Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Avian Flu update

Peace Corps has assured volunteers that the avian flu situation here is under control by the government. Yesterday I wondered why they only announced this a few days ago when the first cases evidently appeared in October. Sorry, I don't have the links to that supposed October date.

Now this story provides new information including the evident potential for 20,000 more birds to become infected here.

The government doesn't give you much confidence when you read what the President says about the head of state veterinarian medicine:

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko yesterday urged the government to fire Verbytskyi for failing to handle the outbreak, Yushchenko's press service reported, without saying exactly how health authorities had failed.

``What happened in these villages is clearly a professional error of the veterinary service and it must accept responsibility,'' Yushchenko was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters yesterday in Nekrasovka. ``In the early stages, the local and central veterinary services proved unable to cope. As a result of this trip I am ordering the dismissal of the chief veterinarian.''

Either the President is over-reacting or the head of veterinarian medicine is incompetent. Neither scenario is good.

Crimea is a peninsula off southern Ukraine. It seems that geography is in everybody's favor here. Evidently there have been no cases of this version of the avian flu being transmitted to humans. In fact it appears that all human cases are limited to Asia. But as I mentioned before, the dangers of this situation (public panic, lack of meat) could go well beyond the actual flu.

In this story we are assured:

Though Ukraine had previously been declared free of bird flu, the H5N1 virus strain had been found near its borders in Romania and Russia. Ukraine's top veterinary surgeon, Petro Verbytsky, however stressed that no humans had been affected by the virus, and that contagion was unlikely. "There is 1,000 times less chance of becoming ill from bird flu than there is from tuberculosis," he said.

Wait a minute, that's the guy the president wants to fire. Yikes!

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