Sunday, March 05, 2006

Deadly avian flu in Poland - official

After weeks of everyone else in Europe detecting the virus in their countries, Poland finally finds two swans to have died from the flu.

Updated 6 March

For many days now I have been sitting in editorial meetings discussing why Italy, France, Germany, Ukraine have found dead birds that had contracted the ‘deadly’ virus but Poland had not.

You would think that a country which has a president with the nickname ‘the Duck’ would be flooded with flocks of the dead birds.

Perhaps the migrating fowl just didn’t trust Poland’s veterinarian services enough, kept flying over Warsaw and touched down in Germany or somewhere with a better funded health system.

But now two swans have been found dead in Copernicus’s city of Torun, not far from the capital (well, not as the rather sickly crow flies). Senior officials told Reuters: "Initial tests confirmed that it is the H5 virus. We don't know yet, however, if it is the deadly (H5N1) kind. More tests will be done in Poland and abroad,"

It has subsequently been confirmed, in record time, that the birds have died from the H5N1 strain.

The testing centre in Pulawy is sending samples to the UK for confirmation.

Cue Polish media panic.

The story is now getting blanket coverage on the TVN 24 hour news station, with speculators speculating and pontificators pontificating on the deadly consequences of anyone happening upon one of these poor creatures.

Expect sales of chicken and other poultry, which are already down by over 20 percent, to plummet faster than a dead parrot not nailed to its perch. In Italy the hysteria has caused sales to fall by around 70 percent.

All very irrational but you can’t blame food shoppers for getting jumpy when the media is in a panic. Oprah Winfrey, the Queen of Daytime Television, has declared that she is going to get an anti-bird flu shot as soon a possible.

What Oprah says on air can be very influential. If she recommends a book on a her Book Club segment sales of that book soar (even if that book turns out to be not quite what it says on the dust jacket). So I imagine millions of Americans switched off their televisions after the announcement and rushed out to see the doctor demanding an injection.

But just how is Oprah, or anyone else for that matter, going to be able to get a shot for a virus that doesn’t even exist yet?

No rational person will worry about the H5N1 strain of bird flu until it somehow mutates into a virus that can be caught from person-to-person.

I feel sorry for the poultry producers who are now facing an irrational consumer boycott of their products. Two hundred million birds have been slaughtered or have died from the disease so far.

Many more are set to go the same way now in Poland.

To try and calm the situation down, and in a show of avian solidarity, Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz was on television this morning saying that he will be having chicken for dinner. So will I.

See H5N1 Bird Flu Confirmed in Poland, Washington Post, March 6
Bird flu spreads to Poland, infects cats in Austria, Swiss Info, March 6
H5N1 in Poland - official, Radio Polonia, March 6


roman said...

I am selling my shares in the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain as soon as the bell rings for business monday AM. This avian flu thing really "fowled" up this investment opportunity.(sorry)
I heard that out of 14 confirmed cases in China, there were 8 deaths. At more than a 50% mortality rate but with so few cases worldwide, the conventional wisdom here is still a cautious wait-and-see. Nothing like the Oprah reaction yet.

Frank Partisan said...

I imagine that chicken is a dietary staple of many in Poland.

michael farris said...

"I imagine that chicken is a dietary staple of many in Poland"

Yeah, I haven't had the courage to try it yet, but I'm told it tastes a lot like iguana ....

beatroot said...

Er...indeed. And there is more of that stuff on Romerican's blog. His last post was about milk bottles. But I don;t think we can blame Rumsfeld for dead swans in Torun.

Chicken tastes like snake, turkey tastes like Iguana.

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