Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Don’t Call It “Bird” Flu

Posted by MEC on February 3, 2007

The headlines proclaim

Deadly bird flu virus found in Britain

But the story is:

Officials confirmed Saturday that the H5N1 strain of bird flu had been found in turkeys on a commercial farm — Britain’s first mass outbreak of the disease that has ravaged Asia’s poultry stocks and killed more than 160 people worldwide.

As ornithologist Laura Erickson frequently reminds us in BirderBlog,

The disease has not been found in wild birds in North America, and seems to spread to the wild birds it has infected ONLY via unsanitary practices on poultry farms. Mallards have transmitted the disease from bird to bird, but only in crowded unnatural farming situations.

Laura says, and I agree, that we should call the disease poultry flu. There have been occurrences of the disease in wild birds; but the epidemics occur on poultry farms. As Laura points out on her information page about the disease,

So far all the humans who have become ill were infected by poultry … not one person has become infected by a wild bird.

The politicians and news media consistently ignore the connection between “bird” flu and poultry farms. They seem to think it’s better to scare people into thinking they’ll get a deadly disease from the pigeons in the park, indeed to spend billions of dollars in government funds to prepare for a possible virus mutation, than to actually attack the disease by requiring industry reforms.

2 Responses to “Don’t Call It “Bird” Flu”

  1. Avian flu as it is doesn’t pose that big a danger to humans, especially in places where open-air markets are better regulated and forced to observe some semblance of hygiene. All the human infections have come from situations where humans came into contact with the poop of infected poultry, typically animals that were brought live to market and either killed right before purchase or after the buyer brought it home. Selling of live poultry is fairly rare nowadays in the US, and it’s very strictly regulated.

    What has the epidemiologists staying up nights is the worry that the virus will eventually mutate into a form that doesn’t need to be transmitted by bird poop. That’s the real fear.

  2. Archana said

    Good for you! Yet another reason I’m vegetarian. Industry reforms regarding avian flu as well as mad cow disease will be long in coming… I hope it happens before it’s too late…

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