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The Pandemic of Fear Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Gabriel Mauricio Sarmiento Argüello, Colombia Oct 19, 2005
Health   Opinions


On Wednesday Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Panama followed Ecuador’s bad example and decided to ban imports from Colombia’s bird-rearing industry. Given that this rushed decision was made without scientific support, its objectivity is questionable.

Last week the bird-rearing industry was alerted to bird flu cases found in some farms in Tolima. Until now it is not known how or when this happened, all that is known is that bird flu, caused by the H9 strain of the virus, appeared in Colombia in three farms of the bird-rearing company of Fresno (Tolima).

As indicated by the health authorities, and confirmed by the experience of Pakistan, the H-7 and H-9 strains of the virus do not represent a danger to humans.

The nonpathogenic or slightly pathogenic flu virus A is present anywhere in the world.

The highly pathogenic flu virus A (HPAI) of subtypes H-5 and H-7 HA are isolated occasionally in birds in freedom in Europe and other regions. Groups produced by HPAI were registered in the zone of Pennsylvania, United States of America, in 1983-84. More recently groups in Australia, Mexico and Pakistan have been identified.

This measurement aims to prevent the entrance of bird flu through viruses of “low pathogenicity” but the real issue is whether 3 months of imports should be prevented through negligence or a lack of knowledge.

Infections by HPAI are very rarely observed, and should not be confused with viruses of low pathogenicity (that also occur in the subtypes H-5 or H-7). It is clear that possibly they could be considered subtypes related to the cases in the Asian south east, but that simply seeds doubts as to the true efficiency of measurement systems for the surrounding poor countries and how generalized fear leads to a dominant effect that has closed our frontiers.

It is understandable that the media and world agencies should alert developing countries at the earliest sign of a possible bird-flu pandemic, allowing them to close their doors to potentially risky bird-rearing markets. However, we have to ask whether more harm than good is being done when countries lack the criteria to assess what is good and bad information. Is it really about prevention? Why are poor countries watched more keenly? And finally, unlike children, in their innocence and ignorance, should we allow ourselves to be scared by monsters that we know not to exist? The answer to these questions will soon become apparent.


Article “No deje de comer pollo por temor a la influenza”. Economía Personal. Irely Guzman. La República. Miércoles 19 de octubre de 2005.

Article “Gripe aviar: Colombia aislado por los andinos”. Exportaciones / Medidas sin soporte científico. FENAVI. El Tiempo. Jueves 13 de octubre de 2005.



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