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on March 30, 2006
As "bd" points out, in response to an earlier review, Dr. Siegel does advocate having emergency supplies of food and water. It is also important to note that he discourages labelling them as "for bird flu use", because to do so would increase panic.
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on June 11, 2006
Marc Siegel, MD does not believe there will be a bird flu pandemic. On page 18 he says, "I do not think a massive bird flu pandemic that kills many millions of people worldwide is about to happen..." He then explains all the reasons why a major epidemic is unlikely to strike. He goes further to say, "Currently fear of bird flu is much more a human problem than bird flu itself." In fact, he devotes a whole chapter to the issue of fear and how to deal with it in your life.

Essentially, Siegel's take on the "Asian avian flu", strain H5N1, is this:

1. There is nothing to worry about yet. And it is unlikely that there will be anything to worry about in the future. Even if the flu virus mutates, scientists and modern medicine will address it when the time comes.
2. The Bird Flu hysteria will likely go the way of other epidemic scares: SARS, AIDS, West Nile, Lyme disease, etc.
3. Physicians are the best ones to handle treatment issues for the masses, no need to stockpile remedies like Tamiflu, Renzala, or other remedies.
4. The government is the best agent to distribute vaccines, when and if they become available.
5. This is much ado about nothing, by and large. The best thing people can do for a long and healthy life is to eat sensibly and exercise regularly.

I wonder if the families of the two hundred dead victims of Bird Flu virus H5N1 would agree. It seems to me there is something more ominous here than just another influenza strain. This one kills half of the people who get it in a matter of a few days.

I suspect the proper response to the Bird Flu lies somewhere between hysteria and denial. This book, "Bird Flu: Everything you need to know about the next pandemic" stakes out the position firmly with the latter. Don't worry, be happy.

Let's hope Siegel is right. But if he isn't...
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on July 23, 2006
Superb. Dr. Marc Siegel's book "Bird Flu" portrays a concise, realistic and informative outlook on a media bred epidemic: fear and anxiety. Certainly an epidemic from bird flu is possible, I know of no one who disagrees. One, however, needs not confuse the terms possibility with probability. The irrational belief that the bird flu virus has a greater chance of mutating to humans in opposition to the thousands of other viruses currently in existence is unfounded. Certainly we should not remain naïve of such possibilities but we also need to take into consideration the probability of an epidemic from one particular virus that has yet to master the chain of specific mutations it would need in order to become pandemic. Even if this virus mutated to infect humans on a large scale, who is to say that its virility and potential deadly effects would also not alter and wither. If we resort to stockpiling antidotes to this one particular virus, must we then stockpile antidotes for every other potential viral metamorphosis? It is not only impossible to achieve, it is also illogical to think that we should. More research to develop means of developing appropriate vaccines quickly as well as global containment preparedness would be better served. To Dr. Siegel I say "BRAVO" and I hope that you continue educating your readers with such rational approaches.
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HALL OF FAMEon August 6, 2006
Siegel believes that it is not likely that the bird flu will mutate to human form, and that even if it does, it will be less lethal than currently. In addition, generally unreported evidence from Hong Kong (about 16% of those tested had antibodies to the H5N1 virus) indicates it is less virulent than believed.

Siegel also suggests looking at the downward trend in U.S. flu pandemic deaths - about 500,000 in the 1918 Spanish Flu, 70,000 in the 1957 Asian Flu pandemic, and 34,000 during the 1968 Hong Kong Flu. He attributes this to improved sanitation and the use of pneumonia vaccines (pneumonia causing about half the deaths attributed to flu). Finally, he also points out that cooking poultry kills 100% of the flu virus.

The greatest problem with the avian flu, according to Siegel, is our tendency to panic and over-react. He does not recommend that citizens stockpile Tamiflu because it is expensive, only has about a three-year shelf life, and most citizens would probably waste it because they wouldn't know when to properly use it.

Siegel's "Bottom-Line:" We should be focusing more on the pandemic we already have - AIDS/HIV.
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on March 27, 2006
I read this book when it was first available, and didn't feel the need to write this until I say the truly bird-brained review, under the name "bird brain," that appeared since then. It is shocking that someone would take a swipe at this book without having any idea what it says. It is clear that "bird brain" didn't read the book, because, for instance, "bird brain" criticizes the book and the author for being against increased government stockpiles of Tamiflu - but the book is in favor increased government stockpiles!!

Moreover, any reader will easily appreciate the history, science and technology which have informed Dr. Siegel; whereas the "bird brain" represents the saddest form of opinionated pundit - someone who feels the need to trash a fine work without even knowing what it says, and getting it all wrong.

As someone who has read the book (and from the other reviews I am obviously not alone) I found the book to be easy-to-read and surprisingly entertaining. Dr. Siegel explains the seriousness of flu pandemic clearly, and why the subject gets so much attention in light of the appearance and spread of H5N1 in recent years. The explanations are direct, understandable, jargon-free and also free of hyperbole. Information and understanding have allowed me to understand (and support) our government is spending billions on flu preparedness, without losing sleep over the chicken on my dinner plate or the egrets in the pond behind my house. Among the things this book taught me, my favorites included a wealth of knowledge on viral mutations and on infectious diseases - ideas and information that everyone should know.

