An article in today's Slate magazine about swans dying of avian flu have put the issue into the forefront of my mind. Last summer was the first I'd heard of it. I ignored it. My mind justified the ignorance by saying "it's a third-world problem..." So racism helped me keep my head stuck in the sand.
However, recent stories such as the one in Slate, and the stories that the virus has jumped to cats has me pulling up my sandy head and panicking.
The danger for human beings is that we have no natural antibodies for this strain of flu. In Indonesia, there have been 29 confirmed cases of avian flu, of which 22 have proven fatal.
That's a very high percentage of fatality. Likewise, if the flu begins to be passed from person to person, then it will quickly decimate the world's population. Currently, all confirmed cases were contracted from infected birds, though there have been cases where it may have been contracted through proximity to an infected person--though the infection doesn't go beyond that.
So it's still contained. But I see a chained monster ready to be unleashed on a very vulnerable population.
The CDC has the most current information, and from there you can link to the WHO and other government sites that can help you prepare. But, they'll also scare your pants off.
In the meantime, I'm going to stay as far away from birds as I can, particularly ducks, which can carry the virus without dying of it themselves. So, no more walks around Greenlake for the forseeable future.