Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bird Flu Migrates West

The NYTs is reporting that the same strain of avian flu that’s killed millions of animals in Asia since 1997 has made its way to European soil. Thousands of birds in Turkey have died of bird flu over the past week, marking the first documented cases of bird flu on the European continent. So far the spreads only through contact with infected animals, but the chance that the strain will undergo a mutation that allows it to pass from person to person has governments developing contingency plans.

Italy, for example, has ordered 35 million euro worth of human anti-flu medicines to protect its population in the event of a human pandemic, and the United States more than $100 million.
But Europe and the United States are not at the great risk for bird flu according to one scientist interviewed for the article, who maintains that veterinary services in western countries are prepared to respond effectively to outbreaks among animals. The bigger concern is Africa, which is distinctly lacking in "surveillance capacity and health systems to orchestrate a swift response." We don’t need to see any further proof that Africa is vulnerable to epidemics. Hopefully European authorities will beat back the spread of bird flu by eradicating the infected bird population. If not, Africa faces the threat of another serious health crisis.

--Matthew McCoy