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Thursday, April 26th 2007

Waiting…And Waiting…And Waiting

Whatever Happened To The Avian Flu Pandemic?

An Associated Press piece tries to remind us of the impending pandemic,

Bird flu has largely flown off the radar of the Western world, but people are still dying from it nearly every week in Indonesia.

Bird flu has killed at least 172 people worldwide since it began its spread through Asian poultry in 2003, according to WHO. Most human deaths come from contact with infected birds, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people.

At current we should be worried because Indonesia isn’t playing well with others over the issue of studying avian flu.

Indonesia has refused to share its samples of bird flu virus with the World Health Organization since January. Jakarta fears a vaccine produced from its specimens would be out of reach for its own citizens – too expensive and controlled by wealthy nations.

Some global health officials have accused Indonesia of holding the virus hostage and keeping experts from monitoring whether the bug is mutating into a dangerous form that could potentially spark the next pandemic that kills millions.

This article doesn’t provide nearly enough to be able to adequately judge what is going on here. For instance, does Indonesia want some sort of specific guarantee about “fair” access to any bird flu vaccine, to set its own price per unit?

I’m not sure what sort of guarantee is possible. All I can imagine is Margaret Chan meeting with Indonesia officials:

“Okay…okay, now pinky swear…no one in big pharma gets to touch this H5N1 sample unless they promise…no, no, not just promise but swear on their mother’s grave…that they’ll give us a good deal on any vaccine they develop.”

Or are they just being ornery and trying to make a point about the “exploitation” of poor countries. In that case: boo hoo.

While they bicker, avian flu slips further and further from the world’s concern. Good riddance to another false alarm.