So much for that "50%" avian flu fatality rate

January 10, 2006  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

In my Weekly Standard "Fuss and Feathers" piece of 21 November 2005, I ripped the "50% death rate" experts claimed avian flu victims suffered.

"First, all avian flu deaths so far have occurred in countries with medical systems that are dismal compared with ours. Would you choose a Cambodian hospital to treat your flu? Second, that more or less 50 percent death rate comes from those ill enough to require medical attention--the sickest of the sick. Our experience with normal influenza is that many who become infected have no symptoms at all, nary a sniffle. So we know the numerator, but without the denominator it's useless."

Almost two months later, researchers reporting in the Archives of Internal Medicine found "Our epidemiological data are consistent with transmission of mild, highly pathogenic avian influenza to humans and suggest that transmission could be more common than anticipated, though close contact seems required." If I knew that, why didn't top health officials and pseudo-expert Laurie Garrett? Either they did and decided not to let us in on the secret or they didn't. Neither answer is reassuring.