Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Killer Swans

Don't touch that bird!! Well bird flu is here at last. Over the weekend they discovered at least 5 dead swans in Italy and they have tested positive for Bird Flu. So it’s now a reality to me. What started in Southeast Asia in 1996 has made it all the way here to my back yard. Some of the tested swans were found at Torre Gauceto where I was going to the beach last summer. I thought we were special but just today it’s been found in Germany, Austria, and Iran. I have 3 eggs and 2 chicken breasts in the frig at home and it sounds like that’s all I have for a while. I will wash my hands thoroughly after handling the eggs and cook them thoroughly I promise. I imagine this means that chickens and turkeys in the area will be culled. That’s been technique that’s been in use so far. The only real threat is being in close contact with birds and that’s usually on farms with chickens. It is strange how it only affects some birds. This disease evidently won’t thin out the pigeon population, so I guess there is no benefit. Also if this disease can hit China and kill less than a hundred people then I think the threat is still very low here. There are a lot more people there in contact with chickens and birds in unhealthy situations all the time.
What nobody has said except for the National Geographic article I read is that bird flu strains and human flu strains can only “mix” in pigs. That’s when the problems start. A pig that is suffering from a human flu and a bird strain can give the viruses a chance to mix and make a new flu that can go from person to person. And then this is only a problem if the new virus is so unique that the human defenses don’t recognize it. If it’s close to another common human flu strain then our immune system can fight it like the common cold. Several things have to happen. No one can say they won’t but you can’t worry about something you can’t control. The only way to control this would be to kill every wild bird there is and domestic one too just in case.

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