chickens scattered across the front page of Wednesday’s Guardian, with
the question mark of avian influenza, sent a shudder of ominous dread to
assurances by the Ministries of Agriculture and Health that the thousands
of dead and dying chickens in a Cumuto farm were not infected with the
deadly bird flu, but with a fungal disease—aspergillosis—was not
enough to send away the jitters about dead birds in T&T.
anxiety is justifiably fuelled by simultaneous reports out of Turkey of
fears after the deaths of two people from the virus, that despite massive
culling, the bird flu could become “endemic” there.
UN expressed the fear that the virus was spreading in Turkey, despite
is this virus and why should we be afraid if it’s all the way in Turkey?
We should be afraid. Not “panic afraid,” but “prepared afraid.”
have predicted that should the bird flu mutate into a flu that can be
passed between human beings, the devastation, and loss to human life will
be worse than any nuclear, terrorist or natural disaster ever imagined.
of the number of possible victims of a catastrophic global pandemic range
from 7.4 to 150 million people.
ask, as I did, what is it and how can it be passed on? This is what my
research revealed: Avian influenza, known as bird flu, is a contagious
viral disease in animals, caused by a virus loosely related to human
H5N1 form of bird flu is the most dangerous. It is extremely contagious
among birds, both by air and contact with faeces. Mortality is close to
100 per cent, many birds dying on the same day of infection.
latest bird flu outbreak, which started in 2003, has affected mostly Asia,
where millions of birds have died after contracting the disease or have
been destroyed in measures to prevent it spreading.
the end of 2003, cases have been recorded in Thailand, China, Indonesia,
Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, South Korea, Mongolia, Japan and
Kazakhstan. In August, it was confirmed in Russia.
then, there have been confirmed outbreaks of H5N1 in Taiwan, Croatia,
Turkey and Romania, as well as an H5 outbreak in Greece.
feared that the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form easily transmissible
between people, unleashing a flu pandemic which they say is “overdue”
by 20 years. Then humans began contracting the flu from birds.
the second week of January, more than 145 humans in Asia and, more
recently, Turkey, had been infected by the H5N1 strain. Seventy-five
far, most human deaths have been in communities in which people live in
close proximity to poultry. Breathing in dust from the faeces of sick
fowls or handling them is believed to be the main way in which the virus
spreads to people.
latest Turkish bird flu victims were in close contact with poultry and
many, failing to recognise signs of the disease, had eaten sick birds.
say that the more humans suffer from the virus the greater the risk that
it will be transmitted from humans to humans and then spread as easily as
the common cold.
nations are worried. Many countries are putting contingency plans into
place. The British department of health’s plan, which includes stocking
up on the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, candidly calculates that “between
21,000 and 700,000 deaths could be expected in Britain from a flu
of the population could become infected, and another quarter would need to
care for them.” Are we worried? Maybe.
medical source says the Ministry of Health, with visiting epidemiologists,
has conducted some lectures for the medical fraternity.
showed a map of the infected birds’ flight plan. They predicted that
some infected birds would get lost this year, or early next year, and may
find themselves in this part of the world.
were no guarantees, they said, that we wouldn’t be affected, by a
“strain” in an infected bird. No guarantees that we won’t be
affected in case the virus mutates from a bird to human virus to a human
to human pandemic.
we have a contingency plan? Are we stocked up on Tamiflu? Have we
calculated how many deaths can be expected?
God and the Ministry of Health knows.