I've been reading up on H5N1 this weekend, and I'm pretty concerned. Right now my
estimate hunch is that there is a 5% non-zero chance that it will cost more than 10,000 people their lives.
To be clear, I think it is unlikely that H5N1 will become a pandemic anywhere close to the size of covid.
Nevertheless, I think our community should be actively following the news and start thinking about ways to be helpful if the probability increases. I am creating this thread as a place where people can discuss and share information about H5N1. We have a lot of pandemic experts in this community, do chime in!
- https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2023.28.3.2300001 (paper showing H5N1 has spread to minks, which is my primary cause for concern)
- https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/03/opinion/bird-flu-h5n1-pandemic.html (widely shared, but I'm unsure how much to trust the claims)
Group of H5N1 manifold markets: https://manifold.markets/group/h5n1-bird-flu
Plan for action
Fight status quo bias
In January 2020, many in the effective altruism and rationalist communities had correctly gauged the seriousness of the pandemic threat and were warning people publicly about it. Despite being convinced it was likely to become a pandemic I almost entirely failed to act beyond a few symbolic gestures such as stocking up on food/masks and warning relatives.
I consider this to have been the biggest personal failing of my life. I could have started initiatives to organize and prepare, I could have invested in mRNA producers, I could have researched how it would affect third-world hospitals. Yet all I did was sit idly by and doom scroll the internet for news about covid.
My goal with this thread is to avoid making that mistake ever again, even if it means most likely looking really stupid in a few months time.
How can we lower the chance of a serious pandemic?
I encourage everyone to think about actionable steps and be ambitious in their thinking. As far as I understand mink-to-human transmission is currently the primary reason to be concerned. What ways are there to minimize the chance of this occuring?
The following companies currently own vaccines for H5N1:
|GSK plc||Q-Pan H5N1 influenza vaccine|
|CSL Limited||Audenz (and 1-3 more I think?)|
|Roche Holding AG Genussscheine||oseltamivir (aka Tamiflu, not a vaccine), this one seems less useful than the others|
Could we pay them to start scaling up production tomorrow? One thing to note is that all these vaccines are egg-based. Are mRNA vaccines possible to create for this? If so, what can we do to speed up the process of making them?
Any other ideas?
We could start a set of more fine grained prediction market questions around H5N1. For example, I proposed one on Metaculus last night asking if another mink farm will be culled in 2023 due to an H5N1 outbreak.
I work at Metaculus and would like to approve this question, but I don't see it on our end at the moment. Could you please double-check to make sure it was submitted and isn't still in draft form, or add me (NMorrion) as a co-author so I can get it running for you?
Didn't realize I'd only had it saved in drafts. I just submitted it.
Thank you. I approved the question and it will launch tomorrow.
In addition to the question linked in the original post, here's one other related question that is live on Metaculus:
if it makes it easier, I can add the questions to manifold if you provide a list of questions and resolution criteria.
OK, I'm out of stamina at the moment to rewrite the question I submitted to metaculus but I'll send questions your way if/when I get them written down,
Just want to flag that oseltamivir is not a vaccine, it is an antiviral drug.
thanks for pointing that out, I've added a note in the description