How to Handle the Bird Flu - Foreign Affairs Magazine

How to Handle the Bird Flu - Foreign Affairs Magazine

How to Handle the Bird Flu - Foreign Affairs Magazine
Mar 14, 2023 56 secs

It was an unusual show of force for a press conference, and with two unpopular wars underway and the response to Hurricane Katrina still floundering, there was plenty else to attend to.

A bird flu that spreads efficiently among people would result in a new pandemic and exact extraordinary costs to human life, society, and the global economy.

Peruvian health officials reported in March that tens of thousands of wild birds and nearly 3,500 sea lions were found dead off the country’s coast, all infected with the avian flu.

It could also stay limited to animals without routinely infecting humans, becoming a persistent ecological and economic threat, including by driving up egg and poultry prices and threatening endangered species.

In the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks, for example, concerns about future acts of bioterrorism motivated the United States to offer smallpox vaccines to health-care workers and emergency responders.

To avoid repeating that error with H5N1, officials should hold discussions now with the goal of identifying clear and agreed-upon indicators for when to initiate certain emergency actions—for example, if multiple human cases are diagnosed within a short period.

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