The potential economic effects of bird flu alone have been likened to a short term repetition of the great depression. Furthermore due to our very high population and the density of the world we have health risks for humans much greater than those of past generations, who regardless lost over 50 million to a strain of influenza. Current efforts to fight avian influenza include the stockpiling of drugs, the production of a vaccine, surveying birds and the spread of the disease worldwide, and poultry import bans. These efforts are all necessary and useful but further analysis and planning is imperative.
The stockpiling of drugs for avian influenza would in essence need to be a worldwide effort in order to have a long term and sustainable effect. Since currently there is only one company with the rights to produce Tamiflu this is not an economical option for many countries without the extensive resources of the US. Therefore while this effort is commendable it is further necessary to extend the right to produce antiviral drugs that are affective against avian influenza to research facilities and competing companies. In this way the production of such drugs can be widespread and the costs will be ultimately lowered significantly, a necessity for poorer countries. Another preparatory option would be to implement a procedure for counties with resources to provide drugs and possibly vaccines to other countries which would ultimately serve their personal interests, to avoid a pandemic which would affect the world.
In Asia where avian influenza has been most prominent urbanization is expected to have the highest rate in the world over the next 25 years (FESS 05). During the same amount of time the urban population is expected to double (FESS 05). This direction of “growth” could have truly devastating effects on the worlds likelihood of being affected by pandemics. Further solutions would need to address the rising populations which stem the need to clear forests in the region. The work of Amartya Sen has shown that the education of women and their presence in the workplace plays a leading role in stabilizing birthrates (1999). Such efforts would find an essential place in the work to prevent pandemics and the spread of such deadly viruses.
One relatively unexplored option is that of halting deforestation to broaden the gap between domestic and wild birds. Deforestation has caused much integration of migratory birds, who’s routes are fixed, into farming scenes and into urban areas increasing the mix of migratory birds with humans and with domestic poultry. While damage has already been done an effort to terminate any further damage would be a step towards harmony with the environment and with security from this and further possible pandemics.
While vaccine research is being conducted and they have been successful in creating a vaccine to prevent avian influenza sufficient testing has not been conducted at this point for widespread implementation. To create a solution via vaccine it is necessary to
(FESS) “Environmental Factors Affecting the Spread of Bird Flu” Foundation for Environmental Security and Sustainability, September 2005.
Sen, Amartya “Development as Freedom” Oxford, Oxford University Press. 1999