2005 Bird Flu (H5N1)
What happened during the 2005 bird flu “epidemic”?
(I am including here an article I wrote in early 2006 on “Bird flu”, more or less as it was written at the time)
According to the story we’ve been fed so far, bird flu – or to give it it’s ‘proper’ title “Avian Influenza (H5N1 Bird Flu)” – is something to be very scared of. It was first ‘noticed’ in wild and commercial bird flocks in the far east, particularly China, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. Notably, several of these countries are involved in large-scale commercial bird farming, with flocks of millions of birds that can barely be imagined. Supposedly, these commercial flocks were infected by wild birds, causing infections that killed massive numbers of birds and triggered the authorities to massacre millions more on the basis of “public safety”, in an effort to prevent the spread of the problem to other flocks and, potentially, humans.
In moves that are hauntingly reminiscent of the British Governments efforts to contain the equally-well advertised “foot and mouth” epidemic (for those who don’t know, foot and mouth is a self-limiting disease that does nothing to affect either the quality of the meat or dairy products from cattle and sheep and does not affect humans in any meaningful way – a bit like the cow equivalent of a cold!), Governments throughout Asia have decimated their bird stocks. Complete farms have been wiped out and countless swathes of countryside bathed in a chemical cocktail that would make anyone with even a basic knowledge of chemistry shudder.
This has led to… an ever-growing increase in the number of countries that are “infected”, with suspect birds turning up in all sorts of places, including Greece, Turkey and a quarantine facility near Heathrow airport in England.
Of course, the real cause of concern is that the “virus” is extremely virulent, i.e. it is spread easily and rapidly and that it might jump to humans and cause catastrophes not seen since the “Spanish Flu” that was blamed for the deaths of millions of people in 1918/1919. If this were to happen, we are told, millions are likely to die worldwide and nowhere will be safe from infection.
So after detecting this “disease” in tens, or even hundreds of thousands of birds, and the destruction of millions of perfectly healthy animals, exactly what is the human cost so far? Given the media onslaught, we could expect thousands, even tens of thousands of deaths all over South-East Asia. All those poor souls who couldn’t buy a face-mask in time must be dropping in the streets at an alarming rate. The people doing the killing would be expected to be particularly at risk, given that there is no vaccine yet – wouldn’t you think?
To date (January 2006) there have not been tens of thousand of deaths, or even infections in humans. There have not even been thousands, and only recently have the figures climbed into the 100’s. What? Only 200 deaths so far from the 580 or so cases of this incredibly virulent, unstoppable bug that will flatten the World? Even that sounds like a lot!
And well might it be, until you realise that South-East Asia has the highest population density on the planet, that it has literally millions upon millions of birds being “grown” commercially. As is well recognised, these massive populations, both human and avian, are among the poorest in the World, with meagre diets and little in the way of nutrition to help them fight off disease. With this in mind, and given the nature of this “virus”, there should have been MILLIONS of deaths already, especially as, even in a country the size of the UK (approximately 60 million people) there are thousands of deaths EVERY YEAR from nothing more sinister than bog-standard, ordinary flu.
What is not made clear is that virtually ALL of the cases of
bird-flu to date have been in farm workers involved in the
production of infected birds.
So why is this over-populated, under-nourished, hotbed of disease waiting to happen not been decimated by bird-flu, you might ask? And if you did, it would be a very good question.
You might want to follow it with something like… Haven’t I heard all this before? And again, you’d be right. Exactly the same formula was used a year or two ago to instil widespread fear all over the World from the dreaded SARS, which was also promised to be the “new plague”, killing millions Worldwide. In fact, so severe was this threat that borders were closed, whole areas “decontaminated” (again with horribly poisonous chemicals) and Asian countries (again....hmmm, why ASIAN countries, just when they are beginning to become economic powerhouses in their own right?) were left with their economies collapsing from lack of visitors right at the peak of their season, whilst the pharma companies thought it was Christmas all over again.
And what was the outcome?
We’ll be discussing SARS in a moment, but suffice it to say, it didn’t live up to its media, or Government (effectively the same thing) reputation, not by a long way.