Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Avian Flu -- Puzzle or Pandemic?

While news sources today have been giving much more time to Osama bin Laden, the Palestinians, and Immigration legislation in Congress, probably the most disturbing piece of news was quickly rushed over if it was mentioned at all. It came from the island of Sumatra in the huge nation of Indonesia, and is about the possible transmission of the H5N1 virus by humans to humans.

I had to dig into the web to find more information than that, but, as is often the case, the BBC came up with a very full and very thorough story (

It would appear that beginning with the death of a woman several weeks ago, six other members of her family have gone down with the disease and subsequently died. There is no evidence of their close proximity with poultry or other birds, neither is their evidence that the virus itself has mutated. However, this puzzle has the World Health Organization flustered and worried.

As those of you who have kept up with my meanderings for a while will know, pandemics in general and the avian flu in particular have been on my mind for several years now. This, I have suggested, would be one of the great challenges to come before Christians as part of a troubled world. The question we need to be asking is whether this is just another puzzle and false alarm, or whether this might be the start of what could become a global pandemic that will take many lives.

I pray that it is not the start of a pandemic, but we as Christians and churches need to be prepared for the worst while praying for the best. I have for a while now been following the work of Dr. Tim Foggin of British Columbia, who has kept apace with the possibilities of what might happen and how churches might respond. You can get onto Dr. Foggin's list by emailing him at

Now is the time to be thinking and preparing for the consequences of such a terrible event -- putting it off will make it too late to respond effectively and meaningfully. We need also to pray that those fighting this disease will be able to quarantine it and prevent a break out from Sumatra, or wherever else a human-to-human virus might be mutating and incubating. We need also to think seriously about how we would respond in such difficult and demanding circumstances.


CFS said...

I thought that I had heard on NPR this morning that the family in question did have a flock of poultry. But if it was person to person, it appeared to take quite a bit of contact; this family were in close proximity to one another in a house.

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