Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Are We Prepared for Avian Flu?

Tyler Cowen has expressed concern about avian flu in several postings at Marginal Revolution [see here and here, for example]. He even started a blog about it, where Sylvia Dochia writes:

Notable findings of epidemiological investigations of human H5N1 cases in Vietnam during 2005 have suggested transmission of H5N1 viruses to two persons through consumption of uncooked duck blood. Possible person-to-person transmission of H5N1 viruses is being investigated in several clusters of cases in Vietnam.
In addition, BenS has sent me this link [registration required, footnotes deleted], which says, in part,

The world faces a new influenza pandemic about 3 times each century. The 1918 pandemic killed at least 20 million people. We don't know when the next one will hit, but flu experts agree that we are now at high risk for a serious pandemic. H5N1 flu has become endemic in Asian birds, and at least 74 human cases, including 49 deaths and probable human-to-human transmission, have occurred since the beginning of 2004.

We are unprepared for a new pandemic. International health officials lack the resources to monitor avian flu in a human population of hundreds of millions in affected parts of Asia, including some countries with almost no public health systems. Asia needs a significant stockpile of the anti-influenza drug oseltamavir, on-site, to treat and stop transmission of the early cases that could give rise to a pandemic.

If a pandemic reached the United States today, we could manufacture only enough vaccine for perhaps a quarter of our population. Our planned domestic stockpile of oseltamavir would leave over 99% of the country unprotected. Proportionally, Great Britain's stockpile will be 25 times greater, and some authorities suggest that even that isn't enough. To make a dent in a pandemic, vaccines and antivirals will be needed in much greater quantities than current plans allow.

So why doesn't normal risk-taking entrepreneurship in the marketplace deal with this potential problem efficiently? Or does it?
Who Links Here