“China is considered one of the nations most at risk from bird flu epidemics because it has the world’s biggest poultry population and many chickens in rural areas are kept close to humans.”
China is one of the few countries with the unfortunate distinction of being endemically infected with avian influenza. Several H5N1 strains are circulating in China, and ducks can excrete the virus without showing symptoms or showing only mild ones. Explains Dr Elizabeth Mumford, a scientist with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Influenza Programme:
“Viruses of the H5N1 subtype that are currently circulating in poultry in Asia and Egypt seem to be associated with a very high case–fatality rate when they infect humans, and these viruses do pose a pandemic threat.”
The H5N1 virus mainly affects birds, but is only one click of the genetic lock away from threatening the entire world. The flu occasionally jumps to people and when a person is infected – the virus is usually fatal. Experts fear it may mutate into a form that could spread easily among humans who have no natural immunity against it:
“That is the concern, especially now that we know it can potentially acquire human-to-human transmissibility,” according to scientists monitoring the situation in China.
It is this potential for transmissibility, and the threat of a world pandemic, that keeps epidemiologists feverishly occupied: the fear of a world pandemic capable wiping out human and animal populations.
Meanwhile, Chinese health officials warn the public to remain vigilant against avian influenza infection and to observe the following measures:
“Avoid direct contact with poultry and birds or their droppings…Poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked before eating…Wear a mask when you have respiratory symptoms or need to take care of patients with fever…When you have fever and influenza-like illnesses during a trip, you should consult your doctor promptly and reveal your travel history.”
Dr. Nasr El-Tantawy, an epidemiologist at WHO explains:
“The disease has become endemic in the nation’s poultry population and within all poultry production sectors. Many activities to reduce virus circulation have been ineffective and possibly counterproductive, such as current vaccination strategies, compensation policy, communication strategies of both public and animal health as well as outbreak detection and response.”
“The control of this disease has proved to be a complex and dynamic challenge due to the social, economic, and cultural background,” adds El-Tantawy.
Yet U.S. pet food manufacturers demand for a cheap and abundant source of poultry remain high, despite the recent discovery of illegal drug residue found in chicken jerky-type pet treats imported from China recently prompting nationwide recalls, drug residues possible of causing an allergic response in some dogs fed the contaminated treats; In addition, the epic FDA investigation into the thousands of reported cases of illness and death of dogs linked to the treats.
Adding to the concern of canine hypersensitivity to sulfonamide drug residues, recent research has found antibiotics are in such rampant use on Chinese farms that it could unleash a wave of superbugs; And some of those drugs are used in China for the control of avian influenza.
Scientists warn that antibiotics are in such heavy use on Chinese animal farms that it could lead to wide human antibiotic resistance on a vast scale:
“While we don’t import any fresh meats … that effluent and that water [from pig waste] is used to grow, for instance, vegetables and other items that we do import from China,” Professor Peter Collignon, infectious diseases expert from the Australian National University said.
“So there is an issue that … what happens in China can affect us, not only when people visit there and eat food and drink water there that may be contaminated, but even what we import into this country may be contaminated with that material or superbugs – and currently we have no way of testing for that,” cautions Collignon who works with the WHO Foodborne Disease Surveillance Program.
Despite rising concerns about the bird flu, the U.S. FDA continues to allow the unfettered flow of imported poultry from China, some of those imports in direct violation of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002.
The news of two more cases of the deadly avian influenza type H5N1 in China give us reason to pause, and wonder, just why is the FDA allowing the import of poultry from China? Further, why would the United States Department of Agriculture, after years of failed negotiations with China, be considering reversing the ban on imported chicken from China for human consumption? Two great questions, which leave many consumers wondering about the sanity of our federal government.
Note: Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food and founder of the Association for Truth in Pet Food wrote a brilliant piece today exposing the shocking revelation that the FDA allows the unchecked stream of poultry from China into this country while ignoring the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (the Bioterrorism Act) designed to protect US consumers from threats to our food supply.