Betting on Bird Flu
When public health officials talk about the chances that H5N1 will reach the United States this flu season, most don't back up their chatter with cold cash. But a gaming house has, offering a 20-to-1 payoff should people start coming down with the much-watched virus before 6 April.
General manager Peter Ross of YouWager.com says his house based its odds on the speed and direction the virus has been moving in Asia and Europe. Ross says 4 days into wagering, the public appears pessimistic - so if bird flu arrives, the company stands to lose big. Neuroscientist Adil Khan of the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, California, a seasoned wagerer, points out that chance may not play the only role: "The last thing you want to get is a big bettor who goes out and brings back the bird flu themselves." (Science 20 January 2006).