Chronicle of a disaster in the making

Michel Claessens
Michel ClaessensRedactor in chef

This issue, devoted mainly to epidemics, brings both good news and bad.

The bad news is that there is no good news. Viral epidemics are a sword of Damocles hanging over us and research is severely hampered. No AIDS vaccine has yet been developed and the co-discoverer of HIV tells us that there is still a long way to go.

The humanisation of avian influenza H5N1 virus is just around the corner. Along with it could be the threat of a world pandemic that would make the Black Death and the Spanish flu look like common colds... This says nothing of the multiplication and spread of pathogens of every sort as a result of globalisation.

The good news is that none of these disaster scenarios has yet happened. This, however, does not mean we are effectively protected. The World Health Organization, public authorities and vaccine producers are all on alert.

Some countries are stockpiling vaccines in advance of a possible pandemic. And most experts are expecting an avian influenza pandemic within the next five years...