November 11, 2005

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if I was a vegetarian? I would likely be 20 pounds lighter, but the odds of me giving up meat arenít very good. Iíll stop short of making that a firm declaration because control of my meat intake may eventually be out of my control.

Iíve not given much thought to the mad cow disease scares that have prevented some folks in Europe from eating beef. Iíll still take a steak anytime I can get it.

We live in some troubled times, with crazy cows, terrorists, natural disasters and now fowl flu. I donít want to whip the public into a frenzy and cause a chicken shortage, similar to what we see at the pumps every time there is a gas scare.

Still I canít avoid a bit of concern. The recent spread of the bird flu might ultimately impact my menu if scientists canít bring the near epidemic spread of the virus under control in the fowl of Asia and eastern Europe.

Itís not that I would be afraid to eat a bucket of chicken from Gas & More. It just may be that there wonít be any chicken to fry.

Since its first discovery in Hong Kong in 1997, avian influenza strain H5N1 has taken its toll on fowl in China and has spread as far as Russia, Turkey and Romania and has been responsible for the destruction of millions of chickens, ducks and other domesticated fowl.

But who am I to be complaining about the possibility of not being able to make my infamous chicken tacos again, considering the fact that this disease could have much more troubling repercussions. Just ask the families of the more than 60 people that have died from the bird flu.

Just like the common influenza that most folks have experienced, the bird flu is spread via contact with a virus. Birds spread the disease through bodily secretions, the same as we spread the flu by coughing and sneezing. Currently the bird flu has impacted humans only through direct contact with contaminated birds. However some scientists are concerned that the disease could ultimately mutate and be spread from person to person.

So obviously, not having a tasty meal should be the least of my concerns.

But the way things are going, it might not be too big a stretch to think that ultimately Iíll be eating healthier, even if itís by no choice of my own.

While my stomach is growling, I canít help but feel a bit sorry for our feathered friends. First it was West Nile Virus and now this. Birds are being blamed for a couple of health problems that have quickly moved them up the ladder toward the ranking as public enemy #1.

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