Monday, March 13, 2006

Bird Flu

Since nobody in the major media has seen it fit to educate the public about the coming bird flu, I have decided to do it for them. We even have recommendations by officials to stockpile cans of tuna and powdered milk under the bed. For. Gods. Sake. Don't they realize that we keep stuff under there already? Like guns and old sweaters and missing socks and hairballs? Where would all that tuna fit?

So lets take a look at what is coming and what you can do about it. Per the Center for Disease Control, birds are contracting the H5N1 outbreak at a pretty decent pace. We assume that through migratory patterns across Asia into Alaska that we should see H5N1 here within six months or so. What to do? I think poultry farms should be the most worried about this. The virus can be passed through feces, nasal secretions and saliva. So if a flock of migrating birds did their thing in a pond that was used to water a chicken farm, it could spread to those chickens and they would probably all die if they got the severe form of the virus. The less severe form just lives within the infected bird without much ill effect. Many viruses are living inside you right now with no noticeable effect, fyi.

So as to the affect on humans - the CDC says this:

Human infection with avian influenza viruses:
There are many different subtypes of type A influenza viruses. These subtypes differ because of changes in certain proteins on the surface of the influenza A virus (hemagglutinin [HA] and neuraminidase [NA] proteins). There are 16 known HA subtypes and 9 known NA subtypes of influenza A viruses. Many different combinations of HA and NA proteins are possible. Each combination represents a different subtype. All known subtypes of influenza A viruses can be found in birds.
Usually, avian influenza virus refers to influenza A viruses found chiefly in birds, but infections with these viruses can occur in humans. The risk from avian influenza is generally low to most people, because the viruses do not usually infect humans. However, confirmed cases of human infection from several subtypes of avian influenza infection have been reported since 1997. Most cases of avian influenza infection in humans have resulted from contact with infected poultry (e.g., domesticated chicken, ducks, and turkeys) or surfaces contaminated with secretion/excretions from infected birds. The spread of avian influenza viruses from one ill person to another has been reported very rarely, and transmission has not been observed to continue beyond one person. Human influenza virus usually refers to those subtypes that spread widely among humans. There are only three known A subtypes of influenza viruses (H1N1, H1N2, and H3N2) currently circulating among humans. It is likely that some genetic parts of current human influenza A viruses came from birds originally. Influenza A viruses are constantly changing, and they might adapt over time to infect and spread among humans. During an outbreak of avian influenza among poultry, there is a possible risk to people who have contact with infected birds or surfaces that have been contaminated with secretions or excretions from infected birds. Symptoms of avian influenza in humans have ranged from typical human influenza-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases (such as acute respiratory distress), and other severe and life-threatening complications. The symptoms of avian influenza may depend on which virus caused the infection. Studies done in laboratories suggest that some of the prescription medicines approved in the United States for human influenza viruses should work in treating avian influenza infection in humans. However, influenza viruses can become resistant to these drugs, so these medications may not always work. Additional studies are needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of these medicines.
That doesn't look quite like tuna stocking time to me. And then there is this:

Avian Influenza A (H5N1)
Influenza A (H5N1) virus also called H5N1 virus is an influenza A virus subtype that occurs mainly in birds, is highly contagious among birds, and can be deadly to them. H5N1 virus does not usually infect people, but infections with these viruses have occurred in humans. Most of these cases have resulted from people having direct or close contact with H5N1-infected poultry or H5N1-contaminated surfaces.
Sounds like those who were infected lived among the poultry. It is common in Asia and other places that we have already seen H5N1 make the move to humans for poultry to be living among the populace. Could there be a connection there? Is there any coincidence that there have been zero human cases of H5N1 in developed nations?

Do you remember mad cow? How woefully prepared the beef industry was to combat the avalanche of panic and disinformation the media gladly hoisted upon the public to sell commercials on the air and ad space in the paper.

So the apparent solution to me rather than enjoying my wife's world famous tuna casserole every night would be not to associate with infected chickens, geese or any other poultry. I will try to eliminate all of those activities. The only place that could affect me is possibly the county fairs that I visit every summer. But by then this will all be blown over, like the mad cow scare was within a week (see McDonalds chart over the last 5 years and you can tell exactly when we had the mad cow scare - and exactly when I bought) and the media, crap blogs and other wells of knowledge will be busy working on the next non story to sell ads for. I bought a bunch of McDonalds stock when they tanked during the mad cow scare and can't wait for bird flu to hit so I can enrich my portfolio with several hundred shares of Tyson.

As an alternate solution, you can always eat more of these.

1 comment:

Carl from Chicago said...

One thing about bird flu - I think that there will be at least a 15% stock market hit when it comes, similar to what happened to SARS. It immediately impacts global trade flows, depresses demand for imports in the US, and has an impact on producing countries like China (sad to call them that, but it's true) and then commodity prices go down, too.

In the short term when bird flu hits expect a big stock sell off. The only stuff that will go up is cash (currently yielding near 5%) and maybe gold (but it already has gone up a bunch).

It doesn't even have to "really" hit to cause the market to go down. The market can be a skittish indicator.