Bird Flu update

I haven’t kept many of my computer files connected with the old life as a GP, but I did recently come across a poster I did for the surgery notice-board in October 2005, on the Big Health Scare of the time, Avian Flu.

You may remember that this was one of the early dry-run panics for COVID-19, which arose in China, as ever, when a new bird flu variant, H5N1, led to widespread poultry culling there, and then spread to some poultry-men. It had quite a high infection fatality rate of, initially, 75% (though that subsequently dropped to below 60%, showing the decrease in mortality common to viruses).

The press went to town, and the public were induced to panic and start looking for solutions, so it seemed useful for the practice to do some reassurance based on the available science. I was particularly proud of the graphic I did for the head of the piece:

Avian Flu protection

Well, how did I soothe the public brow? I pointed out how avian flu is common, and produces serious problems for birds just a couple of times a century, but that the current anxiety was because of this strain’s mutating to become transmissible to humans. However, I pointed out, H5N1 was not easily caught, and only sixty people had at that time died from it, worldwide.

In theory, I said, it could mutate again to become easily transmitted, in which case it might cause a human pandemic, the last serious one of which was in 1918. Notice how, in 2005, it was easy to gloss over Asian Flu and Hong Kong Flu, which each killed more than COVID has, but even now are largely forgotten even by those who lived through them.

But I pointed out that this mutation had shown no signs whatsoever of happening, and might never happen, and that the press sensationalism should be treated with caution, and rumour-mongers with even more cicumspection. Next I included the following paragraph on what might happen if such a pandemic did, at some future stage, occur, based on the scientific projections of the time. These projections may even have been by the celebrated Neil Ferguson, who in fact eventually modelled up to 200 million deaths worldwide from the non-existent pandemic – the total of deaths between 2005 and 2015 eventually being a mere 440. Some things never change whilst the same people are allowed to manage the discussion.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO US IF BIRD FLU BECAME HUMAN FLU
You may have read predictions of 50,000 deaths in this country if a flu pandemic hit. It is impossible to predict this accurately because the disease doesn’t even exist yet! But the best scientific projections would suggest that in a practice of our size…
* The whole epidemic would last about 3 weeks.
* About 50% people would be off work sick at any one time.
* About 10 people would die (compared to about 2-3 in an average winter flu outbreak).
* Unlike normal flu, the worst cases might occur in young, fit people.
This is obviously not good, but is not the Doomsday Scenario imagined by some people.

In retrospect I could have fished out the Asian and Hong Kong flu statistics, though they were less easily available then, to show we’d been through such a scenario twice within living memory without most people even noticing. But I think I made the point that in 2005, as now, a majority of people would not know personally anyone who died. The aim was to maintain a clear sense of proportion amongst an intelligent and responsible public.

I then dealt with the fears about how to protect oneself, pointing out that (at least for Avian Flu) there was nothing as yet to protect against. And I added a warning about the precautionary principle which has proved utterly prophetic this year:

On the news a member of the public said, “You can’t be too careful.” But she was wrong – taking too many of the wrong precautions can cause panic, medicine shortages, or even false confidence. The preparations for a pandemic need to happen at national and international level, and fortunately our government seems to be well up in the field, making contingency plans, stockpiling medications and so on.

I could have no idea that the precautionary principle would, fifteen years later, have destroyed the world’s economy and condemned millions to death from starvation and treatable diseases, and obliterated human rights to boot. Had I written that on my poster, nobody would have taken me seriously – yesterday’s wild conspiracy theory has been our only reality for nearly a year now. I was also rather too sanguine about the responsible actions of governments and international organisations. This was before the Swine Flu scandal of 2009 that showed the WHO to be corruptly tied to Big Pharma.

How was I to know that our government would have run down its pandemic response supplies, and (together with the WHO) would immediately tear up its carefully-laid pandemic plans in the event and instead be panicked into untested totalitarian lockdown policies borrowed from Communist China? Who would have imagined that the government would subsequently ignore the proliferating science that shows lockdowns to be ineffective in preventing deaths? How could anyone guess that when Tier 3 was introduced in the north just after deaths began to fall under Tier 2, only to rise again before a second total lockdown that proved ineffective, that the government’s solution would not be to realise the whole policy is unproductive, but to impose a newly-minted Tier 4 across the country and, when that too led to an even greater rise in cases, to talk about inventing Tier 5?

