Communion Of Dreams

Flu? What flu?

It’s been a little while since I’ve written about our old friend H5N1 – the “Avian Flu” virus. Partly this is because I like to keep my posts varied according to topic (which is a nice way of saying my attention wanders a lot these days). Partly, though, is because the mainstream media pays little attention to the threat of this flu virus as a general rule. Which is curious, given the potential threat it presents and the amount of governmental effort going into tracking and preparation for a possible epidemic/pandemic. Even if you take the cynical view that our news is event/entertainment-driven, you’d think with the release of I am Legend, the latest adaptation of Richard Matheson‘s SF novel of the same name, would be a natural tie-in to news about the flu.

Because yes, there is indeed news about the flu:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – International health experts have been dispatched to Pakistan to help investigate the cause of South Asia’s first outbreak of bird flu in people and determine if the virus could have been transmitted through human contact, officials said Sunday.

Four brothers — two of whom died — and two cousins from Abbotabad, a small city about 30 miles north of Islamabad, were suspected of being infected by the H5N1 virus, said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl in Geneva. A man and his niece from the same area who had slaughtered chickens were also suspected of having the virus.

Another person in a separate case who slaughtered poultry in nearby Mansehra, 15 miles away, also tested positive for the disease, he said.

And if you saw either this diary on the front page of Daily Kos yesterday or check out the Flu Wiki, then you’d know that the situation is even potentially more troubling. From the Daily Kos diary:

See Flu Wiki’s Sunday wrap-up for the week’s documented human and bird cases, courtesy of the wiki volunteers who track cases around the world – helpful to CDC and WHO and other public health officials as they do their work (more than a few have written me that they stop there to get the morning news – this is netroots activism applied to public health!). Not only are there new human cases scattered throughout Asia (including Pakistan, Burma, China and Indonesia, all of whom are less than than transparent about internal news), there are also new bird cases of H5N1 in Germany, Poland, Russia, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia (and the hadj is soon, 1.5 million pilgrims expected).

Now, I’m not claiming that it’s the end of the world. Or even the end of what passes for civilization. But I do find it somewhat curious that this reality gets so little press attention, even when there is an obvious entertainment tie-in that can be made to the latest big-budget post-apocalyptic movie. Odd.

Well, when I do get back around to trying to find an agent or publisher for Communion of Dreams, at least I’ll be able to point to the ongoing threat of a pandemic flu that exists. Provided, of course, that the pandemic isn’t already underway.

Jim Downey

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