The current outbreaks of bird flu in Yorkshire and the Netherlands may not develop into a threat to humans.
The same may be true for the next outbreak and the one after that. But we are sitting on a timebomb.
History’s worst flu pandemics have killed tens of millions of people. If a strain of avian flu develops the ability to spread between humans today the toll could be far higher.
Partly the threat comes from natural factors. The flu virus is highly adaptable, and birds can carry it thousands of miles.
But it is capitalism that makes it so dangerous.
Factory farms give the virus a perfect place to thrive, adapt and spread.
This is food production built around cutting costs—yet it comes at a high price.
Rich drug companies distort the priorities of medical research and cover up vital data about their treatments.
Tamiflu, the drug stockpiled after previous near-misses, now appears to be far less effective than its makers claimed.
When the drugs do work, patents help price them out of reach of the poor.
The technology and resources exist to fix all this.
But it will take a fight against the system to defuse the timebomb before it explodes.