Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bird Flu--Coming Soon to a Country Near You

Image hosting by Photobucket
Bird Flu is coming. Not if . . . but when. This past week it appeared in India, Iran, Nigeria, Austria, Egypt and France for the first time (click here for interactive chart showing how it has spread and here for "quick facts"). Birds have begun to die . . . especially domestic poultry. People are sick, too, although it has yet to be determined whether these latest illnesses are from this flu strain.

This spreading scourge will soon begin to take its toll on poultry products. Certain kinds of wildfowl are also at risk. Thus far, the only way to keep the virus from spreading is to kill the infected birds. This could mean millions of domestic fowl being killed in the next few weeks (France is Europe's largest producer of poultry) with heavy economic impact.

Even more worrisome is the potential for the flu to develop a strain that is easily transferable to humans. In humans the flu is fatal in at least one out of every two cases (90 deaths from 150 known cases so far). Almost all victims had been in close contact with infected birds but, because the disease is not food-borne, experts say it is still safe to eat poultry.

Should the flu begin to migrate freely between humans the outbreak could result in one of the world's worst pandemics since the great flu epidemic of 1918 that killed 40 million people.

Major metropolitan areas in the United States have already begun preparing for the worst. Morgues and mortuaries are being designated for the preparation and storage of bodies. There are even plans for dealing with a multitude of grieving family members and friends.

One strain of flu vaccine has already been found to be effective in innoculating poultry from the current strain. Human vaccines have not yet been manufactured because it is not yet clear what the human form of the virus might take if and when it should appear.

One way or another, whether through illegal transportation of uninspected poultry or simply from migrating wildfowl, the United States will soon discover that the Bird Flu has arrived.

We must pray that the Bird Flu comes and goes with relatively little harm to human beings. The odds are in our favor but, if the worst comes to past, we may experience death, suffering and grief on a scale not experienced since Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union in WWII .

May God have mercy on us all.