The swine flu scare may have been a gigantic hoax, but what about bird flu? It seems to have never materialized either. In order to study the disease, two teams of scientists have genetically engineered a deadly flu virus, causing a great deal of controversy: What if terrorists get hold of it?
Surprisingly, there is a lot that scientists don't know about how disease spreads, and the ability of a virus to spread easily from person to person is the key to determining whether it can cause a pandemic (or, like swine flu and bird flu, just quietly disappear--despite causing some deaths along the way).
Avian flu, which was discovered in 1997, is known to have infected only about 600 people, but it killed more than half of them. Humans almost never transmit it to one another--it's usually caught through direct contact with birds or poultry. But if that ever changes and it becomes airborne and transmitted through coughs and sneezes, like regular flu is, bird flu could become one of the worst pandemics in history.
In the Netherlands, a group of scientists team created a strain of bird flu that could drift through the air into nearby cages and infect other ferrets, but they're not sure that it would act the same way in people. It does not seem as contagious as either the 1918 Spanish flu or the 2009 swine flu.
Viruses constantly morph into new forms, which is why we need a new flu shot every year. In the January 3rd edition of the New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr. and Denise Grady quote researcher Ron Fouchier as saying that to become airborne, the virus required a range of genetic modifications--"a combination of everything," meaning that it may not be possible for the virus to evolve to that extent on its own.
How worried should we be about the future? Researchers have found that everything clicks into place when we meditate. One of the things Whitley Strieber writes about in his new book "Solving the Communion Enigma" is how meditation seems to draw the Visitors to him. Don't know how to start? Whitley has many wonderful meditations for you in the subscriber section and he's written a guidebook to the way he meditates called The Path. In it, using the Tarot cards, he explains all the meditation techniques he has learned from the Gurdjieff work--AND from the Visitors!