Bird Flu: a Disconnect Between Government, Science, and Common Sense

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According to top scientists, this could be a very dangerous winter. The world could be on the brink of the first global pandemic in almost 90 years. Is incomplete information and bad advice depriving the American family of a fair chance to prepare for a possible pandemic?

two weeks of food and water

Is the American public being told the complete truth from officials about a possible bird flu pandemic? The evidence is mounting that they are not. The Avian Flu experts at are concerned that the negative repercussions of honest talk about a pandemic might be taking precedence over public health and safety.

Many top scientists believe that the possibility of a bird flu pandemic is increasing, but most Americans, including the press, seem to have the impression that the danger has passed. Is there a reason for this apparent disconnect? Are Americans being given all of the information they need to prepare for a high-impact event?

A surprising example of government efforts to "tone it down" was highlighted recently in a government communication to all 60,000 U. S. citizens living in Hong Kong.

The November 3, 2006, newsletter, sent from the U. S. State Department to Americans living in Hong Kong, recommended the following:

"In the event of severe pandemic influenza with high morbidity, the public may be advised to self-quarantine. Therefore, current guidance notes that families should be prepared to "shelter-in-place" for up to twelve weeks, and maintain sufficient food and water supplies to accommodate that entire period." The newsletter recommended stockpiling water, obtaining a way to purify water, and suggested storing twelve weeks of "non-perishable foods, soap, alcohol-based hand wash, medicines, vitamins, flashlights, and a portable radio", and to have sufficient supplies for the entire period.

Just 6 days later, in a shocking and appallingly Orwellian move, the State Department re-issued the identical communication, but they had changed the recommendation to read "a two week supply".

Did the State Department feel that they needed to "match" the two-week CDC recommendation for supplies, which is woefully lacking? Did they think no one would notice this appalling and clumsy example of censorship?

The consensus among bird flu experts is that a 12-week supply of basic food, a way to purify or store water, plus medicine and other emergency supplies, is a reasonable and prudent goal. Reason and common sense tells us that a pandemic could not run its course in two weeks.

Infection, failures in utility delivery, and a lack of grocery supplies and other necessities would last much longer than that, leaving families without food and supplies. In fact, the two-week point would likely leave the ill-prepared American family without food or water during raging public infection.

According to, the initial communication to U. S. citizens in Hong Kong suggests that government officials are taking the Avian Flu threat seriously, but that they feel that they must publicly downplay the danger in order to avoid economic, social, and political repercussions.

Some prominent scientists have become very critical of the government's response. These experts have bitterly complained that government silence and secrecy have created a situation where millions could die, not just from the flu but also from infrastructure problems such as food and energy shortages, and from violence related to these shortages.

The solution is clear. A well-prepared population would greatly reduce both death and misery, and would mitigate panic and relieve competition for available food and other supplies. Official suggestions to have "two weeks of food and water" are ridiculous to the extreme. Would a pandemic be over in two weeks? Could services be restored and store shelves be re-stocked while a deadly flu virus rages around the world? The answer, of course, is no.

The Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (i.e. the President's Plan) states "...the national impact of a pandemic could last many months." Yet, the same report recommends 2 weeks of survival supplies to prepare for a pandemic. So who will feed the American family for the rest of these 'many months'? Not the states, that's for sure. The 'President's Plan' says that "State, Local, and Private Sector entities' have 'primary responsibility' for public safety, security, and emergency preparation during a pandemic crisis."

However, according to a May 19, 2006 USA Today story, Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who leads the National Governors Association, is quoted saying states have "pretty much been told to prepare to row their own boat" in responding to bird flu. Federal health officials "were pretty candid with us," Huckabee said in an interview. "The federal government simply does not have the resources themselves to deal with this on a mass level. And if a pandemic does occur, it will overwhelm their resources, just like it will overwhelm ours."

The government has their agenda. They want to allay panic, to soothe the "sheeple". No individual in government wants to take the responsibility for overstating the case of a possible pandemic.

Intelligent people should remember the lesson learned during hurricane Katrina.

Disasters can happen. The answer to this dilemma is simple... be prepared. Don't depend on FEMA, or the Red Cross, or the government to rescue you.

This becomes even more important since, in related news, scientists have announced that a new H5N1 bird flu virus strain has been detected in China. The new strain seems to be displacing other H5N1 strains. Scientists have feared for several years that the ill-advised use of "bird vaccines" would only serve to create resistant strains of the virus. To complicate matters, China and other countries that are harboring this disease engage in abominably poor public heath practices, which will increase the likelihood that a fatal, human-to-human form will spread.

Burials of suspected bird flu victims without tests for H5N1 are common. False negatives from those who have been given Tamiflu are also common. It's also feared that actual mortality numbers have been distorted. China has reported 3 human deaths, but the number suspected by some virologists is in excess of 300. In fact, worldwide there are many more deaths than the formal numbers tell us. There is much more disease spread from human-to-human contact than they are telling us. In an attempt to keep the masses calm (and not affect financial markets) we are not being given all of the information we need to prepare our families for a high-impact event.

What should people do? Suggestions for needed supplies and information are readily available. A family needs to have a method of water purification and some safety masks/respirators. They need flashlights, and a way to get news and information without electric service, since utilities will almost certainly go down if a pandemic strikes. has detailed survival supply lists, including a common-sense grocery list of simple storage foods.

Supplies would also be needed for an earthquake, hurricane, ice storm, blizzard, tornado, flood, utility outage, or a nuclear or terrorist attack. The website explains that these preparations can be helpful for a wide variety of circumstances.

The website encourages individuals to learn how to deal with emergencies by thoughtfully preparing, and provides the information and resources needed. No one really knows if Avian Influenza will reach a pandemic form. If it doesn't, a prepared person will have the supplies needed to weather most types of disasters. The unprepared person risks having their family go without food and water in a pandemic or other disaster scenario.

Plan For Flu is a comprehensive resource, which includes lots of practical information, and a very detailed listing of the items that would be needed to survive a disaster.

"We're as worried now as we ever have been. To believe that you can contain this locally is to believe in fairy tales,"

---Dr Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"Society just can't accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility. I'm sorry if I'm making people a little frightened, but I feel it's my role."

  • --Dr Robert Webster, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. He is credited as the first scientist to find the link between human flu and bird flu.


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Lyn Robertson
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