Bird flu up your nose

By Darrel Crain, D.C.

Bird Flu Up Your Nose! That is the name for an avian flu nasal spray vaccine I just came up with. If you know someone in the vaccine industry, please inform them I am willing to sell the name for the right price.

Speaking of the bird flu, there is good news, and there is bad news.

Bird Flu Parrot - Arrk!First the good news: The actual threat of an avian flu outbreak among people appears to be highly exaggerated. Swedish researchers conducted a large study of people in Vietnam and the avian flu. Their results suggest that most people who get the bird flu have symptoms so mild they never report it to the authorities. It is likely there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of cases of bird flu that have never been reported.

This means that the fearful 50% death rate we have heard so much about needs to be incredibly downsized. It turns out that the risk of death resulting from the avian flu may actually be on par with the average flu. So if you handle dead, flu-infected birds and are vulnerable, you may die. But most likely you will only experience a mild, self-limiting illness. My advice? Avoid handling dead birds for the time being.

Now for the bad news: The study I just described falls into the category of “inconvenient science,” the kind of science that fails to fan the flames of flu fear, which explains why it never made the headlines.

The very best defense we have against becoming infected with any virus at all has not changed. Namely, it is our magnificent inborn ability to be well, as long as we pay attention and put some effort into it. Eat healthy foods, get outside and move around, stay rested, practice moderation, and stop worrying about what you hear on the news.

Dr. Gary Butcher is an expert on poultry medicine and disease at the University of Florida and an international consultant for the poultry industry. He believes the likelihood of avian flu triggering a pandemic is practically nonexistent. “But the fear mongering will continue as long as people see a potential for financial and career gain in it,” he said, adding, “The agenda here is pretty obvious, people want grant money. This is a bonanza.”

Bird flu is serious business. “Bird flu makes biotechs sizzle!” chirped one happy headline I saw recently. Wall Street just loves a good flu. Nearly every day a new bird flu enterprise is hatched.

For example, I received a news release from a forward thinking company the other day with the following scary warning: “Health authorities have shared with us that local hospitals will not be taking in bird flu victims.” Luckily, they offer the perfect solution to this unexpected problem.

For around $6,000 (plus tax and shipping) they will send you a plastic isolation unit about the size of the average bathroom. This is a great bargain, we are told, because it “relieves the occupants from wearing gas masks and protective clothing, enabling a safe and comfortable stay.” Indeed, I have always found a gas mask during the flu season to be a major inconvenience, not to mention the protective clothing that always makes me look ridiculously fat.

The company notes that these plastic tents are “capable of giving an adequate supply of filtered air for 6 to 8 people.” And the battery that runs the air filter lasts for up to ten whole hours!

“Individuals, couples and families with children, as well as household pets” can all be housed in the unit. For an extra three hundred bucks (plus tax and shipping), they throw in a carrying bag so the tent can be set up “at home, office, nurseries, hotels, or during family trips.”

This kind of innovation makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Of course, spending ten hours with seven people plus a dog and two cats in a sealed bathroom might make me feel all warm and fuzzy too.

And that brings up an important question. Suppose I need to go to the bathroom while I’m in the middle of the isolation unit, in the middle of the bird flu pandemic, while standing shoulder to shoulder with 7 other people and a few pets who also need to go to the bathroom. Are we supposed to just hold it until the All Clear bell rings?

I’ll say one thing for this company, they are not afraid to ask tough questions our health leaders seem incapable of asking. For example, “What family wants to take a chance with an unproven drug that has developed deadly complications?” They are referring to Tamiflu, of course, the wonder drug with the amazing ability to “reduce flu symptoms” by a couple of days. Thank goodness our government is wisely spending billions to stockpile that one.

And now, it’s time for the Bird Flu Vaccine Review. First, keep in mind the results of thirty years of ever-increasing rates of flu vaccination: zero change in the death rate from the flu! This small yet important piece of scientific data is another example of inconvenient science that has apparently been discarded. The vaccine currently being developed is based on a virus from a Vietnamese person who fell ill from the bird flu. This virus cannot possibly match the imagined mutation of avian flu virus necessary to cause the proposed pandemic. The government’s planned stockpile of this vaccine “could quickly turn into a compost pile,” according to one commentator, because vaccines are notoriously unstable. To top it all off, existing capacity to produce even small quantities of such a vaccine falls far short of the government’s projected needs.

So, to recap, we’re using the wrong virus to make a vaccine with a very short shelf life, in quantities so small they could hardly make a difference, even if flu vaccines had ever been shown to save lives, which they have not.

As soon as I locate the logic in any of this, I plan to apply for a position in the lucrative and burgeoning bird flu business.

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Dr. Darrel Crain is a chiropractor, practicing in Alpine, California
He is a graduate of Cleveland Chiropractic College in Los Angeles, CA
Copyright © 2006 Darrel Crain – All rights reserved. @ 12:28 pm | Article ID: 1140467331