Another thing I got wrong in this section of my poster was the hidden role of Big Pharma regarding the antiviral Tamiflu. Roche was the company in this case, but the drug was actually invented by Gilead Sciences, which also produces the equally hyped, far more expensive, and equally useless Remdesivir at £1800 per patient. Roche’s hype induced HMG to spend nearly half a billion pounds on stockpiling the expensive Tamiflu, which later proved to be ineffective anyway, and was never used. If it had been effective, Britain’s greed would have deprived the rest of the world of treatment, as it has for COVID vaccines. But in my poster I simply included Tamiflu as a possible treatment, whilst reminding patients that it was not currently prescribable as a precautionary measure, and was likely to be counterfeit if bought online.

I did, though, put in a small section on masks:

* Masks. This would only be relevant in an actual pandemic, but despite the old TV pictures of Chinese people in masks, there is no good evidence that normal masks can protect from flu. So we may as well breathe easily instead!

I include this here to show that, in 2005, with no pressure on supplies of what is now called “PPE,” the science was as settled as it could be that public use of masks is useless. Nothing has changed now except for a flawed meta-analysis of poor-quality studies suggesting possible minor benefit, one good quality, but boycotted, blind study from Denmark definitively showing that even clean surgical masks do not protect the wearer from COVID – and the imposition of a mandated cult of masks that has further eroded our humanity.


So much for the lessons learned, or not learned, from a previous, but relatively recent, pandemic scare. But the real difference from today is this. In 2005, my GP practice still regarded itself as a partnership of independent, highly experienced professionals contracted to the NHS, but able to weigh the evidence for ourselves and make judgements in advising our patients – judgements that, in the case of Avian Flu, turned out pretty much on the money. Our patients trusted us from their own experience, and so did not join in the panic.

We did not simply await the official guidance from NHS England and pin it up under the authority of a blue NHS logo, but under our own brand – which predates the NHS.

That has all changed. In 2020, not only are we encouraged to invest all our faith in the Blessed NHS, and sacrifice our freedom and treasure to save it, but for a variety of reasons doctors have ceased to be scientifically-trained practitioners, and have instead become functionaries of that state-controlled organisation. Wherever you go in Britain, nearly-deserted practices are operating government policy, not independently interpreted science. And those who step out of line, being nowadays largely salaried employees of NHS trusts or commercial concerns, are likely to become unemployed or even struck off. And so your local GP keeps uncannily silent (though if UK doctors are proportionate to those across the world, some 8,000 have signed the Great Barrington Declaration).

In short, an independently-researched patient-information poster like mine from 2005 could simply not be possible nowadays. My local surgery is instead plastered with official propaganda. Dissent is not tolerated amongst the public, and far less amongst professionals daring to provide “misinformation” to those who, once upon a time, trusted them to make sense of the health-care jungle for them. On the other hand, of you’re Bill Gates, you can be on TV to give the blanket reassurance that vaccines are completely safe, despite the scandals over live polio vaccines causing paralysis in developing countries (leading to their banning in 2016), and narcolepsy from GSK’s Pandemix for swine flu.

Meanwhile, COVID cases have been rising dramatically for 4 weeks since 28th November, likewise hospital admissions (contrary to the known time-course of the disease) from the same day, whereas deaths have been flatlining during that period – and are lower than the peak around 21st November. Time to impose Tier 666 across the country, I think.

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
This entry was posted in History, Medicine, Politics and sociology, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Bird Flu update

  1. Jon Garvey says:

    As far as I can see, most of the highest infection areas in England are in Tier 4 (Surrey, Kent, Essex, parts of London, etc). Tier 4 didn’t even exist when that system began (neither did Tier 1, but that’s another story!).

    And that would tell any sane person that there is no correlation between severity of restraints and spread, if the total indifference of COVID to lockdowns across the world didn’t already. Unfortunately, it tells our rulers that we must have even stronger lockdowns, though the basic assumption has been, and is currently, utterly refuted.

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