The Next Pandemic?
In December 2005, President Bush requested $7 billion to jump-start a bird flu vaccine program, but Congress only granted $3.1 billion to the cause. Dr. Osterholm thinks Americans need to start holding their congressmen and women, government and healthcare companies accountable.
"There are people in Washington who get it," he tells Oprah. "Now the question is, how do you translate that into action? How do you do that on a worldwide basis?"
Bird flu may not mutate into a disease as serious as the 1918 pandemic, but Dr. Osterholm says the law of probability proves a pandemic will eventually strike again.
"People have to understand that this is not science fiction," he says. "[Pandemics] are going to happen. This is why [a] group of infectious disease [experts] are trying to wake the world up, shake them and say, 'You've got to understand this. Even if the bird flu isn't the one that does it, another one's going to.'"
Like the people of New Orleans learned, this is not the time to panic and feel hopelessness. It's the time to be prepared.
"What we have to do for pandemic flu preparedness is better prepare our world to get the living through it, the sick through it, and then come out the other end as well as we possibly can," Dr. Osterholm says. "That's the difference between being hopeless and hopeful. We're going to come out the other end...it's how well we can come out the other end."