Pandemic threat very real in the 21st Century

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 15, 2006

There are times, we believe, when history should speak for itself: &#8220We worked like dogs from about seven in the morning until the last patient of the day had been checked in or out-usually about 10 o'clock that night. The men died like flies, and several times we ran out of boxes to bury them in, and had to put their bodies in cold storage until more boxes were shipped in. It was horrible.”

The above account was written by J.D. Washburn, who served with a medical unit stationed in Alabama during World War I. While his fellow soldiers were off fighting in Europe, Washburn was witnessing the silent killer called &#8220Spanish Flu,” the world's last great pandemic. This particularly deadly strain of influenza did not discriminate between young and old, black and white, or rich and poor as it marched its way like the Fourth Horseman across God's earth. The &#8220Spanish Flu” killed 500,000 Americans and 50 to 100 million people across the world.

The jury is still out on avian influenza, a virus currently confined to poultry and wild birds, but one which scientists say could mutate into new and deadly form of the flu easily transmittable among humans.

In these days of complacency, we encourage each citizen of Butler County to be cautiously aware of this potential health crisis and take time to prepare yourself and your family.

Because as stated by Michael Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services:

&#8220When it comes to pandemics, there is no rational basis to believe that the early years of the 21st century will be different than the past. If a pandemic strikes, it will come to Alabama.”