Avian 'flu - a clear and present danger
This is something we should be worried about at this particular moment in time. H5N1 (or the 'Asian Bird Flu') is in danger of arriving in Europe via migratory birds in the coming weeks and months. I've been following the coverage of this for a while, as scientists and health care professionals continue to try to raise the alarm with governments.
The Irish Government recently ordered 200,000 doses of vaccine, which is a welcome display of competence after the iodine tablets episode of a couple of years back. However, the situation at Dublin Airport is (as any traveller can tell you) laughable, as this Sunday Times article confirms:
"A British Midlands flight from London to Dublin was quarantined after eight passengers, who flew to London on a chartered flight from the Chinese capital, became ill.
Two of the passengers developed flu-like symptoms and began vomiting at London’s Heathrow airport, but later boarded a flight to Dublin. The pilot, who knew 40 of his 188 passengers and eight crew had travelled together from Beijing, quarantined the plane and called ahead for medical assistance. He suspected that they had contracted the deadly bird flu.
However, when the plane landed in Dublin no public health experts were available because of a strike. The passengers were allowed to leave after being diagnosed with food poisoning by an airport GP and were only checked by public health officials several days later, when they were given the all-clear.
Ireland has no 24-hour system to protect against outbreaks of disease such as Sars or a biological-terror attack, including anthrax.
The country’s infection control shortcomings are well known. Two years ago, at the height of global concerns about Sars, a Chinese woman suspected of carrying the virus roamed the streets for several hours after absconding from a hostel where she was supposedly being monitored by doctors."
There is more information at the following links:
The World Health Organization
The National Disease Surveillance Centre
Foreign Affairs article: "The Next Pandemic?"
Harvard International Review: "Missed Opportunities - Governance of Global Infectious Diseases"
Wikipedia: "Avian Influenza"