Sunday, May 05, 2013
The Birds of Spring and the Deadly Flu Strain
The birds have been flocking back to the island as they do every spring.
Flying in from south of the lake, on their way north.
But this year I'm not as glad to see them, as I usually am.
Because this year they can't help reminding me of what's going on in China.
The outbreak of a new type of bird flu in China poses a "serious threat" to human health, but it is still too soon to predict how far it will spread, experts have said. Of the 126 people known to be infected so far, 24 have died, with many more still severely ill in hospital.
And if that's disturbing, this is frankly alarming.
Senior scientists have criticised the “appalling irresponsibility” of researchers in China who have deliberately created new strains of influenza virus in a veterinary laboratory.
Professor Chen and her colleagues deliberately mixed the H5N1 bird-flu virus, which is highly lethal but not easily transmitted between people, with a 2009 strain of H1N1 flu virus, which is very infectious to humans.
And the reason it's alarming is that there is no good scientific reason for creating such a deadly strain. We've been there before, and then as now we know that a failure to properly secure and contain such an engineered virus could have unimaginable consequences.
It could not only cause hundreds of millions of deaths, it would almost certainly bring down our shaky economic system, cause mass panic, and thrust us almost overnight into a whole new world order, where police states would be the rule rather than the exception.
The good news is that the Chinese authorities have been more transparent than usual, and they have made some progress in containing the H7N9 virus, and identifying ducks and chickens as its main carriers.
The bad news is that the new virus is mutating EIGHT times faster than other bird flu viruses. It's a quadruple reassortant or mix of four flu strains, nine times more deadly than the so-called Spanish flu of 1918. And since it doesn't kill the birds it infects, we can't be sure that others aren't carrying it.
And since birds are everywhere we're already seeing signs of panic in China.
On a subway car in Shanghai, commotion breaks out when someone spots a live chicken poking its head out of a bag tucked under one of the seats. On a highway in Zhejiang province, a motorist is so panicked by bird droppings landing on her windshield that she stops the car and calls traffic police for help.
And the same thing could happen here.
To make matters more ominous, those of us in Canada have to worry about how the Con regime would cope with a pandemic. When they can't even keep track of the battle against diabetes.
The Conservative government takes a fragmented approach to diabetes, without tracking its spending on the issue or even whether it is doing any good, the auditor general said in his latest report.
And are doing everything they can to diminish the federal government's role in our national healthcare system.
So I shudder to imagine what might happen if we were hit by a deadly pandemic, and how a man like Stephen Harper might take advantage of the situation.
Oh well. Let's just hope it never happens eh?
For it would be the day that our failure to defeat the Cons in the last election could come back to haunt us, in the most catastrophic way possible.
It would be the day, in more ways than one.
That the birds came home to roost...
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