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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Guangdong wet market selling civet cats

In central Africa, consumers eat an estimated 579 million wild animals every year, totaling billions of pounds of meat. But the trade in bushmeat is not limited to Africa. In the Amazon basin, another few hundred million pounds of wild animal meat may be consumed, including between 6 and 16 million individual mammals. “All considered,” wrote two chief wildlife veterinarians in the Council on Foreign Relations journal Foreign Affairs, “at least a billion direct and indirect contacts among wildlife, humans, and domestic animals result from the handling of wildlife and the wildlife trade annually.”842

The intensive commercial bushmeat trade started in the live animal markets of Asia,843 particularly in Guangdong, the southern province surrounding Hong Kong from which H5N1 arose.844 Literature from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) describes the residents of Guangdong eating “whatever food, be it birds, animals, worms, or snakes.”845 Today, live animal so-called “wet” markets cater to the unique tastes of the people of Guangdong, where shoppers can savor “Dragon-Tiger-Phoenix Soup,” a brew made up of snakes, cats, and chickens,846 or delicacies like san jiao, “three screams.” The wriggling baby rat is said to scream first when hefted with chopsticks, a second time as it is dipped into vinegar, and a third time as it is bitten.847

In China, animals are eaten for enjoyment, sustenance, and for their purported medicinal qualities. There are reports of dogs being “savagely beaten before death to increase their aphrodisiac properties.”848 Cats are killed and boiled down into “cat juice,” used to treat arthritis. Many of the cats are captured ferals in ill health, so “consuming such diseased cats is a time bomb waiting to explode,” claimed the chief veterinarian of the Australian RSPCA.

The cat-like masked palm civet has been a popular commodity in Chinese animal markets.849 In addition to being raised for their flesh, civet cat penis is soaked in rice wine for use as an aphrodisiac.850 These animals also produce the most expensive coffee in the world.851 So-called “foxdung coffee” is produced by feeding coffee beans to captive civets and then recovering the partially digested beans from the feces.852 A musk-like substance of buttery consistency secreted by the anal glands gives the coffee its characteristic flavor and smell.853 One might say this unique drink is good to the last dropping.

The masked palm civet has been blamed for the SARS epidemic.854 “A culinary choice in south China,” one commentator summed up in Lancet, “led to a fatal infection in Hong Kong, and subsequently to 8,000 cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and nearly 1,000 deaths in 30 countries on six continents.”855 Ironically, one reason civets are eaten is for protection from respiratory infections.856 As noted in the China Daily, “We kill them. We eat them. And, then, we blame them.”857

Wildlife have been hunted for 100,000 years.858 — Why the payback now? Growing populations and increasing demands for wildlife meat exceed local supplies of these animals.859 This has resulted in an enormous (and largely illegal) transboundary trade of wildlife and the setting up of intensive captive production farms in which wild animals are raised under poor sanitation in unnatural stocking densities. These animals are then packed together into markets for sale. All of these factors favor the spread and emergence of mutant strains of pathogens capable of infecting hunters, farmers, and shoppers.860 Live markets have been described by the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society as veritable human and animal “disease factories.”861

Following the SARS outbreak, the Chinese government reportedly confiscated more than 800,000 wild animals from the markets of Guangdong. Animals sold live guarantee freshness in the minds of consumers, but in all their “freshness,” the animals cough and defecate over one another, spewing potential pathogens throughout the market wet with blood and urine.862 These viral swap meets are blamed for the transformation of a class of viruses, previously known for causing the common cold, into a killer.863