Avian flu has been attracting blogosphere attention for much of the last year, including from Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan. I have had a hand in starting an avian flu blog. Recently I have finished work on a 40 pp. piece on what we should do about avian flu, here is the pdf link. Here is the Executive Summary. My core approach is to rely on decentralization and incentives. I am skeptical of quarantine or use of the army. Well-functioning, decentralized health systems will likely save the most lives. Stockpiling Tamiflu or vaccines is often overrated in potential effectiveness. We also should, when needed, purchase the relevant intellectual property rights for a fair price rather than simply confiscating those rights. We should ease liability for vacciner makers and institute prizes for good vaccines. Better-developed prediction markets would be useful for charting the progress of the flu. Your comments, of course, are welcome, either below or email me.
I just finished reading Michael Fumento's article on the feared Avian flu pandemic, "Fuss and Feathers". It is a long piece, but worth reading. Fumento's bottom line is that it is highly unlikely that the Avian flu will turn out to be a major pandemic. First, many flue pandemics have been predicted since the Spanish flu in 1918 and none of them has turned out to be as bad as predicted (remember the Swine flu in the 1970s?). Second, the trench warfare of WWI created uniquely dangerous conditions for the spread of the Spanish flu that we don't have today. Third, many of the deaths from the Spanish flu were actually caused by secondary bacterial infections which could be treated today by modern antibiotics. Fumento urges caution in responding, so as to make sure that the Avian flu hysteria is not worse than the flu itself. He suggests we should be prepared to respond, but we shouldn't panic yet.
An interesting read that presents a perspective on the Avian flu that I haven't seen anywhere else.
Michael Fumento writes:
A version with hyperlinks, plus a sidebar, plus illustrations is available at http://www.fumento.com/disease/flu2005.html. Those hyperlinks ... answer a lot of your readers' questions.
I have replaced the original link to the Weekly Standard article (that omitted the hyperlinks, sidebars, and illustrations) with the fuller version of the Fumento piece provided here.