Free-Floating Hostility

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Flu Addendum

It appears I was unclear in the post below, and that I somehow came off as ignorant of the potential for military personnel to spread germs, unlike the rest of the human race. The reason I called Michael's concerns premature is that Avian flu is currently not transmissable from person to person. A person in close (very close) contact with an infected bird can contract Avian flu, but cannot pass it on to another person. So, right now, American troops in Iraq are not at great risk. In the hypothetical case of the Avian flu virus mutating into a form that could be passed from one person to the next, then military personnel would be at very high risk. Military conditions are ideal for trasnmitting contagious disease.

Brooklyn Dodger points out that the 1918 epidemic is speculated to have originated with soldiers. Some say it started in Europe, some say in the US; a number of scenarios fit the evidence. What is certain is that living conditions during the war contributed to the ease with which the virus was transmitted--not only overcrowding in military barracks and on ships but also in cities where civillians were crowded together participating in war work. These conditions also ensured that the usual selective pressure against viruses with high mortality did not obtain--that is, an infected person didn't have to stay alive very long to efficiently pass the virus to someone else so the virulent strain survived longer than would otherwise be expected.

If you pay attention to my post I think you will see that I was not scoffing at the idea of soldiers spreading Influenza (by the way I can get anyone interested an article on an outbreak of another strain of flu among Israeli soldiers that was successfully contained with mass vaccination within a period of about two weeks). I was merely pointing out that that scenario remains hypothetical, especially if this outbreak is successfully contained.

0 Comment(s):

Post a Comment