In deference to Ben, his numbers are a little off.
I have been spending a great deal of time studying everything I can get my hands on about a pandemic flu. (I am the Emergency Preparedness Specialist for my Church) If you go to www.pandemicflu.gov you’ll see that the “experts” expect a morbidity rate (those who will become sick) of 40% of the US population.and a mortality rate that would be about 20%. If you do some quick math:
360 million Americans
144 million Americans sick
28 Million Dead.
One of the reasons that the numbers would not be as inflated as Ben states is that, while H5N1 is killing at a 50% to 70% range, when and if it mutates, the mortality and morbidity rates would be much lower. Any virus that wants to propagate itself needs to keep a higher rate of “Typhoid Mary’s” just to survive. If it kills it’s host too well it wont be a global threat. Think back to other viral scares. Ebola, although tragic to any who come in contact with it, it kills so well and so fast that it doesn’t spread very effectively. Same goes with the SARS scare in the 1990s.
A pandemic flu will be disastrous and possibly the worst thing we have ever experienced. Couple that with an economic downturn, a massive hurricane, earthquake, flood, ice storm, or war, and it may be the kind of “event” that changes the way we look at TEOTWAWKI. Regards, – KM
The 1918 Flu is normally used to project/predict the effects of Avian Influenza because it is the last major flu epidemic for which we have decent records. Apparently, the current virus also seems to share some characteristics with the 1918. With regards to Ben’s figures on higher mortality: the fact is we don’t know what the mortality rate of adapted Avian Influenza will be. Usually, when a virus makes the jump to easy transmission between humans, it loses some of it’s potency. This isn’t guaranteed, but it seems to be the general trend, and so the models used to predict Avian Influenza generally follow this reasonable assumption. All the predictions being made are based on history, understanding of mutation mechanisms, and the like–but they are still basically guesses, since we won’t really know how the virus will mutate until it does.
I’d suggest doing some Operational Risk Management, balance the potential impact with the reasonable probability, and apply preparation resources accordingly. From my reading on the subject, there is a theoretical “tipping point” in pandemic disease casualties (whether natural or bio-warfare) where society may disintegrate–possibly between 10 and 20 million for the modern US. The projections based on 1918 are below the admittedly “fuzzy” guesstimate of this point, while the worst case (lethality of Avian Influenza remains in the 50% range without affecting its ability to spread) are well above. It’s food for thought. Regards, – PSJ