Council on Foreign Relations Experts are not sure if and when avian flu might evolve to become more easily transmittable from one human to another.
'But the World Health Organization warns pandemics are recurring; although the pandemic of 1918 was the deadliest in the past century, the subsequent one in 1957 claimed two million lives. Morse says the relatively mild pandemic of 1968, when one million people died globally, “caused complacency. I think we have complacency until something happens, and then we panic.” Such panic would likely be set off by widespread illness, inadequate medical supplies, and widespread death across borders. Says Garrett, “Flu is by far the most contagious probability in our near horizon, and there are no fools left who think you can confine it to one country and keep it from spreading around the world.”
'China conducts widespread poultry vaccination in an
attempt to control the virus, although bird flu outbreaks in birds
continue there and eight people have died of the virus so far this year.
Beijing has repeatedly come under suspicion for trying to cover up
communicable disease information since the government’s role in
suppressing news about the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
outbreak. In a sign that it is serious about changing its image, China
nominated Margaret Chan, the new director of the World Health
Organization, to her position. Chan, an infectious disease expert
from Hong Kong, had been openly critical of Beijing for its role in the
SARS outbreak, and her selection by the Chinese is their way of
“signaling they’ve seen the error of their ways,” says Garrett.'