Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Avian flu could wipe out 1/2 of Earth's population?

  1. Jan 25, 2009 #1
    I heard that the avian flu could kill more than 3,000,000,000 human beings. Is this really possible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 25, 2009 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Where did you hear it?
  4. Jan 26, 2009 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    All flu come from birds.
    Every year, flu kill thousand and thousand people.

    The avian flu killed about 100 persons in 6 years...
  5. Jan 26, 2009 #4
    No. The worst incidences of flu in modern times didn't even approach the 50% mark. Spanish Flu in 1918 for example, this in fact only reached a 50% incident rate, and that was considered an extremely virulent form of flu. This killed between 2 and 20% of people, depending on medical facilities available etc. With modern medical facilities I suspect casualty rates won't even be as high as those of 1918. It's scaremongering rubbish basically.

    Of course it may mutate into a superflu that leaves everyone dead apart from several thousand Americans who end up fighting the final battle. But I may of dreamt that?
  6. Jan 26, 2009 #5
    Actually, that was the image conjured by those who were desperate to sell a warehouse of vaccine that makes you wonder whether you'd be better off getting sick from the flu.
  7. Jan 26, 2009 #6

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That is not Science. Even the worst well-documented plagues in Europe never reached that magnitude. We have active Bubonic Plague in the SW US - why doesn't it overrun all of Phoenix? -- for example.

    See Barbara Tuchman 'A Distant Mirror' - history of the era when black plague swept Europe.

    try reading this:
    Paul Ewald 'Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease '

    It is aimed at the "popular reader" and discusses the evolution of disease.
  8. Jan 26, 2009 #7
    Is it possible for a virus/pandemic to literally threaten the existence of life on earth? Could human beings as well as millions of other species go extinct within a few years if H5N1 were to mutate into something apocalyptically more horrendous?
  9. Jan 26, 2009 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Species-jumping is hard, so certainly I wouldn't agree that "millions of other species" might go extinct in the case of such a mutation. I don't even think that would threaten the human race -- the worst plagues in human history happened before modern medicine, and even then never killed more than maybe a quarter.
  10. Jan 27, 2009 #9
    No. The more deadly a virus the less easily it can infect large populations generally. Ebola for example, incapacitates and kills in a day or so, leaving little means to spread. The best virus, from its survivability perspective are cold viruses and things like the cold sore virus. The best bacterial infection is probably the Plague or TB, as these have a fairly long dormancy period. These diseases never killed enough people to destroy the viability of life. Unless it was engineered to spread and not become active until the whole population could become infected, its hard to see how such a disease would occur, and even then like the plague many with genetic advantages survived relatively unscathed. Humanity is now too genetically diverse to wipe out completely, unless by design. That leaves two options, God and aliens.
  11. Jan 27, 2009 #10
    not a matter of how deadly the virus is, but how long it takes to kill you. ebola outbreaks have a way of "burning out" before they spread too far, usually. but HIV is plenty deadly, yet has a slow mode of action.

    as for killing half the world's population, it would sure be good for the economy if that were to happen, so we can only hope. but most of the bird flu noise is just that, imo. the bigger threat is to birds, and therefore our food supply. we eat a lot of chicken, you know.
  12. Jan 27, 2009 #11
    Sure agree re. the hype. A decade of solemn "it's only a matter of time" and a total of about 200 deaths worldwide. This one joins mad cow, SARS and swine flu of the 70's as health scares of no substance.

    What might interest some folks are the measures established anticipating the bird flu pandemic that would have given health authorities extraordinary powers.
  13. Jan 13, 2010 #12
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Avian flu could wipe out 1/2 of Earth's population?
  1. Avian Flu Pandemic (Replies: 2)

  2. Wiping out life (Replies: 15)