Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bird Flu,.. For Me Not You

Wow! What an exciting day I had this past Tuesday! I played hooky from my real life of sitting at home with my hair in a pony tail and no makeup, wearing work out gear in the hopes it will motivate me (usually nada) going slightly bonkers trying to teach three wily little boys readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic and wedging some actual work for a real, glorified company in the mix. (I’ll be fired now after that run on sentence.)

I got to attend a security briefing on Avian Bird Flu and then another internal meeting at CRS to identify security risks. Okay, so it wasn’t mani/pedis with the girls followed by a nice salad lunch, but this is Banda Aceh and I’ll take whatever I can get.

So, the Avian Bird Flu seminar came at just the right time because I’ve kind of run out of things to be freaked out about. And I was starting to feel kind of wistful that I’ll be leaving this delightful little swamp for vacation in two weeks.

The way I look at it, with my recent luck in the infectious tropical diseases department (one kid with malaria and two with dengue fever in the span of one month for those of you not keeping track of my bad parenting record), I figure not only will one of us be come down with H5N1 (the current Avian Flu virus), but we’ll be the darned vector that infects all of the Eastern Hemisphere. (But wait, we are boarding a plane soon! Hmmm,…)

Why worry about Bird Flu, you ask? Well, out of the 306 cases and 185 deaths spanning 12 countries, 93 of these were here in Indonesia with 76 deaths. 200 million birds around the world have either died or been culled because of the virus. And H5N1 is located all over Indonesia, with some cases and many of those dead birds coming from MY CITY.

No, we don’t cuddle ducks or hang out with any chickens, and although the powers that be do know that the virus can be transferred by undercooked eggs and meat, the only traceable instance of ingesting the virus came from someone who consumed raw duck’s blood. (Now, I come from hunting stock, so this isn’t so alien to me! The men on my father’s side usually did the old-drink-the-deer’s-blood when they killed their first.) And let’s not forget that they believe H5N1 traveled to Africa from a bunch of illegally transported Vietnamese eggs.

Here’s the part that has me agitated; our street is pretty densely populated with a nice mix of expat NGO workers, well –to-do Acehnese, middle class Achenese and then people like our next door neighbor who live in a corrugated wooden shack and have a swamp filled with a flock of ducks. Walking home you pass countless gaggles of chickens and ducks eating garbage in vacant lots (along with tied up cows and many goats romping around). Forget about the fact that this virus can live on porous surfaces for up to 12 hours, or hard surfaces for 48; it can live up to four days in warm water and,.. THREE MONTHS in bird poop!

So, I’m thinking all it takes is a boy to step in some infected bird poop, touch the bottom of his shoe when he’s removing it, not wash his hands (these are boys here, after all) and get infected! Or the big, stupid dog we have will run through bird poop and then come inside and spread it everywhere. Or roll in it even. Or actually catch a chicken and eat part of it. Then lick someone. Yuck.

Okay, it’s a long shot, I know. But with all these big organizations gearing up for that pandemic that we are supposedly due for, I wanna be ready. I’ve got my year’s supply of tamiflu. I know now not to crack the egg on the side that has the dried chicken poop with a feather stuck in it. (Fresh! Talk about eating locally!) I have the FAQ from SOS International on how to make my own cloth face mask (forget making homemade yogurt, Martha, we’re into homemade embroidered personal protection equipment!) I’ve installed sinks. Two of them. I’m ready for any epidemic!


Teri said...

Oh, my. LOVE the statistics on the occurrences in your city. Meanwhile, back here in my little world, the most recent place I heard of the flu was on the Chick-fil-a website. Any good bird-eatin' establishment has to address it, huh?

mom2threepks said...

If I didn't have my heart set on a career in midwifery you make public health and infectious disease sound darned exciting! Can you all just hold your breath for the next two weeks?