In a recently published story by The New York Times, Americans were given a deeper look into and intriguing commentary on the evolution of the H5N1 virus – a virus that has killed 600 people worldwide in the last decade.
This news story, however, was a lot like the other ones we've seen in the past: a brief definition of the virus, a proposed theory on how it spreads, and numerous mentions of the fears surrounding a potential worldwide outbreak. Yet what The New York Times fails to touch on is why the world isn't having a much-more-open dialogue regarding the pandemic.
As many know, a controversial bird flu study was recently released from scientists at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. The National Science Advisory Board strongly ruled against the paper's publication, fearing that such detailed information about how the H5N1 virus spreads and its genetic makeup could lead to potential biological warfare.
Though deadly, The H5N1 virus is something most people can forget about in their day-to-day lives. Since it is not an ongoing event in the world, most individuals put it on the back burner and focus on picking their children up from school, getting dinner on the table, and achieving a good night's sleep. Should the H5N1 virus be something we discuss more openly? You better believe it! Here are three reasons why:
It's Happened Before; It Can Happen Again
The H5N1 virus is not a virus that we simply fear might happen. It has already happened in the past – several times, in fact. In 1918, the Spanish flu cost the world an estimated 50-million lives. In 1957, the Asian flu pandemic resulted in 70,000 deaths. In 1968, the Hong Kong flu ended with a startling 1-million deaths. Scientists who study bird flu are very aware that the virus may strike again, but just when and how it will remains yet to be determined. It's important that people throughout the world recognize that the likelihood of the bird flu occurring again is probable. By doing so, people will be more prepared for when and if it does.
Education Makes a Difference
Every day elementary, junior-high, high-school, and college students flock to their classrooms to learn about world geography, English literature, human biology, and numerous other topics. How often are students taught about current events like the presidential election, the 2012 Olympics, and the history of bird flu? Not very often. Student curriculum delves into core basics, such as math, science, and English, and not much time is left to discuss much else, particularly current events. But education makes a difference. By understanding the basic facts about bird flu, how H5N1 supposedly spreads, and what steps to take to prevent the spread of the more common flu, students will be more informed about the serious matter. Furthermore, it will also help them in being able to separate the hysteria surrounding bird flu from the facts.
Photo Credit Wikipedia
Awareness Creates Action
Much of what we know about the world is told to us through mainstream media. If we don't hear about something through the evening news, the local newspaper, Twitter, and Facebook, we aren't likely to ponder too much about it. Creating awareness is what makes people make drastic changes, however. By hosting an open dialogue and educating individuals, people are more likely to take action. What action can be taken against H5N1? That remains up in the air, but any action is better than no action. Perhaps people will donate more towards research in H5N1. Perhaps people will be more aware of how the bird flu affects the rest of the world, not just the U.S. Whatever it is, it's important that people take action against the outbreak of H5N1.
Nobody wants to discuss the potential onset of a deadly virus, but having an open dialogue can change the way we view H5N1.
Melissa Miller is a cheerleader for online associate degree programs. Not literally, of course (since online schools don't have varsity football), but in the sense that her writings will encourage you to "B-E aggressive" about your education. Throw your questions to melissamiller831 ( at ) gmail.com.