Via The Australian, a remarkable opinion piece by John Graham, chair of the department of medicine at Sydney Hospital: Australia unprepared for epidemic. Excerpt:
If and when a pandemic next occurs, if the new virus retains the same pathogenicity of the current avian influenza virus, we can expect about 4 billion people to die in the world over a six-month period. And that is how long it will take for a truly protective new vaccine to be developed and produced.
And the virus will be no respecter of wealth or class or education or intellect. In fact, if it behaves like past influenza viruses, it will not spare any age group. Even physical fitness will provide little or no protection.
If any nation has even the slightest chance of avoiding a catastrophic outcome, it is only the island nations such as Australia and New Zealand that have any glimmer of hope.
Sadly, successive Australian and NSW governments have done almost nothing to medically empower the most likely entry portal for a new pandemic virus, namely the central business district of Sydney, so that the first case can be detected, isolated and offered best available treatment in time.
Given that the first case is most likely to be a foreign national, probably from Asia, but possibly even from England or some other first-world country, and given that such a person is more likely to end up falling ill whilst residing in a hotel in the Sydney CBD, one would have thought that prudent national security considerations might have led to serious upgrading and virological preparedness at the only hospital inside the Sydney CBD, namely Sydney Hospital.
That "4 billion" estimate is astonishing. It assumes that all 6 billion of us will catch H5N1. But I can't recall any estimates of an attack rate of 30 percent. In other words, as ghastly as a pandemic might be, two-thirds of humanity wouldn't be infected.
Dr. Graham is clearly a respected authority, concerned about how to deal with H5N1 when it arrives in his hospital. But his mortality estimate seems wildly exaggerated.