We've been hearing so much about the threat of a bird flu pandemic for so long that it almost seems old news -- a non-issue.
The fact, however, is that it is very much a current issue.
The H5N1 virus has evolved to a more dangerous form, although still almost entirely in birds. Still, it has made the jump to humans in some cases, currently in Pakistan, Vietnam and Indonesia. And two new strains have appeared, one of them as near as Canada.
While no one is crying wolf, health departments are spreading the word on things we can watch for, plans we can make, and ways to protect our families and communities if things change quickly.
To help spread that life-saving information, the Blanco County Disaster Response Group is sponsoring an educational meeting on pandemic flu and other health threats at 9:30 am Saturday, January 19, in the activities building of the First United Methodist Church in Johnson City. The meeting is free and everyone is welcome.
The speakers in the two-hour session are heavy-hitters:
• Dorothy Dawson, RN, Department of State health Services, Marble Falls
• Carol Davis, Department of State Health Services, Temple
• Linda Aronovsky Cox, Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, Austin
• Robin Wiatrek, Capitol Area Council of Governments, Austin
They'll explain in plain English what the bird flu is and why we're worried about it, what would happen if the virus were to jump from animals to humans, and the specific effects an avian flu pandemic would have on Blanco County.
They also will cover some of the other health issues currently worrying the experts. One is the threat of a biological attack by terrorists. That's not very likely for us in Blanco County, but we can't rule it out...and they never did catch the guy who sent the anthrax through the mail, either.
A completely different threat is the ongoing evolution of familiar diseases.
MRSA -- methycillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus -- has burst into the news lately. Colonies of staph bacteria are growing on your body as you read this. (You didn't catch it from the newspaper; it's normal.) When staph gets inside your body, it can make you sick; untreated, it can be fatal.
What's new is some strains of the bacteria have evolved a resistance to the drugs we used to kill it with. Some surveys claim MRSA has killed more Americans in 2007 than AIDS.
Which threats should we worry about? What can we do to protect ourselves against them?
Ask the questions and get the answers Saturday morning at First UMC, LBJ and Pecan, in Johnson City. For details about the meeting, call JoAnn Routh, 868-7414.