Thursday, October 13, 2005

Earthquakes, bird-flu and disaster relief

The earthquake in Pakistan has dominated international news this week. CNN has provided almost continual coverage, but significant space has been given to the story by other leading broadcasters. The death toll his risen to an estimated 30,000, with some predictions of it rising to as many as 40,000. The true figure may never be known. Some villages have all but disappeared. Other remain cut off and only accessible by air. Appeals are broadcast, and advertisements appear in much of the UK national press, but as the Independent highlighted on Wednesday, ‘compassion fatigue’ may set in after many disaster relief funds this year. The British public alone have donated millions of pound to disaster relief including the Asian tsunami, Live 8, and the Katrina hurricane relief fund amongst others [Disaster Emergency Committee]. Meanwhile, scientists and medical staff are braced for a worldwide pandemic of Bird-flu. All eyes have been on one particular strain for sometime. A/H5N1 has already been found in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, as well as other Asian countries in the past two years. But with recent discoveries in Romania, Turkey and along the Arab peninsula, many scientists believe it is only a matter of time before the necessary mutation occurs and bring forth a human form of the virus [BBC /CNN ]. Due to the way in which flu is spread, it may bring a worldwide death-toll as high as 150 Million according to the World Health Organization. Pandemics can last a year or more, and according to one scientist, and quoted in USA Today [11/10/2005], the US was “not prepared”. A/H5N1 has so far killed only 60 people but this accounts for a death rate of 51.2% with 117 having been affected in the past two years. The “Spanish Flu” pandemic of 1918-19 killed between 20 and 50 million worldwide, the 1957 “Asian Flu” killed around 2 million and the “Hong Kong Flu” of 1968 about 1 million. What is becoming clear, is the world faces a far bigger threat than earth tremors and bad weather. Whether the world is ready when it hits, besides very clear warnings, is open to speculation.
[20:22 GMT 13/10/2005] Posted by Picasa

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