Table of Contents:



I. Storm Gathering

1. 1918

2. Master of Metamorphosis

3. H5N1

4. Playing Chicken

5. Worse Than 1918?

6. When, Not If

II. When Animal Viruses Attack

1. The Third Age

2. Man Made

3. Livestock Revolution

4. Tracing the Flight Path

5. One Flu Over the Chicken's Nest

6. Coming Home to Roost

7. Guarding the Henhouse

III. Pandemic Preparedness

1. Cooping Up Bird Flu

2. Race Against Time

3. Tamiflu

IV. Surviving the Pandemic

1. Don't Wing It

2. Our Health in Our Hands

3. Be Prepared

V. Preventing Future Pandemics

1. Tinderbox

2. Reining in the Pale Horse


References 1-3,199

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Virginia outbreak

Government reactions to egg and poultry food safety recommendations in light of bird flu have been mixed. In Indonesia and Pakistan,448 health ministers called upon people to stop consuming chicken and eggs for the time being,449 whereas the Prime Minister of Thailand promised 3 million baht ($76,000) to relatives of anyone dying from cooked eggs or chicken.450 The international airport in Rome is promising the “destruction by incineration of any poultry-based food found in the luggage of passengers traveling from risk areas.”451 A European Food Safety Authority advisory panel advised Europeans to cook all eggs and chicken carefully in light of the disease spreading from Asia.452 They also cautioned that down and feathers originating from affected areas “may be infective due to contamination with infective faeces or other body fluids,” noting that processing methods for these materials “vary widely as regards virus reduction.”453

U.S. officials appear less concerned. During a 2002 outbreak of low-grade avian influenza across Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, most of the millions of infected and potentially infected carcasses were disposed of in landfills at a cost of up to $140 per ton of carcasses. Incineration is even more expensive, costing producers $500 per carcass ton.454 So USDA’s chief flu researcher David Swayne, along with the now-Assistant State Veterinarian of New York, recommended producers instead try to recoup the costs of culling by selling sick birds for human consumption. They argued that since only high-grade viruses have been found in skeletal muscle meat, it was okay for producers to market birds infected with low-grade viruses for food as a cheap “method of elimination.”455

Remarkably, Swayne has since disclosed that a scientist in his own lab demonstrated in the early 1990s that even low-grade bird flu viruses infect the birds’ abdominal air sacs that extend up into the breastbone and the humerus on the wing. “[S]o there would be obviously a potential for air sac contamination of the associated meat products if they contained bone,” Swayne admitted.456

Swayne suggests that even birds infected with high-grade bird flu viruses could be used as meat as long as they were sent for further processing and turned into precooked products.457 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations disagrees. “Poultry from infected flocks should be disposed of by environmentally sound methods and should not be processed for animal and human food consumption.”458 The FAO frowns on disposing of infected carcasses by putting them on our dinner plates. Even suspect birds not yet showing signs of infection, according to the FAO, should be destroyed and disposed of and should “not be allowed to enter the human food chain or be fed directly or indirectly to other animals including zoo animals.”459

During the 2002 U.S. outbreak even the rendering industry—which turns slaughterhouse waste, roadkill, and euthanized pets into farm animal feed and pet food460 —was reluctant to accept birds from an avian influenza outbreak because of the stigma attached to the disease.461