Right now, the H5N1 bird flu virus is poised to follow in the footsteps of SARS. Hopefully, we've learned some lessons from SARS around the world. The statements we're hearing from the CDC and the WHO indicate we have learned these lessons the hard way. People on the inside know that we almost got nailed by SARS. If it had infected the US population, it could have easily killed millions of people. They don't want that to happen with bird flu, so they're being more cautious and raising the alarm, rather than getting caught with their pants down, so to speak, and trying to play catch up with a virus that's already become a pandemic.
History judges people more cautiously if they put out a warning first. People at the WHO and the CDC do not want to be the groups in history who failed to warn the public. In terms of infectious disease, it's better to warn people about something that isn't coming, than to say nothing and have it wipe out a whole nation. At least, that's what most of these experts believe and I think they're correct. It's better to be cautious than to be wrong.
What does all this mean to you as an individual who values your own health and life? Is the bird flu virus something you need to be worried about? Should you be concerned about it, just because all of these other people are warning you about it? Well, yes and no.
In the very short term, the answer is no. It's not on U.S. soil, if you happen to be reading this in the States. If you're in Australia, it's not anywhere on that continent. If you're in the U.K., New Zealand, South America or Japan, it hasn't been detected in any of these locations. In the short term, if you're not in a region where bird flu has been detected, then you're relatively safe for the moment. The issue comes out in the long term, and the long term could be actually a fairly short time scale -- 6, 12 or 18 months. In the long term, if this thing gets out of control, we're all in trouble.