Friday, February 24, 2006

A Whole Lot of Flappin Goin' on?

The Health Ministry has declared that Bird Flu is not a major concern, that it has been contained, and that it is ok to eat chicken. But how many people are buying into that? The armed forces have cut chicken out of their daily rations, parliament is going anti-chicken, and the world is going crazy. Of course, all my vegan friends out are shaking their heads going “I told ya so!” Whoever heard of dying from eating too many veggies? Ever heard of Potato Flu? Or Mad Tomato Disease? Of course not! Potatoes don’t fly and Tomatoes are rational clear headed individuals. But let’s leave my vegan friends out of this for a moment and get back to the topic at hand. Is Bird Flu really such a threat to the average individual here in Chennai? Or is it just a bunch of hype?

The Bird Flu must think itself pretty popular. After all, look at the amount of media coverage it’s been receiving the last few months. Everyone knows that the symptoms are similar to those of the common flu, like fever, cough, sore throat, and sore muscles and that in some cases, pneumonia and respiratory failure can develop and cause death. But, how many of us know that the stupid thing isn’t always fatal? (That, of course, depends on which kind of virus you get) You can have bird flu and still survive, just like you can die even with the common flu! Which, by the way, is how Ma Nature gets rid of over 36,000 Americans each year. (No one bothers to do study things like that for any other country which is why I’m using the statistics for America)

And hey, one more thing! This thing that has the world up in arms isn’t new at all. It’s been around since some Italian bloke found it in the early 1900s… so there! If it hasn’t reached you in all these years, it probably won’t this year. In fact, there were these seven people who thought they’d gotten the Bird Flu, but it turns out all they have is a regular Human flu. On the upside, they did get a lot of attention in the media!

Can you get it from anyone you know? NO. Humans are not programmed to carry any strain of the virus. The only way to actually get the infection is by eating contaminated flesh or eggs. The eggs by themselves are unlikely to carry the disease. It’s the salmonella rich droppings of the adult bird that could be a cause for worry. Salmonella, by the way, are a vicious kind of rod-shaped bacteria whose hobbies include causing typhoid, and paratyphoid fever in humans and other infectious diseases in domestic animals. As the egg develops into a tiny little bird, the virus that is encoded in its DNA gets passed on to its RNA and gets multiplied in the protein cells. Now high temperatures do crazy things to protein cells. They have this habit of cracking under high temperatures. When this happens, the virus is more vulnerable to the heat that kills it. So as long as you cook your bird and are not overzealous about eating raw eggs covered in bird droppings, you should be fine.

Even if by some strange quirk of fate, you do contract the disease, don’t worry, Tamiflu is always here!!!

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