H5N1 Pandemic Test Case — Biden Administration Not Ready

By Betsy McCaughey Published on April 11, 2024

The H5N1 virus, which for 30 years affected mostly birds, is rapidly evolving and spreading globally. The Biden administration is dangerously unready.

Warning Signs From the H5N1 Virus

Over the last two years, H5N1 has jumped from birds to mammals, infecting at least 26 species.

South American scientists publishing in the prestigious journal Nature Communications report massive “sea lion die-offs” and warn about avian influenza viruses “potentially evolving into the next global pandemic.”

Here in the United States, dairy cows, never before vulnerable to bird flu, are infected in six states.

There are too many unknowns to predict whether H5N1 will kill people in the U.S. It seems unlikely, but better to be prepared.

Is the public in danger? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk is “low” but is advising states to be ready with rapid tests. In the U.S., only two human cases have been reported; neither person died.

But according to the World Health Organization, since 2003, nearly 1,000 people in other parts of the world have contracted the virus — almost always from touching a sick or dead bird or bird feces. Four hundred sixty-three died.

Some food safety experts caution against eating runny egg yolks, cheeses made with raw milk, and foods made with uncooked eggs.

Be Alert, Be Prepared

There are too many unknowns to predict whether H5N1 will kill people in the U.S. It seems unlikely, but better to be prepared. Here’s what needs to change:

Don’t Censure the Scientists

Like H5N1, COVID-19 was full of unknowns. The federal government’s biggest mistake was to aim for an illusion of consensus rather than welcoming debate. The feds silenced anyone, including scientists, who disagreed. The result was a long string of deadly mistakes, from shuttering businesses to mandatory masking and school closures.

In October 2020, Stanford health professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and former Harvard medical professor Dr. Martin Kulldorff co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, showing that protecting the elderly and vulnerable, rather than shutting down the entire nation, would save more lives. Within hours, federal bigwigs Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci launched a smear campaign to label Bhattacharya and his fellow signers “fringe epidemiologists.”

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Worse, the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security conspired with major social media platforms such as YouTube and X (formerly Twitter) to keep the public from hearing from the government’s critics.

Censored scientists sued. The case, Murthy v. Missouri, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Sadly, the Biden administration is taking the wrong side, claiming censorship protects the nation from “disinformation.”

That’s a sign the administration cannot be trusted to tell us the truth during the next health scare.

Create a Domestic Supply Chain for Hospital Supplies

When COVID-19 struck, the U.S. was caught short of masks, respirators and other hospital gear. One-third of America’s imported COVID-19 medical supplies came from China. In early 2020, the Chinese Communist Party nationalized medical supplies, cutting off exports. The shortages in the U.S. continue even now. On Nov. 27, 2023, President Joe Biden called for “assessments” of the nation’s domestic production capacity. Sorry, too late for more reports. Time to act.

Curb Dictatorial Governors

During COVID-19, state legislatures ceded their authority like sheep to governors, allowing them to shutter schools, churches, businesses and recreational facilities.

Fortunately, some states, including New York, came to their senses and undid those grants of authority or time-limited them. Biden and the left-wing media were highly critical of these states — a sure sign more states need to curb emergency health powers before the next health crisis.

Never Underestimate Government Stupidity

Less than four months ago, when public health authorities were already tracking the arrival of H5N1 in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health awarded funding for a project — Virus Hunters — tasking New York City high schoolers with collecting bird feces from public parks in order to map the spread of H5N1 in the bird population. Students, wearing face masks and gloves, will collect the bird poop with cotton swabs. What could go wrong?

Students could contract the virus by touching bird excrement and then their own eyes, nose or mouth, cautions Brown University infectious disease expert Dr. Leonard Mermel.

Trust this government with your life? Ridiculous.

To prepare for a pandemic, start by curbing the government’s power over your decisions.


Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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