Thursday, February 09, 2006

Squalking in Fear

It looks like the first reported cases of bird flu in Africa have hit the newstands- a Nigerian case has been confirmed, while reports of multiple Kenyan birds falling mysteriously ill have surfaced. Epidemics in their earliest stages make for interesting tests of human reaction capabilities- do we allocate the necessary resources, grow sufficiently worried, and begin difficult lifestyle changes to optimize our potential for later safety? Or do we read reports of bird flu on the Internet, sigh a bit, make a note to self to reduce chicken-sharing rituals with citizens of afflicted countries, and then get on with things? It's not an issue of stopping chicken eating, it's an issue of mustering the will to reduce the likely millions of deaths as this epidemic reaches pandemic status in record time. Epidemics center around the ability of viruses to transfer and multiply easily both amongst humans and between humans and other animals. Impoverished conditions- full with inadequate sanitation and refuse removal system; brimming with largely preventable diseases like TB, malnutrition, and parasitic infections; and relying on systems of small-holding agriculture, particularly poultry-based agriculture- drive the spread of disease. The rise and thriving of viral epidemics demonstrates the unacceptable level of poverty and unsafe living conditions across the world.

Anyway, off to a kugel birthday party tonight at Melrose Arch. I think I'll skip the chicken.


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