Among the books on President Bush's summer reading list was "The Great Influenza," a 546-page study of the "Spanish flu" epidemic of 1918.
That flu outbreak, one of the worst in history, killed healthy young adults, elderly people and children all around the world. It came without warning and killed thousands each week and eventually 50 million worldwide. The United States was particularly vulnerable as we were engaged in WWI and left with reduced numbers of medical professionals and military personnel here at home.
OK. So, a shortage of doctors and nurses, engaged in a war, and about to encounter a deadly flu strain. Sound familiar?
Conditions seem right today for a perfect storm pandemic during this administration. However, unlike the situation in 1918, we do have warning that Avian Flu is a threat. What will we choose to do to prepare?
The President said recently that he will rely on the military to handle response efforts should infection spread in any region of the country. He has mentioned the words "isolate" and "quarantine" and a bunch of other words that add up to sound just like martial law.
Look, I won't be waving any ACLU flags should a bird flu epidemic hit America. Quarantine is the right way to go.
But why aren't we doing more before the chickens come home to roost, so to speak? You really should read Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant today. He builds an extraordinary case for Tamiflu, a medicine manufactured by Roche that apparently can drastically reduce the symptoms and longevity of a flu infection. Many nations--from England to Japan and France to Scandinavia, have been stockpiling Tamiflu. Enough for 20-40 percent of their populations, Oliphant writes.
Why haven't we been buying any?
The President pledges to work with U.S. (key word) pharmaceutical companies, of which Roche is not a member, to develop more flu vaccine and to also enlist the help of the military which will of course require contracts with U.S. (again red flag) private contractors like Halliburton (bullseye).
I don't mean to be cynical, but this is a global problem and it will require a global solution. And that's what we will discuss today with two military and public health experts.
Later, G-Men are tokin'? Not yet, but possibly soon. The FBI is considering relaxing its requirements to allow in recruits who have used pot in the past. Should they?
And I will chat with a doctor who blogs about resources for breast cancer survivors on the Web.
The American Cancer SocietyThe Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
National Cancer Institute
Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization
An Update on the Oklahoma University student story: