January 26, 2004

Bird Flu

In the age of media hype, stories are often more interesting for what they could become than what they really are. But this Bird Flu in Asia should at least be a reminder that pandemics are a staple of history. The Spanish Flu killed more people in five short months in 1918 and 1919 than were killed in the four years of the Great War. It also infected a fifth of the world's population, nearly 30% of Americans...and killed over 670,000 Americans. Estimates vary over the global death toll. But between 20 and 40 million were killed. Could it happen again? Antibiotics are much more pervasive now than they were then. But the flu mutates as well. And scares like the bird flu are grim reminders. Needless to say, this would be fairly disruptive for global markets...in Asia in particular where the poultry industry must surely be in dire straits. London Free Press: News Section - Deadly bird flu confirmed in Indonesia: "Asia is on a region-wide health alert, with governments slaughtering millions of chickens to contain outbreaks in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. "Vietnam has slaughtered more than three million chickens, while Thailand has exterminated about nine million. Yesterday, the Thai government enlisted hundreds of soldiers and 60 prisoners to help with the mass cull. Scientists believe people get the disease through contact with sick birds, raising concerns it might mutate and link with regular influenza to create a form that could be transmitted from person to person, fostering the next human flu pandemic. "


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