Wednesday, December 17


As "the flu" becomes the latest "horrific" terror to grip our nation's psyche, it's worth noting that these viruses don't just appear out of nowhere. They come, as often as not, from animals kept for food. And the way we treat animals is directly related to the danger our species is putting itself in: "Today, the growing number of birds and pigs raised for human food consumption and housed in close quarters serve as 'mixing bowls' where influenza viruses trade genes, increasing the likelihood that a novel strain will emerge, experts say." This is serious stuff, folks: "Until 1997, researchers thought that flu viruses passed from birds to pigs to people. But a 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong showed that an avian influenza could directly infect and kill humans. Many hoped that outbreak-contained with a massive slaughter of chickens-was an isolated incident. But last year, in China and in the Netherlands, bird flu again infected and killed people and spread from person to person."

Meanwhile, South Korea has just been hit by a "deadly bird flu." 20,000 chickens died at a farm outside of Seoul earlier this month. "Since then, the agriculture ministry has culled 5,000 other chickens at the farm as a precaution and has quarantined poultry within a 10 kilometer (6-mile) radius. On Tuesday, ducks at a farm near Umsung also tested positive for the bird flu, and authorities ordered 3,300 of the ducks to be killed and buried." The AP article offers this: "South Korean officials say there is only a small chance of the virus crossing from birds to humans because most strains of H5N1 are not transmittable. " Oh, whew, that's reassuring. But then they turn right around and inform us, "Early this month in Hong Kong, a 5-year-old boy came down with bird flu, but not the same H5N1 strain that caused a deadly outbreak in 1997." Uh-huhhh.....

UPDATE 12/23: The Bird Flu is Spreading Fast Nationwide, reports Reuters, with half a million chickens and ducks so far killed to try to stop it.

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