Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Danger of bird flu & Murphy's Law

No, it hasn’t gone away - bird flu, that is.

Latest casualty from the deadly avian flu has been an unfortunate teenage boy in Indonesia.

Just a mere 14-years old, the boy died four days after being admitted to hospital for treatment with flu-like symptoms. Doctors claimed that he lived in an area where chickens had died recently from the virus.

China has also reported its first human case in months, though the man has since made a full recovery. Unlike the Indonesian case, there was no reported outbreak of the virus among poultry in the area where the farmer was. Medical authorities are wondering how he contracted the disease. Could it be the worst nightmare, that the deadly virus is being spread undetected among birds?

Last month, Vietnam had its first outbreak of avian flu in poultry in a year. Since then it has slaughtered thousands of birds.

But the bad news is that as winter prevails in the northern hemisphere, leading to lower temperature, the virus can survive longer, thus increasing risk of the disease spreading to humans.

In my posting Qu'ils mangent de la murtabak I discussed the sad case of Dr Asmawi Tahir, who holds a doctorate in corporate aangement yet couldn’t get a reasonable white collar job.

He decided to go into quail farming but has had his business plans severely affected by inflation – fuel, transport, toll prices all taking off and soaring away (no pun intended). He found out that the consequential price increase of chicken feed has made his quail business no longer viable.

Asmawi had already spent some RM70,000 on his farm. His fall-back action has been to switch to the exotic bird business, rearing peacocks, lyre-birds, etc.

But I had to open my big mouth and commented that Murphy's Law suggests that there may just be another outbreak of SAR to break this poor man’s heart.”

Sorry Asmawi, I’ll go and wash my mouth - with Dove soap (pun not intended, again).

But we all need to be vigilant and must immediately raise to the medical authorities any observations of suspected outbreaks of the deadly avian flu. In this Visit Malaysia year, we the Malaysian public not only need to look after our own safety and protection from bird flu, but that of our overseas visitors as well.

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