Reports of Bird flu cases are starting to increase lately.

Recent news include reports of drug resistant cases in Egypt, culls of chickens in Japan and South Korea, rumors of either birdflu or SARS in SE China.

But the real problem is Indonesia, where corruption and lack of a public health infrastructure is keeping infected birds from being destroyed.

This news report mentions a real danger: backyard chickens…350 million of them in Indonesia, and many in cities.

Many Indonesians, like many Pinoys and other SE Asians, have a couple chickens in their back yards, mainly for eggs and meat, but also fighting cocks. These chickens are in closer contact with humans than Factory chicken farms, and of course that means there is a higher danger for chicken to human transmission.

We have a chicken farm, and to sell the chickens, they have to be disease free. Sick chickens are destroyed carefully to protect personnel and to stop spread to other chickens. If bird flu comes to the Philippines, destroying our chickens will lead only to financial hardship.

But to tell an Asian to destroy his beloved fighting cock is more difficult. The cock is not only beloved, but a potential source of income. Cockfighting here is a sport played with more passion than the World Cup or the Superbowl.

There have been 62 cases of Bird Flu in Indonesia, including one case of human to human transmission, but no major outbreak. Indeed, compared to Dengue or other infectious disease, it is a minor problem.

But scientists are very worried about it, especially since the most recent studies show the 1918 flu epidemic was bird influenza, not the usual pig influenza strain that is less lethal.

A CDC summary is found HERE.

The danger of H5N1 Influenza is it’s ability to mutate and infect other species, both human and other mammals… pigs in China, Tigers in Thailand, Stonemarten weasels in Germany, and the priviously mentioned human to human transmission in Indonesia.

The 1918 Influenza epidemic killed 40 million people, more than World War I. Are we on the verge of another outbreak?

It is hoped antibiotics for secondary bacterial pneumonia and anti virals would help keep the death rate down. However, recent reports about Egyptian cases being resistant to the anti Viral medicine Tamiflu is a chilling reminder of man’s impotence against disease.

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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