An estimated 675,000 Americans died of influenza in the 1918 epidemic.
We are overdue for another, possibly worse, epidemic and it may well be bird flu. So far (according to this site) there are more than sixty reported cases of people with bird flu, 28 people hospitalized with symptoms and 13 with confirmed bird flu.
Compared to the past, our population is so dense and travel between continents so common that once a virus gets started it could be impossible to contain. We can’t count on drug companies to be able to configure vaccines and manufacture them quickly enough to keep up with virus mutations.
(Working people can be comforted by the certainty that if such an epidemic occurs, their beloved leaders in Washington will be first to be safely vaccinated as will the adored super-rich and the super star journalists. Hopefully, some vaccine will trickle down to help many of us as well.)
The possibility of a major epidemic is real but it remains on the edge of the public radar because there are so many other issues in focus, like torture, Iraq, runaway brides, and Michael Jackson.
Here’s a link to a very ambitious project, in infancy, planned as a base for grass roots action against bird flu. And a link to Majikthis who also has her eye on health issues and where I found the Effect Measure link.