If you are reading this you are probably considering buying this book. Buy it. Read it. You'll learn a lot, understand a lot, and you'll never be confused with a "bird brain." :)
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on January 29, 2006
While I'm not going to be travelling anytime soon to a bird flu type area, you still hear so much about it in the news and everyone has a different opinion that you don't know what's true and what's not. I know that Dr Marc Siegel is meant to be highly regarded as a doctor and I thought that this would clear up the fact from fiction. I found good info in here. He doesn't think we should ignore what we hear in the news, but at the same time it might be a little over-hyped. Personal stock-piling of Tamiflu etc might be of no good at all when you don't need to be taking it. That's when people become resistant to these drugs and when you do need them, your immune won't accept them. He thinks more should be done to immunise the birds themselves. It is heavy reading - so much more to talk about than what my review will allow for, but it's really interesting - even if you (like me) won't need to worry about being in a bird-flu area. At least after reading this, you will have a much clearer idea about this disease and form your own opinions on your own health regarding this and even just with the regular flu. You'll be more concious about your chances for either catching flu in general or if you have it, spreading it to other people. He also speaks in laymans terms which makes it so much more easy to understand and absorb. Good book.
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on July 12, 2006
Book reviewers who say Dr. Siegel's book makes light of the danger of bird flu should go back to school to learn how to read a book critically.

The book does not say a pandemic won't happen; it says that there are several steps before it could happen and that a pandemic should not simply be assumed. Dr. Siegel is not for stockpiling because by the time the virus hits (if it hits) it will have gone through several mutations such that current vaccines like Tamiflu may not protect against the new strain. In addition, stockpiled vaccine may be past it's shelf life.

Siegel's book has the opposite of a laid back approach to the possibility of a pandemic. It is for preparedness. It is not for hysteria. The book calls for updated techniques for vaccine research and for increased surge capacity of hospitals, to name a few of the book's suggestions for preparedness.

This book helps readers 1) put bird flu in perspective, 2) evaluate choices lawmakers and health professionals face in getting ready for any pandemic and public health crisis, 3) learn how to protect ourselves by recognizing that living in constant fear of a pandemic limits our emotional, intellectual, and physical abilities to evaluate and respond to a crisis should it occur.
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on July 11, 2006
Unlike the last reviewer, who seems to see danger lurking in every adverse event, I like Dr. Siegel's approach that indicates a pandemic is not created by easily occurring events. In reality, several steps must occur before a pandemic could develop. That these steps would all actually occur should not be assumed.

Dr. Siegel does a good job in presenting a balanced appraisal of the risk; it does a disservice to this enlightened voice when a reviewer clearly seems not to have read the entire book.

If all medical pundits were as knowledgeable and well reasoned as Dr. Siegel, there might be far less alarm, less fear-mongering, and therefore less profit in medical books -- but there might be more genuinely helpful information for those of us who need to know.
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on July 12, 2006
Having read other books by Marc Siegel, MD, beginning with his first novel Bellevue I am completely comfortable with a topic such as Bird Flu as explained by the author.

Marc Siegel has managed to allow reason without hysteria, explaining how he feels that there are several steps before Bird Flu could happen. Yes, the author expresses that a pandemic most likely will happen, but in the same breath tells us that there are steps we can take which are simply not to be assumed. In his explanation, I as a layman found it not as frightening and much more factual than listening to the News on TV or reading about it in a newspaper.

I especially found it fascinating that Bird Flu probably existed in 1918; 88 years to come to the surface again.

Through Marc Siegel's style as in all his books there is an entertaining quality, which allows a layman as myself to absorb his writing, and not be blocked by the fear of the topic. He is clear, with reason and most of all logical in that we must have a plan for the eventuality of Bird Flu. The fact that Marc Siegel is able to show both sides,and emphasizes that we must have a plan for it, allows me to strongly recommend this book to all individuals. You will find it geared toward the professionals in the field of medicine, but equally important for the average layman.
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on March 29, 2006
Dr. Siegel, in this book and in his many articles in the popular press and media appearances, takes the line that people are TOO AFRAID of the possibility of an influenza pandemic. There may be a few such people, but on the contrary, almost all of those who encounter his viewpoints are NOT AFRAID ENOUGH to take the precautions they ought to. Reading this book will reinforce their complacency.

Here's a quote from page 18 of his book:

Should I prepare emergency supplies

of food and water just in case?

Absolutely not. We've been asking one another this question

ever since experts told us that the year 2000 bug in

our computers would shut down communications and

banking nationwide.

Sinister things scare us out of proportion to their

actual risk of affecting us, and we respond, quite naturally,

by wanting to be afraid. But bird flu can be seen as

one in a long line of things we've been warned about, and

for which we supposedly need some kind of "safe room"

with an ample supply of food and water just in case.

[end of quote]

Three comments about this passage:

1)It gives the "year 2000 bug" as an example of an unfounded fear. Does Dr. Siegel realize that many computer professionals worked long and hard, and many companies spent millions of dollars, to prevent the Y2K meltdown from happening, as it certainly would have if the mitigation efforts had not been successful?

2)It conflicts with the advice of the U.S. government, which states, at their "Individuals and Families Planning" page at [...] "Stock a supply of water and food. During a pandemic you may not be able to get to a store. Even if you can get to a store, it may be out of supplies. Public waterworks services may also be interrupted. Stocking supplies can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters."

3)It even conflicts with what Siegel says on his page 37, "In the United States, we are dependent on other societies for many of our major products. In the event of a major pandemic, we might be cut off, so our government needs to improve on its domestic supply of essential goods, from food to energy to medicine."

Siegel seems not to realize that under major pandemic conditions, domestic as well as international commerce would be impaired, with absenteeism and illness resulting in shortage of workers for many essential tasks. Supply chain disruptions (for every sort of commerce) and insufficient surge capacity (for the medical care system) are possibilities that need to be planned for. Siegel seems blissfully unaware of these dangers.

With regard to previous reviewers, who state that Siegel is in favor of stockpiling food, water, flashlights and batteries (but only if you DON'T call them "pandemic preparations"), I'd like to see citations for those claims. My use of Amazon's book searching capacities for these topics in this book came up empty.

David Jodrey, Ph.D.
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