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Who’s afraid of bird flu?

August 8, 2006

Portlanders like fresh eggs, which is probably a big reason for why we have the most chickens per capita than any other city in the U.S.  Willamette Week’s neat PDX Finder tells us so in their Harper’s Index-style list of interesting factoids about Stumptown.

I have a friend who wants chickens.  She even has a rooster crow cell phone ring.  Think barnyard animals are neat but I’m not that sure about how much I want my neighbor keeping a coop in a highly residential area.  So much poooing and cooing and crowing.  I’m also a little afraid of bird flu, which is steadily spreading in SE Asia.

Fear (and awareness) of bird flu seems to be completely related to whatever new report is out rather than the reality of what is going on day to day.  There was a heightened awareness of it a few months ago when a health report was published and a video about it came out.

checkenThere hasn’t been much talk about it lately.  There haven’t been any brnad new scary reports, but the fact is that more people in Indonesia are dying from bird flu and we’re now being told that China concealed the fact that a soldier died of the flu in 2003 – two years before they actually came out and acknowledged the disease.  Indonesia has the highest death toll and has received a lot of criticism for not “culling” their chicken population (a nice way to say slaughter, I guess). 

I’m not an alarmist, but I feel a legitimate concern about avian flu.  The death toll isn’t huge – under 250 – but millions of birds have this strain (H5N1) and a mutation seems likely, according to international health experts.  It probably won’t reach us here in the States…right? 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2006 3:46 pm

    Hmmm… Tough call on this one. I’m not sure there’s a major threat unless people start having Neighborhood Chicken Play Parties where all the chickens get together.

    “The virus can pass from bird to bird when it is inhaled and from contact with infected droppings. Contaminated equipment, infectious particles carried on the feet and bodies of animals, and migratory waterfowl can spread the disease.”

    There’s some great info here:

    What is bird flu and how is it transmitted?

    There are a whole bunch of things that harm or kill people each year — cars, fireworks, bicycles, dogs — but we don’t want to ban them. Poultry is different because it could potentially spread so quickly, but I don’t think urban chickens are much of a threat given their relatively small numbers and distance from one another.

  2. Linda permalink
    August 21, 2006 9:17 am

    I think that it’s absolutely a possibility, statistically how much of one is the question. I was actually sitting in a plane on the way to D.C. a few months back when I opened the in-flight magazine to an article that went into a frighteningly detailed fictious scenerio showing how easily this could happen. The article (again – in an IN-FLIGHT MAGAZINE!?!!) described how an infected person in China could get on a plane to L.A. before realizing they have it (appears to be common flu, then you’re dead before you know it – 10 days or so) and by they time they’re on their deathbed and staggering into the hospital – far too late to be saved – everyone they’ve been in contact with has been exposed. Airplane passengers, everyone in the terminal, cab driver, family, friends, people out shopping, etc. Talk about good in-flight reading….

    I have a friend ‘on the inside’ – doing some of the first autopsies on bird flu victims – who agreed that this was absolutely a possibility. VERY VERY scary stuff.

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