Thursday, February 23, 2006

The luck of the Irish

With dead birds showing up all over the EU, at least if you live in the Republic of Ireland, there's good news:
Experts on avian flu tonight insisted sufficient measures had been put in place to combat the threat of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

After considering a series of contingency measures with the Avian Influenza Expert Advisory Group, Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan said it was too soon to begin the compulsory housing of poultry.


. . . Mrs Coughlan has insisted Ireland has plans in place to combat the virus. (Ireland On Line)
OK. There have been a few glitches:
Following reports which suggested the Department of Agriculture hotline for reporting suspected bird flu cases was not manned at weekends or after 9pm during the week, the minister said the service would be enhanced.

Ms Coughlan confirmed that a new low-call number was being provided with immediate effect – 1890 252 283.
Don't worry. They've got it fixed:
She said anyone who wanted to report dead birds could contact this number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The minister noted the helpline would sit alongside the existing Head Office reporting number 01 6072000 for animal disease incidences.

And she said An Garda Siochana, the Health Services Executive and local authorities were being reminded that calls from members of the public about dead birds should be redirected to the helpline.

Mrs Coughlan also revealed details of the collection and testing of dead birds by Agriculture officials.

She said it was designed to act as a surveillance/early warning system.
Here's the bad news:
The bewildered response of officialdom to the reported finding of a dead swan in Co Waterford does not inspire confidence in Ireland’s preparedness to cope with the threat of bird flu.

As the first meeting of the national emergency management committee takes place today, it defies credulity that the finder of the dead bird on the foreshore at Cheekpoint in Waterford Harbour, where other swans were swimming at the time, had to make no fewer than 10 phone calls before he finally succeeded in contacting an official who said the body would be collected.

Presumably, samples have been sent to Britain for laboratory tests?

This bizarre scenario gives the lie to Government claims that Ireland is geared to cope with an outbreak of avian flu. It also suggests that Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan is grasping at straws by stating we could escape altogether because of the migratory pattern of wild birds. (Irish Examiner)
Here's more of the bird finders story:
Realising the danger, the finder first contacted the gardaí but they were unaware what procedure should be followed.

Astonishingly, the Health Service Executive told the finder not to worry because bird flu had not yet reached Ireland. He was informed that all relevant officials were at a meeting but would be available at 9 o’clock yesterday morning.

Adding that no information had been received from any Government department about bird flu, the HSE source suggested the local vet should be contacted. But it also transpired the vet had no information about contingency plans.

Finally, after being passed from Billy to Jack, an official at the Department of Agriculture said the dead swan would be collected. This appalling chronicle bodes ill if avian flu ever arrives here.
There's two sides to every story, but frankly, the bad news side has the ring of truth and the official "we've got it under control" side has the ring of bullshit.

Maybe the Irish are counting on their proverbial luck. Because they don't seem to have much else going for them.