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Email received March 13th 2010

Mary,

It is one of the coincidences that Roger Breeze should make his observations on our response to animal epidemics just as I am preparing a lecture for tomorrow where I argue that the human response to human epidemic is really neither rational nor sensible. In the recent influenza H1N1 response in the UK, we stockpiled antivirals un tested against the organism, recommended by so called experts with paid Pharma links and we used a policy developed for a different infection H5N1 bird flu. We were provided with a telephone advice on diagnoses by girls who used to work at Woolworths and a considerable number of people died or suffered serious illness as a result of misdiagnoses in this way or after being directed inappropriately to take antivirals. I would be ( rightly ) struck off by the GMC for making telephone diagnoses.

But this apparent absurdity may be a genetic response which has its roots in a change in human behaviour to individualism rather than social integration, in the face of perceived infection disaster: In Cologne in the 15th century, the advent of plague, caused an administrative response which first ordained a slaughter of the monks - they had less infection so were obviously responsible. Next the Gypsies (who were notably different and suspicious) were also slaughtered. And then there was the slaughter of the Jews. When one member of the Jewish community pointed our that they had as much disease in their community as the general population , he was slaughtered first as an example of how the administration viewed logic .

But this could not happen now of course? In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina , a Syrian chap who had grown up in New Orleans found himself safe and so were his family. So he used his second hand canoe to try and rescue people and take them food. He and another 60 people were picked up by the National Guard and incarcerated with out contact with the outside world for 6 weeks. He was not allowed the basic human rights of contacting his family ( who thought he had drowned) nor any legal advice and neither were any rights accorded to the other 59 characters. The National Guard claimed that these people with Middle Eastern names were spreading infection ( unspecified) and therefore working for Al Quaeda . The flood water of course was already infected with sewerage , so what they perceived as this infection remains unknown. Now the civil and criminal cases against the National Guard are being blocked.

We have made no progress in 5 centuries and the absurdity just may be genetic programming for the survival of the individual rather than the social group.

So we serve neither the animals as Roger Breeze describes nor our own social groups. Not edifying in any sense.

Yours Colin