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Avian influenza – A problem from some points of view. Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Pinkie, Vietnam Feb 27, 2004
Health   Opinions
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It seems to be a fact that people do not care about Avian Influenza (also called ‘bird flu’) as much as they did about SARS. Is this the reason why there have been more fatalities from A.I instead of SARS? Let me take few examples from my country Vietnam, where the A.I is rife, to provide an overview of this hot issue.

The answer to the above question is YES! If we take a look from a Healthcare aspect. Maybe you are a health worker, working for the W.H.O. or any other medical centres, and are working very hard to stop this influenza; but I still can say Yes. For a widespread disease like this, the attention of the community is extremely important. I’m asking myself if people were afraid of SARS because it was a new found disease caused by an unknown virus more than of a simple Flu’ bug. Influenza is not a new word for us, people often catch it and in most cases, it is not fatal. In this issue, we are having a problem with bird flu’, where a virus has jumped ‘a little bit’ to humans resulting in deaths. Ask yourselves and other people around you, is that the reason why you are afraid of SARS more than A.I?

Why don’t rural farmers follow the necessary poultry-slaughter-movement?

For people who do not much care for the consequences of this disease in humans, we certainly have another visible and understandable reason. Yes I’m talking about the farmers who own hundreds, perhaps even thousands of fowl, whose family lives basically depend on raising the fowl. It has already been written on the W.H.O.’s official website about one of the results of the outbreaks in poultry “ Economic consequences can be especially devastating in developing countries where poultry raising is an important source of income – and of food – for impoverished rural farmers and their families.” This is a really difficult problem to solve.

The problem is, they would certainly prefer to get 15,000 VND for a bird sold than to get only 5,000 VND for a killed one in compensation. Before the epidemic, people in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city had to pay about 40,000-50,000 VND for a fowl, about 1.2 kg. In other locations, especially in rural area, the prices would be lower. At the beginning I simply thought that we could persuade these farmers to join the culling by explaining and promoting the danger of the avian influenza and how badly it could affect firstly their family members’ health. Although the governments of developing countries can hardly compensate the equivalent amount of money for these poor and unlucky people’s economical damages, I still thought it would be very possible. When they understood the danger of the disease to their health which has the potential to prove fatal. I did believe that they would be willing to do so. But I was wrong! Let me quote three lines written on one of the W.H.O.’s page “– When a disease which affects an economically important sector of agriculture also poses a risk to human health, the risk to humans – however unpredictable – must not be minimized in the interest of maintaining consumer confidence.” Yes it’s definitely easier for health workers to say that than poor farmers. If the culling is done rigorously, the health workers will be paid and praised, whereas the farmers have to envisage the fact that their family lives are in danger and the situation will not be improved quickly.
What is really happening?

I have witnessed a part of the worry for farmers, who raise fowl, and how they react to this disaster. They are trying to hide their live and healthy looking fowl when the authorities expedite the culling. In fact, recently my grandfather, after his visit to the town Dien Chau of Nghe An province, in the middle of Vietnam, has described how they are really ‘doing the cull’. When the responsible people went to the farmers’ houses to check and asked them to stamp out the poultry, chickens were hidden in one house or another, from places to place, and the given number is obviously not true, perhaps not even near. They, incredibly, recounted the fowl they had buried a few hours before. By the way, in such small places like Dien Chau, people do not follow the right way of culling, for example in burying the fowl without the necessary and required tools and chemicals, which means they can hardly follow the correct steps. Looking at this fact, I presume that there are other ‘Dien Chau’s with the same things happening all over my country. Furthermore, in countries with the same condition as Vietnam, is everything taking place in a better way?

If the farmers cannot sell the fowl, they are trying to keep them to eat and give them to relatives, also to eat, with the guarantee that their fowls are still healthy and do not catch the flu. The problem here is that BIRDS CAN DIE ON THE SAME DAY THE FIRST SYMPTOMS APPEAR. The days before can still be very normal to them. Be careful!
How about eating poultry at the moment?

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Hong-Anh Nguyen | Mar 3rd, 2004
Thanks jakeTsnake a lot for helping me with the English.

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