Monday, October 03, 2005

Ted Stevens is a fucking moron

We previously discussed H5N1 a while back, and now it's Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, and Alaska's Senator is determined to blow the deal. You see, first the Senate approves $4 billion to prepare for flu pandemic, a Democratic amendment to the defense appropriations bill which passed. The money isn't in the House bill, so a conference committee will decide whether the money stays in:
Almost $3.1 billion of the money would be used to stockpile the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu), and the rest would go for global flu surveillance, development of vaccines, and state and local preparedness, according to a Reuters report. The government currently has enough oseltamivir to treat a few million people, with a goal of acquiring enough to treat 20 million.

The funding measure was sponsored by Democrats, who called H5N1 avian flu one of the greatest threats facing the country.

"It's the midnight hour," Reuters quoted Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, as saying. "We have to get moving on it now, not next year, not after some study group in the White House bangs this thing around for another three months."

But the story said Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican who is guiding the defense-spending bill through the Senate, promised to try to block the avian flu money, Reuters reported. He will have a chance to do that when House and Senate negotiators meet to forge a compromise on the bill, the story said.

Stevens argued that the avian flu "has not yet become a threat to human beings," according to Reuters.
My emphasis. "Not yet a threat" is Category 5 Hurricane Katrina a couple days before landfall. It's a sudden change in temperature trends that hasn't yet melted the icecaps or caused irreversible changes in growing seasons.

Mike the Mad Biologist had a nice piece a few days ago about the current state of vaccines. In short, not encouraging, in no small part because the virus is evolving in birds which are being treated with some of the same drugs people use. That means the virus is evolving an immunity.

In other news. BoingBoing reports that H5N1 is getting scarier, noting in particular that (according to an industry source):

H5N1 has clearly evolved and has become markedly more efficient at transmitting among humans, and has done so via recombination
When it becomes a threat, it'll be too late. That's the whole point. That's the whole problem. There's no political will to take action before something becomes an unambiguous threat. People will die because of incompetent morons like Ted Stevens.


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