Other campus: Prepping for the super flu (U. Houston)

By The Daily Cougar

(U-WIRE) HOUSTON – Pre-empting a worldwide flu pandemic, President George W. Bush announced Tuesday a $7.1 billion plan to protect the United States from catastrophe, with most of the money going toward developing and stockpiling vaccines.

The unveiling of the plan comes as anxiety increases over the bird flu, which has affected bird populations in Asia and Europe and has killed at least 62 people in Southeast Asia. There have been no cases of human-to-human transmission, but once that happens, which experts say is inevitable, we’ll have a real problem on our hands.

Historically, flu pandemics have originated in strains that begin in bird populations, so health experts have reason to be wary of this new strain, dubbed H5N1. America is no stranger to the flu threat, either. In 1918, the flu killed more than 500,000 Americans, and thousands more died in new incarnations of the flu in 1957 and 1968.

Most of the money appropriated for this anticipated disaster is allocated for containing and otherwise reacting to the flu, but the plan is missing a key component: education.

If we’re going to fight the flu, or any kind of public health threat, we need to be more educated about what we’re up against. Perhaps as the government’s plans become more specific, we’ll be kept in the loop.

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We also need to avoid inciting panic. Members of the media (ourselves included) need to keep in mind this issue ought to be handled carefully, without undue sensationalism.

Part of the nation’s strategy also involves isolating the flu before it crosses the oceans and starts killing Americans, but success in that area is not as much of a sure thing. For now, all we can do is stay healthy and stay informed.

Staff Editorial

The Daily Cougar (U. Houston)