World News and Trends: Avian flu: Potentially a major global threat

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Avian flu: Potentially a major global threat

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The 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people around the world. Another potential threat from a particular bird flu has emerged this winter. The United Nation's coordinator for avian flu and human influenza, Dr. David Nabarro, warns that if the flu strain mutates into one that can spread directly from person to person, "the range of deaths could be anything from 5 to 150 million" (The Times online).

The Foreign Affairs quarterly journal relates: "Today, with a world population of 6.5 billion people, more than three times that of 1918, even a 'mild' pandemic could kill many millions of people." Further, "Dr. Julie Gerbreeding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the possibility of avian flu spreading from Southeast Asia (its likely place of origin), a very ominous situation for the globe" (International Herald Tribune).

In Britain the nation's new chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, recently called together 30 public health leaders to discuss this potential problem. He said, "The disease could kill between 50,000 and 750,000 people and should not be treated as a joke" (BBC News online).

Finally, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota , warned that "an influenza pandemic of even moderate impact will result in the biggest single human disaster ever—far greater than AIDS, 9/11, all wars in the 20th century and the recent tsunami combined. It has the potential to redirect world history as the Black Death redirected European history in the 14th century" (

Other observers believe that the scientific community is seriously overreacting and that the fatalities would in fact be much smaller than officials now believe even if such a flu strain emerges.

Nonetheless, since very early last year millions of birds in Southeast Asia have died. This particular flu mutates and jumps from species to species of birds. It has also been found in certain mammals and an increasing number of people. Although it apparently has not yet fully mutated into a form that is easily transmissible to or between human beings, that possibility is very real and very worrisome.

Various countermeasures such as the slaughtering of millions of birds in affected countries plus measures like bans on the imports of all captive birds in Western nations have been taken around the world. Also, when dealing with any rapidly mutating virus, some of the drugs created to fight such an outbreak may not be all that effective. One Vietnamese doctor who has already treated 41 victims of avian influenza said that drugs being stocked to counter the epidemic are useless against the virus (The Sunday Times).

Infectious disease remains very high on the list of large-scale threats to human life. Some 25 million human beings have already died from AIDS, and another estimated 39 million are infected with HIV. Malaria and tuberculosis are also major causes of death.

Disease pandemics will form a major part of fulfilled biblical prophecy at the time of the end. Jesus Christ Himself foretold that pestilences (disease epidemics) would occur along with major wars, famines and earthquakes in various places (Matthew 24:7 Matthew 24:7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
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; Luke 21:11 Luke 21:11And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
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). The Old Testament also warns us about such epidemics being among the consequences of our lawless way of life (see Leviticus 26:25 Leviticus 26:25And I will bring a sword on you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when you are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
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; Deuteronomy 28:21 Deuteronomy 28:21The LORD shall make the pestilence stick to you, until he have consumed you from off the land, where you go to possess it.
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Among the four horsemen of the book of Revelation is the pale horse, symbolic of devastating disease epidemics to ravage the earth in the end time. The Bible makes it clear that we have not yet seen the full impact of these deadly modern plagues—far from it! (Sources: The Times [ London ], BBC News online,,
International Herald Tribune