This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 6, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Fears of a massive outbreak of the bird flu (search). A top federal health official says no one in the world is ready right now. This avian flu, bird flu, has killed more than 60 people since emerging in Asia two years ago. Scientists now have replicated the flu virus that killed 50 million people in 1918 and found that it was actually a bird flu.
Joining us now to talk about this possible pandemic is Colonel Randy Larsen, founding director of the Institute for Homeland Security.
So, Colonel, the headline that caught all our attention Thursday is that the CDC (search), in a secret, well-guarded lab in Atlanta, has recreated the flu bug that killed 50 million people in 1918 and have determined it was avian flu. It was a bird flu. And we are worried about this bird flu coming in from Asia right now. So are we on the cusp of 1918 again?
RANDY LARSEN, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: That may be the case.
I will tell you, John, for 10 years I have been working to make this nation more prepared for a bioterrorism attack. It now appears that the biggest attack we may face in the next decade is from Mother Nature. People don't realize: 600,000 Americans died in 1918 from influenza; 12,000 died in Philadelphia just in the month of October of 1918. This one could be worse. And there are three things.
GIBSON: Why could it be worse? Why? Why?
LARSEN: Oh, because if it is in Hong Kong and Hanoi today, it can be in Cincinnati and Chicago tomorrow. Jet travel. We are more densely populated. Jet travel moves these things quicker.
This is — I wish we didn't call this thing flu. It is so completely different than the influenza we see every winter in this country and around the world. This primarily kills healthy people. It turns your immune system against itself. So, the healthier you are, the more virulent it becomes to attack the people.
GIBSON: What happens to people who get this? If it is not a flu, what is it?
LARSEN: In 1918, healthy men would kiss their wives goodbye in the morning and be dead before they came home that night. So, the fact that we have more sophisticated health care would make no difference. It is a very rapidly reacting thing.
GIBSON: What does it do?
LARSEN: What does it do? It fills your lungs and kills you very quickly. And it's the speed that it kills you that is the difference.
We have to have better international cooperation than what we had during SARS (search), where China and some other countries were kind of hiding the information, not letting that information out, concerned about economic consequences.
We have to share information quickly. An influenza does not recognize borders. It is an international problem. It's not just a U.S. or a China or a Vietnam problem.
GIBSON: OK. Now, are we just depending on luck to not have this hit us?
LARSEN: It is going to hit us. It is just a matter of whether it's this year or five years or 10 years from now.
These pandemics come in cycles and we are overdue for one right now, which is why the president and Congress are very emphatic about that we get better prepared than we are right now.
GIBSON: All right, Colonel Randy Larsen. Colonel, thank you very much. Appreciate the information.
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