Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Special "a plague on both our houses" issue

We may be on the verge of decimation.
(Full disclosure: cried wolf about SARS too)

The bad news:
Bird flu could kill up to 50 million people, claims WHO (or 100 million, depending on who you read)

The helpful advice, worth every penny you paid for it:
  • Sell your house, restaurant, cafe last month; use the money to start a business making fashion face masks and hand sanitizer gel in cheerful colors.

  • Give away your pet ducks, which "display no symptoms of the disease but shed huge amounts of the virus in their faeces"...

  • Persuade the unwell around you to avail themselves of oral saline spray:
    ...roughly half the population - 6 of 11 individuals in their study - may produce more than 98 percent of all potentially pathogenic bioaerosols.

    The researchers found that a six-minute inhalation of aerosolized salt-water solution, often used in the treatment of asthma, can markedly reduce the number of bioaerosol particles exhaled by these "high-producers" for up to six hours.

  • Hide your nose in a book - fiction (The Last Flight of Dr. Ain) or not (A Journal of the Plague Year (1665) ).

  • From the latter, a recommendation that you air your stuff:
    • Airing the Stuff.
      'For sequestration of the goods and stuff of the infection, their bedding and apparel and hangings of chambers must be well aired with fire and such perfumes as are requisite within the infected house before they be taken again to use.'

A general complaint about "doom is on its way" stories: Why don't reporters ask the 'experts' to provide their best-guess probabilities too, to wring the maximum information content from them (along the same lines as the floated-but-discarded Terrorism Futures market)? If the goal is to inform the public, why not inform said public of the likelihood of doom and not just its worst-case scenario? Admittedly, experts might not be too keen on this idea since they don't want to look like fools when they inevitably get it wrong, but perhaps a number of them could be polled and a summary result provided?

Added Dec. 2:
Reassuring words from Tyler Cowan on our upcoming economic doom; rather less reassuring words to the effect that India, China and Russia are on the brink of AIDS epidemics to parallel those in Africa.

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