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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bird Flu, Dick Cheney, and You

What is the connection between recent finding of avian influenza in France, Egypt, and the Dick Cheney quail hunting accident? Maybe nothing...but I can't wait until after the GBBC to blog about it!

Bird flu will be found in most Western European countries by Spring. Many will blame migratory birds, but without a thorough investigation, we won't really know what is happening there, how long the virus has been present, or how it arrived.

As for Dick Cheney, the local authorities wrapped up their investigation just about as soon as it happened, so again, for all we know, there isn't much transparency there either--and we may never know exactly what happened there.

So, in both cases, apparently light investigatory work may keep us from knowing all the details. But more importantly, all the media attention to both of these stories may be keeping us from what may be more important--in Cheney's case, well, this isn't a political blog, so I'll leave any comments about Cheney's expansive view of executive power for another time. But for bird flu, the media hype about migratory birds carrying avian influenza is keeping us from seeing some larger problems--such as the role of China in the global poultry trade--including the growing and shipping abroad of potentially H5N1 infected baby chicks. The parent company of one major breeding facility in Lanzhou, which is probably responsible for the H5N1 outbreak in Tibet this summer, also according to information on its corporate website, controls 30-40 percent of the commercial poultry industry in Turkey.

More later on this, but don't get distracted by bird hunting accidents or hand-waving about wild birds. Yes, there may be something there. But pay close attention to what's happening off-stage. In this case, poultry trade out of infected countries--especially China.

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