The fear is that the virus may evolve to a form that passes not only from bird-to-person but from person-to-person.
Researchers who are haunted by the so-called Spanish flu of 1918, which killed more people worldwide than died in the blood bath of World War I, have probed the samples taken from the bodies of dead soldiers in search of the DNA of the now long-gone Spanish flu. They found only bits and pieces until the frozen corpse of an Eskimo woman, preserved in the tundra, yielded a whole sample for study.
The link has been established: the old Spanish flu was derived from a bird flu, similar to the current avian flu, and knowing about that evolution will make it easier to develop a vaccine for this one.
The problem is not only to develop a vaccine that works on the not-yet-evolved human-to-human strain, but to make enough vaccine to protect billions of people.
Aside from the logistics of that huge problem, theres another aspect that has not been discussed in the media: the evolution of these diseases is proof of Darwins work on the origin of species and may be used to debunk the thinly disguised theology of so-called intelligent design, previously called Creationism.
The Biblical theology behind so-called intelligent design is, according to the Genesis myth of the Hebrew Scriptures, that everything was created about 5000 years ago. If that were true, bird flu would have been created then, too. It would also have been created by an intelligent designer (a.k.a. God). The trouble is, following that path takes you into dangerous waters.
In Judeo-Christian theology, in spite of vindictive beginnings in which God brought down a flood to punish humans for their sin, the current view of God is a deity of love and salvation. If the intelligent designer implied is God, then why would this love deity create the bird flu?
Surely there are not many worse examples of massive evil than a disease that threatens the entire human population.
Going back a bit, did the intelligent designer create the Black Death (Bubonic plague) of the 12th century, the Spanish flu of 1918, and AIDS? Surely a God of love wouldnt do that indiscriminately. Even a
God of vengeance and punishment would not destroy the innocent as in the tsunami and recent hurricanes.
Supporters of intelligent design must surely be hard-pressed to devise some head game logic to get around that one. Stated simply, would Jesus give us the bird flu?
The bird flu is a product of evolution, just as the super rat is descended from the few rats who could eat Warfarin poison and live and the super mosquito could survive DDT. Not everyone who got it died from the Spanish flu and not everyone will die of the bird flu should it evolve as feared.
The risk is that the number of deaths will decimate the culture and civilization. If you doubt that, remember that when Lewis and Clark reached the western Native American tribes they found that whole villages had already been wiped out by foreign diseases such as smallpox and measles carried on the trade routes from Spanish colonies. The Inca and Aztec cultures were wiped out by a deadly combination of disease and missionaries.
An irony of this bird flu panic is that the Swiss company that does have an antiviral drug refuses to release the patent for generic mass production. Theyre protecting their profits and to hell with the rest of the world. Typical.