Katrina and avian flu
I'm struck by similarities between Katrina and a probable future avian influenza pandemic.
In both cases, a clear, well thought out and well implemented plan is/would have been vital. In Katrina, wherever the blame lies, lack of communication and confusion about decision making power among different levels of government were major factors. Despite the fact that the flooding of New Orleans seems predictable, no one did anything to evacuate those who didn't have their own transportation or to make sure the shelters at the Superdome and convention center were secured and supplied.
You think Katrina was bad, imagine a bird flu pandemic which will spread from country to country. The UN and WHO will be in the position of the federal government!
You think the Katrina situation was confused, imagine what an avian flu pandemic would be like: poor countries trying to cover-up cases while the outbreak becomes increasingly widespread while the UN/WHO stands by impotently.
A top H5N1 researcher Yi Guan agrees with me
He urged the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization to take a more direct role to avert the looming pandemic, which he believes will happen if aggressive action is not taken
"The WHO and FAO must set up a joint expert team. They must get into the (affected) countries and compel them to make changes, take drastic action. The U.N. must say that if you don't follow suit, you will be punished," said the scientist.
I'd be a lot happier if Congress and the media would focus on what to do about the next predictable crises, not on what went wrong in Katrina. 1,000 dead seems to be the upper limit on the number who died in Katrina. The number who'd die in an epidemic could be 4 or 5 orders of magnitude large.
The article contains more bad news. Guan recently showed that the current avian flu strain probably originated in southern China. The Chinese goverment, sadly predictable, has now shut down much of Guan's research:
. . . his biggest challenge comes in the form of China's Ministry of Agriculture, which forced his Shantou laboratory to stop its surveillance work on H5N1 around the time the Nature article was published.
The ministry criticized the findings saying Guan's laboratory -- which Beijing has designated a key state facility in the study of influenza viruses -- was not up to standard and had not obtained government approval for its research