It is not weapons of mass destruction or global terrorism that threatens Mankind - but the evolutionary process of nature.
As new cases of SARS and avian flu break out in the Far East, the scientific community gets ready for Mankind's worst nightmare - the transmission of previously unknown diseases, from which we have no natural immunity, from human to human, causing a deadly pandemic on an unprecedented scale.
Avian flu (also called bird or chicken flu) has killed three people in Vietnam, while nine other deaths by a serious respiratory illness are being investigated. Meanwhile cases of this disease have been reported among poultry in South Korea and possibly in Japan, which if so would register its first case since 1925.
Two million birds have been culled in South Korea, while in Japan, where 6 000 birds have died, the virus has been identified as H5 but it is not yet known whether it is the A (H5N1) type which is avian flu.
Meanwhile in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, near Hong Kong, one confirmed case and two suspected cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) have appeared. SARS is thought to migrate to humans from the civet cat, which is a popular delicacy in southern China, while avian flu, which first appeared in Hong Kong in 1997 and 1998, killing 6 and infecting 18 others, is transmitted by birds.
Experts are worried that if these two diseases mutate and latch themselves on to the human virus, as part of an evolutionary process, they could cause an airborne pandemic of unprecedented proportions, similar to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1921, which killed up to 40 million people worldwide.
The BBC has quoted Professor Malik Peris, of the University of Hong Kong, as stating that "Avian flu is probably a human threat". If so, it would not be the first time. AIDS is thought by many experts to have migrated to humans from the green macaque, having the same symptoms as those caused by SIV (Simiam Immuno-Deficiency Virus), formerly called "green monkey disease".
If avian flu makes the same migration, infecting humans through airborne particles and not through body fluids, the infection rate is set to cause a disaster far more dangerous than international terrorism (at present we see a disjointed effort by regional separatist groups, possibly loosely linked through a common ideal but not a concerted war between civilizations) or the supposed existence of hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction.
The threat posed by Mother Nature is real, not fictitious. If Mankind does not start to invest a fraction of the money he is spending on wars in scientific investigation, no amount of weaponry or high-tech space-age equipment will be able to protect our species from something as simple as the common cold.