board of Health about Bird Flu. Here are the three points Revere chose:
I suggested a message of three major points.
* We don't know what the biology of this virus has in store for us. But if it has the makings of a pandemic agent, nothing we will do between now and then will be able to stop it. Thinking that we have the ability to stop a pandemic is a waste of time and a dangerous distraction.
* This means the major task ofher community is managing the consequences of a possible pandemic. It will have to cope on its own, because all the communities surrounding it and the ones surrounding those will be facing the same problem. There is no "outside" from which to get help in a pandemic. The federal government has already said it can't help.
* The major consequences are not the "obvious" ones of vaccine distribution or even ones that are primarily medical or public health. They are the effects on essential functions of prolonged and widespread absenteeism. Many of these are things they probably never thought of. She should give an example. If hourly employees have to have their time sheets totalled and submitted (a "turnaround"), what happens if the person responsible for tunrarounds is out sick for weeks or worse? The town can anticipate this and show others how to do that function or arrange to have those employees converted to salaried employees for the duration. I suggested this only as an example of a "non-medical" prep that can be planned for in advance. There are many more.
I'll add another scenario: How will people who are being cautioned not to leave their homes during a pandemic get their medications? Will pharmecies have those meds in stock if supply chains are disrupted? Who in the community needs daily, live-saving meds?
The thought of a flu pandemic is terrifying but it doesn't have to be paralysing. Good local planning is our best hope for getting through a pandemic with minimum of suffering. Good local planning that emphasizes a free flow of information and resources and works to prevent panic and hoarding starts with us contacting our local governements at the municipal level to offer to serve on a committee that will start the planning process. We are the people we've been waiting for.
CHUCK PENNACCHIO MUST BE ELECTED.