Bird Flu Expert Warns Of 50% Death Rate

Bird Flu expert Robert G. Webster believes there is a 50-50 chance the avian flu could mutate to become easily transmissible to humans. If that happens up to 50% of the worlds population may die, from the flu.

March 14, 2006 (ABC News) — Robert G. Webster is one of the few bird flu experts confident enough to answer the key question: Will the avian flu switch from posing a terrible hazard to birds to becoming a real threat to humans?

There are “about even odds at this time for the virus to learn how to transmit human to human,” he told ABC’s “World News Tonight.” Webster, the Rosemary Thomas Chair at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., is credited with being the first scientist to find the link between human flu and bird flu.

Webster and his team of scientists are working to find a way to beat the virus if it morphs. He has even been dubbed the Flu Hunter.

…If the virus does mutate, it does not necessarily mean it will be as deadly to people as it is to birds. But experts such as Webster say they must prepare for the worst.

“I personally believe it will happen and make personal preparations,” said Webster, who has stored a three-month supply of food and water at his home in case of an outbreak.

“Society just can’t accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility,” Webster said. “I’m sorry if I’m making people a little frightened, but I feel it’s my role.”

Other scientists poo-poo his doomsday warnings, but even they acknowledge if the avian flu mutates there could be loss of life on a magnitude not seen since the bubonic plague. But other than that things are just peachy…

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