Over $7 billion to counteract Avian Flu -- if it ever arrives

President Bush is sounding the alarm and spending big -- up to $7.1 billion -- to counteract avian flu ---if it ever arrives.

[Editor’s note: $7.1 billion dollars to counteract a flu that has claimed about 60 lives worldwide in the past two years?]

But another devastating disease is killing 1.2 million people a year with little notice or rich-country concern.

It is malaria, a centuries-old malady largely stamped out in developed countries thanks to efficient health systems, insecticides and pills. The mosquito-borne disease remains a top cause of death in sub-Sahara Africa, where it prolongs poverty and kills up to 2,000 children younger than 5 every day.

Pervading helplessness goes with malaria. Africa's damp heat and well-adapted breed of mosquito are devastatingly perfect in spreading the disease in the countryside far from most clinics and doctors. The insects and the disease itself have mutated past once-effective treatments. Many adults live with re-infection, enduring the chills and aches that disrupt jobs and family life. Malaria is as effective as any famine or war in deepening the region's poverty.
That's why the decision by the Gates Foundation to spend $258.3 million on medical research is welcome. The United Nations and the G-8 countries also have pledged to do more.

But official programs aren't enough. Much of the Gates money will go to a breakthrough idea -- a vaccine that will cut infection rates sharply. The foundation is working with giant drug maker GlaxoSmithKline, which promises to keep the cost low enough to inoculate millions of African children.

Malaria shots won't solve it all. Corrupt rulers, stagnant economies, HIV and tuberculosis are crushing Africa's chances to improve. But weakening malaria's grip would be a powerful sign that science and pinpoint intervention can make a difference.

[Editorial in San Francisco Chronicle]

Commentary: Think about it. $7 - 8 billion dollars being allotted to counteract a flu that has claimed [only] about 60 lives worldwide in the past two years?

What of this flu epdidemic that supposedly might come? There have been three influenza pandemics in the past 100 years. Another "moderate" pandemic, comparable to those in 1957 and 1968, would kill 209,000. If it was a very "severe" pandemic comparable to that in 1918, it potentially could cause 1.9 million deaths unless optimal preventive or treatment measures wee in place.

Probably more realistic as a figure though, consider the fact that as a normal course of events, every year 36,000 die in the States as a result of regular seasonal flu.

Now as far as this Avian Flu concern, dare we point out that despite all the media attention and speculation, it's all about an epidemic that has not yet happened! And chances are, won't!
$7 - 8 billion dollars to counteract a flu that has so far contributed to the death of 30 people a year.

Meanwhile Malaria, a totally preventable disease, is –right now-- killing 1.2 million people a year --2,000 children every day -- with very little rich-country concern.

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