Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bird Flu Spreads Again

India, France Confirm 1st Bird Flu Cases

Associated Press Writer

February 18, 2006, 10:41 PM EST

BOMBAY, India -- India and France both confirmed their first outbreak of the deadly strain of bird flu among fowl, and on Sunday health officials and farm workers in western India began slaughtering a half-million birds to check the spread of the disease.

Tens of thousands of chickens have died from bird flu in recent weeks in western India, and people suffering from flu-like symptoms in the region were to be tested for the infection, officials said.

Saturday's announcement from France and India came as other nations fought to contain outbreaks of the H5N1 strain, which has spread from Asia amid fears of a worldwide flu pandemic if the virus mutates into a form that is easily transmitted between humans. Bird flu has killed at least 91 people -- most of them in Asia -- since 2003, according to World Health Organization figures.
Estimates are that 200 million birds have been killed or died as the result of bird flu so far in this epidemic.

I haven't paid much attention to poultry prices at the store. Has anyone noted an increase yet? My suspicion is no, since the pandemic had been confined to Southeast Asia, an area of the world too far for American poultry (well, East Coast, at any rate) products to travel easily. But now that it's firmly established in Europe, I anticipate a rise in chicken prices shortly.

India has slaughtered 500,000 more birds this weekend alone, bulldozing them into a mass grave (I'm trying to keep the picture of that out of my head.) That's on top of another 300,000 reported deaths in the Navapur region. Keep in mind we're talking about family farms, not big conglomerated commercial farmers. These are people who depend on poultry for their livelihoods, and watching their "crops" being destroyed wholesale.

The French case was a wild duck carcass found in Lyons, meaning it was a migratory bird, not domesticated fowl. Naturally, since France values its poultry, nearly everybody eats some regularly, this was cause for concern, but not wholesale slaughter. The domesticated birds are being kept indoors and given vaccinations.

It's probably too late. Germany had ordered all poultry kept indoors, yet discovered another 28 cases last week. Wild birds, but we all know that nature operates in the fringes of chaos, and that this situation is rife with those fringes. Seven more cases were revealed in Egypt on Friday.

Also, a man died in Indonesia, bringing that country's total of bird flu dead to 19, and the world total to 91, or something on the order of twenty already this year. Only 30 or so died in 2004, and 40 or so in 2005.