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Researchers reconstruct 1918 killer virus
Posted: 16 October 2005 07:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Citizen Premier - 16 October 2005 08:49 PM

Well, as I’ve heard, the bird flu has already spread to humans (about 250), and it has killed 50% of them.  Compare to the Spanish flu, which killed ~25% of those infected.  On the one hand, you’d think it would mutate into a less deadly form so it could spread better, but on the other had one has to remember that the population is a lot higher these days and the virus doesn’t have to let you live very long before you can pass it on to many other people.

If you remember that, in a normal year, roughly 20% of all Americans catch some strain of flu (the real thing, not bad colds) at one time or another; any flu that kills more than the usual 0.5% to 1% of sufferers is cause for concern.

Some months ago I ran some fairly ‘rough & ready’ models of pandemic action with a high suscepibility rate (to account for more widespread travel) and a high mortality rate amongst the afflicted (60 deaths out of 117 cases, so far). The model predicted a billion deaths worldwide.

After a quick change of trousers, I tuned the model down until the morbidity hit 20% (the estimated worldwide infection rate of Spanish Flu) and used a 12.5% death-rate for suffers (also from Spanish Flu - worldwide MR estimated at 2.5% when 20% of world infected, do the math). This dropped the death toll to around 160 million, which is not too far off David Nabarro’s 150m figure (here).

So I guess: -

(A) We both used similar models (a variant of the SIR model - Serfling’s sucks).

(B) At the very least, Dr. Nabarro is anticipating that Bird Flu will not be much more deadly than Spanish Flu. Or if it is, much of this will be offset by better medicine.

Personally I hope the virus cripples itself trying to get a foothold in the human species, as CP pointed out, killing your host is a piss-awful survival strategy. Now, has anyone tried telling the virus that?

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Posted: 16 October 2005 08:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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But David, you forget what horrid conditions some humans will live in.  Imagine the bird flu popping up in Bangladesh; I bet if it was lethal within a few hours it could still kill a majority.


which might not be a bad thing for the survivors.

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Posted: 17 October 2005 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Citizen Premier - 17 October 2005 12:16 AM

But David, you forget what horrid conditions some humans will live in.  Imagine the bird flu popping up in Bangladesh; I bet if it was lethal within a few hours it could still kill a majority.

Let’s not forget New York. The pop. density of NY state might be low compared to Bangladesh (155/km2 compared with 1055/km2), but NYC itself is very densely populated (10292/km2), being roughly the same size as Dhaka (capital of Bangladesh, 816km2 to NYC’s 800km2) while home to twice as many people (4m in Dhaka, 8m in NYC). Also NYC residents are much more mobile, and have vastly superior national and international transport links to bring the disease to them.

I know it’s tempting to think that 2nd/3rd world countries will take the brunt of any pandemic, and it’s probably true given their much lower rates of access to good healthcare, medicine, emergency services, etc. But after Mumbai and Manila, the most densely populated city on Earth is Paris. An outbreak in any major western city would be just as catastrophic as in Asia.


Flee! Flee the cities! Run to the hills now! Umm… where all the wild, migratory birds are…  Damn!
Flee the hills too! Go live in the sea! It’s your only hope!

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Posted: 17 October 2005 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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...So…Is getting a regular Flu shot helpful at all, in deterring the Avian thing?

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Posted: 17 October 2005 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Maegan - 17 October 2005 12:48 PM

...So…Is getting a regular Flu shot helpful at all, in deterring the Avian thing?

No. Bird Flu is of type A/H5N1 (which means it’s an Influenza-A virus built around the 5th variant of hemaglutenin (the bit that get’s the virus into your cells) and the 1st variant neuraminidase (the bit that get’s it out again)), This year’s flu shot offers protection against A/New Caledonia/20/99(H1N1), A/California/7/2004(H3N2) and B/Shanghai/361/2002.

Mind you, plain-ol’ run-o’the-mill flu can still kill, so the shot is always worth taking if available. Besides, if you were going to catch Bird Flu this winter, it’s probably a good idea not to catch any other flu around the same time.

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Posted: 17 October 2005 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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...I’ve never had a flu shot - I was just curious.

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