Saturday, March 18, 2006

Egypt, Israel

Human cases of bird flu are now appearing in the countries where the disease has been detected in poultry recently. Egypt joins Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iraq as a 30 year old woman's death on Thursday, a day after falling ill. She lived in Qaloubiyah province, about 40 kms (25 miles) north of Cairo. It is said she kept chickens, some of which died and others she slaughtered and ate. The laboratory diagnosis was made by the US Navy mobile laboratory in Cairo and needs official confirmation by a WHO reference laboratory, although no one seems to doubt that this is indeed a bird flu death. (Reuters Alertnet)

This case is typical of other reports in that it involved a relatively young person (30 years old) and seem to run a rapidly fatal course. The victim had a history of contact with infected poultry. The shift to younger age groups compared to (ordinary) seasonal flu and the virulent course seem to be hallmarks of this disease and are a feature of pandemic strains. The characteristic which separates the current strains from true pandemic strains is the ability to spread easily from person to person. There are numerous reports of small clusters, however, some of which are probably human to human transmissions. Solid evidence of tertiary spread and beyond is so far lacking. This would be the warning sign that a pandemic was underway, that is, it is not the number of clusters but their size which will be the key characteristic.

The Israelis, too, have discovered the disease on two poultry farms and admitted four people for observation of possible infection. The Health Ministry is saying today they are negative for bird flu, although no details have been released (Reuters). False negatives have been a frequent problem with this disease. The infected farms are near Gaza, the politically chaotic region between Egypt and Israel that Israel has isolated. If Gaza does not already have infected poultry it is likely to, soon. Either Israel will have to cooperate with the Hamas led Palestinian Authority (and vice versa) in control measures or both will suffer.

But don't underestimate the gross stupidity of both sides in this grossly stupid conflict. If you still need a reason to condemn religion, the Jewish nutcases in Israel and Muslim and Christian nutcases in Palestine should be sufficient. They are all acting under God's orders. Or maybe God delegated that region to FEMA.