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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 17-Feb-07
Bird flu spreading rapidly in Asia during New Year's celebrations

Web Log - February, 2007

Bird flu spreading rapidly in Asia during New Year's celebrations

This is the most dangerous time of the year for possible pandemic mutation.

China's biggest celebration of the year happens on Saturday evening, New Year's Eve, preparing for the Year of the Pig that begins on Sunday. Pigs symbolize abundance and wealth to Chinese people. To welcome the auspicious year, there are fireworks, and family reunion dinners. There is a Year of the Pig every 12 years.

Unfortunately, the Year of the Pig is also known for disasters, as fortune tellers can explain. Although it's lucky to be born in the Year of the Pig, it's unlucky to have to live through it. Pig years can be turbulent because they are dominated by fire and water, conflicting elements that tend to cause havoc, according to fortune tellers. "Fire sitting on water is a symbol of conflict and skirmish. We'll also see more fire disasters and bombings."

Well I don't know if the fortune tellers have been reading this web site, but experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are warning of other dangers.

Overall, there have been 273 cases of human bird flu across the world, with 166 deaths.

There have been multiple new outbreaks of bird flu among birds in Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Tens or hundreds of thousands of these crates are being shipped around China. Guess what's in them?  Hint: It's alive. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: BBC)</font>
Tens or hundreds of thousands of these crates are being shipped around China. Guess what's in them? Hint: It's alive. (Source: BBC)

Right now, the H5N1 high potency avian influenza (HPAI) virus is easily transmitted from bird to bird, but not easily from human to human. Mutations have been occurring frequently, including a mutation that makes the Egyptian strain resistant to Tamiflu, but no mutation has yet occurred that makes it easy for the virus to move from human to human. This would cause a worldwide human pandemic.

The most likely time of the year for such a mutation is February, for two reasons. First, it's the height of winter in the northern hemisphere, and cold temperatures promote the spread of any virus. And second, the new year's celebrations throughout Asia are causing hundreds of millions of people and probably billions of chickens to travel around and mix with one another. This mixing makes the changes of a deadly permutation more likely.

Right now, there have been only three Asian countries that have remained bird-flu free so far: Philippines, Singapore and Brunei.

There have been new H5N1 outbreaks throughout Asia, Europe and Africa.

There have been several bird flu outbreaks in the Moscow area. The virus was evidently spread by bird purchases from a single large market.

A year ago, bird flu became endemic and firmly established in Turkey, and this year it's it's already spread to 10 villages in southeast Turkey.

In Egypt, a a 5-year-old boy and a 37-year-old woman died of bird flu this week.

In Western Africa, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is stepping up surveillance, following the death of a Nigerian woman who died of the disease last month.

Britons are still in state of shock over a bird flu outbreak among turkeys in a large, completely enclosed building run by a major distributor of turkey meat (Bernard Matthews plant in Holton, Suffolk).

For several weeks, British health authorities have been investigating possible causes, and they've identified a number of "serious bio-security lapses," including meat scraps in open bins that gulls feed on, and holes in the building itself allowing entry by small birds, rodents and rats.

However, what is considered the most likely cause is the importation of meat to Britain from Hungary, where a bird flu outbreak occurred a couple of months ago. However, this had led to feuding between the two countries, as Hungary denies that such contamination could have occurred.

Keep in mind that there may be outbreaks that haven't yet been discovered. Experiences last year show that surveillance is very poor in most countries, and no outbreak is reported until someone reports seeing a large number of dead birds in one place. That means that an outbreak can spread for a while before it's discovered.

We now take a break from this story to provide today's Generational Dynamics Culture Segment.

I don't really know who rock star M.I.A. is, since I haven't yet gotten over the death of Karen Carpenter. However, I wanted to check M.I.A.'s new video, entitled "M.I.A. - Bird Flu":

It's turns out that M.I.A. is a very hot chick, and as pleasant as it is to watch her prancing around with kids and chickens, this video is almost completely incoherent. You can check out the lyrics, and find that they contain such scintillating lines as, "put away shots for later / so I’m stable / live in trees chew on feet / watch lost on cable / bird flu gonna get you / made it in my stable / from the crap you drop / on my crop when they pay you."

Clues may be found on her Wikipedia page and her MySpace web site.

It turns out that the song is a protest song against the Sri Lanka government, which is currently in a civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels. M.I.A. is 29 year old Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, the daughter of a Tamil Tiger militant.

Maya decided to release this video in order to educate young people about what's happening to her people in Sri Lanka. The "bird flu" refers to "crap" from the Sri Lanka armed forces, or something like that. Unfortunately, trying to educate college students about anything going on in the world today is a hopeless task though for very good generational reasons. Take a look, for example, at this review by a Harvard student, Nayeli E. Rodriguez, who has no idea what's going on in the video except that Sri Lanka might be a third world country.

That ends our Culture Segment. Back to the original story.

Bird flu has not yet reached North America, as far as is known, but Mexico is upgrading its animal health rules in preparation.

As I always do, I once again remind the reader that it's impossible to predict when a particular mutation will permit easy human-to-human transmission, which would result in a worldwide pandemic. This could happen next week, next month, next year, or thereafter.

Once again, as I always say, you and your family should prepare immediately for a possible pandemic. If human to human transmission became public next week on Monday, then by Tuesday all the shelves in grocery stores would be bare. If you stock up on food now, then you'll be sure to have what you need. Even if you think that you can beat the crowds to the grocery store, you should still stock up in advance. If you get your canned food after the panic begins, then you're depriving somebody else of food. But if you stock up in advance, then the shelves will be restocked, and you won't deprive someone else of food.

I once again strongly urge my readers to prepare for an H5N1 pandemic or for any kind of emergency (think of hurricane Katrina) by stocking up on food and water and currency and batteries for the entire household to live on for 2-3 months. This may cost a thousand dollars per person, but it's not wasted money since you can always eat the food later if no emergency occurs. Get canned or dried food that can last a long time in storage, and get a large container for storing water. Keep in mind that stored water becomes impure with time, so you'll also need some purifying tablets or bleach to kill bacteria in the water when the time comes. Finally, get whatever medicines you'll need to take care of yourself and your family for a long period of time. (17-Feb-07) Permanent Link
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