A new report indicates that avian flu may easily develop resistance to Tamiflu, one of only two drugs potentially useful against this type of flu. This, and other doubts about the efficacy of Tamiflu, not to mention its limited availability, emphasize the importance of preventive measures. The world needs massive increases in public health surveillance. Further, major resources need to be available to reimburse farmers whose poultry flocks are suspected of being infected. At present, many poor farmers hide sick birds out of fear of financial ruin if their flocks are culled without adequate compensation. It is sickening to hear that the US administration is seeking only paltry sums for this much needed preventive effort, putting most researches in dike-building with vaccine creation and Tamiflu stockpiles.
As is all to often the case, it is more lucrative to deal with a problem after it develops, rather than seek to prevent it. After all, money used to reimburse farmers in Asia does not go to Western corporations, as will money for drugs and vaccines. If a pandemic does develop, such shortsightedness could lead to the deaths of millions. The recent data on the limited effectiveness of Tamiflu raises the stakes higher.
December 21st, 2005