"U.S. intelligence agencies are being drawn into the debate over government preparations for a deadly flu pandemic. But are top secret briefings good public policy?"
..."According to the intelligence-community paper, the World Health Organization has reported that since 1997, 132 people have been reported to have contracted the H5N1 strain, and “so far about half of the people infected” have died.
According to the intelligence booklet, complications caused by the H5N1 virus resemble those of the deadly flu outbreak of 1918, and this particular virus strain is of “particular concern” because it has passed from birds to humans, and, in rare cases, may have also been transmitted from person to person. According to the document, human cases of H5N1 have been confirmed in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, and the virus has been detected in birds in Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia and South Korea. News reports last week also indicated new bird flu cases were under investigation in Turkey and Romania. Also last week, scientists revealed that the killer 1918 flu appeared to come from an avian virus that mutated slightly to allow for human-to-human transmission.Despite H5N1’s reported mortality rate of 50 percent or more, Dr. Redlener says that by the time such a virus did arrive in the United States, its strength might be significantly degraded. But he notes that in the case of the 1918 Spanish flu, the eventual mortality rate of the virus turned out to be around 2 percent, yet millions still died. Experts note, however, that there is no certainty that North America will be swept by H5N1 in the next few months, or at any point in the foreseeable future."