Category Archives: Bird Flu

Bird Flu news

The avian flu fright: Politically timed for global ‘iatrogenocide’

The avian flu fright: Politically timed for global ‘iatrogenocide’ By Dr. Leonard Horowitz

I found this article very insightful. I find this article disturbing now. It was something I had read back in 2005. I think the thoughts and ideas, scarily, do apply look plausible on initial look.

(Edit: Apparently, this is nothing but a well-constructed delusion – Dr Horowitz has a preceding reputation. Thanks, budak. As the Deep Throat might say: yes, the truth is out there, Mulder, but don’t believe the first LGMs you cross paths with, it might just be Halloween.)

TODAY 20070309: Scientists to study bird flu in cats

I hope it is as Dawn said here: “As the last test in Indonesia was never peer reviewed (nor I believe ever written up as a paper), I believe they’re probably trying to carry out the tests in a more systematic manner.”

I reiterate: kill ignorance and panic before all else. In addition, I’m just going to paste what I read on budak’s blog:

08 February 2007

Before the culling starts…


mother cat
Originally uploaded by
budak.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization gives its take on the reported cases of the avian influenza virus H5N1 in cats in Indonesia. In a press statement, the FAO said the incident “should be closely monitored” and stressed that there has been “so far no sustained virus transmission in cats or from cats to humans.”

The FAO recommended the commonsensical precautionary measure of separating cats from infected birds (duh!) as well as keeping felines away from commercial poultry premises (double duh!) and advised against killing cats as a control measure “because there is nothing to suggest that cats are transmitting the virus in a sustained way.” In fact, the FAO warned that “removing cats could lead to a surge in rodents such as rats, which are an agricultural pest and often transmit diseases to humans.”

And while there is some concern that cats (and it should be added many other mammals from dogs to rabbits) might as a intermediary hosts for the virus, FAO officers noted that given 80% of cats in outbreak areas have not been infected, it indicates that “cats are unlikely to constitute a reservoir of virus infection” and are actually “more likely to be a dead-end host.”

Meanwhile, it seems there are itchy trigger fingers just waiting to perform their civic duty by blasting every damn duck out of the sky. One wonders if the powers that be will fail to learn from the SARS episode when politicians revelling in ignorance failed to tell the world of difference between civet cats and Felis catus, preferring to give way to wanton prejudice and unwarranted fears. Would gun clubbers like Mr Lim even know the difference between migratory birds and residents? Can they even tell the difference between the invasive house crow and native large-billed crow? Or corvids from similarly sized and coloured black bazas?

Will they even give a fool’s damn to the perspective that while migratory birds play a role in the virus’s transmission, the real major factors “contributing to the spread of the avian influenza virus are poor hygienic practices related to the production, processing and marketing of poultry, contaminated products, gaps in biosecurity and individuals not following recommended control measures?” I suspect not; it’s surely much more fun to shoot first and ask questions later. Why waste thought on trying to capture the complexity of reality and comprehend matrices of unproven causations, when after all, the good doctor knows best. Doesn’t he? But it must feel really good to be doing “something good for the country”, to be – as one faithful servant of his motherland once intoned in defence of his strenuous efforts towards a final solution to a pressing problem – “just following orders…”


This story was printed from TODAYonline Scientists to study bird flu in catsFelines that prey on birds may play key role in spreading virus

Friday • March 9, 2007

JAKARTA — Researchers will next month begin in Indonesia the world’s largest examination of bird flu in stray cats.

For the cat study, scientists led by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization will examine feline habits and collect blood samples to test for exposure to the H5N1 virus.

Disease trackers aim to collect data during the next three months, with preliminary results collated soon after, said Mr John Weaver, a senior adviser with the agency in Jakarta.

“We have yet to understand the epidemiology of the virus, how it crosses from different species,” says Mr Weaver.

“If we miss the key component that these cats perhaps disseminate the disease, then we’re not catching up with the game.”

Virus-tracking scientists say domestic and stray cats that prey on wild birds in South-east Asia may play a critical role in transforming avian influenza into a global pandemic that could kill millions worldwide.

“Cats eat birds and therefore can become infected by this virus and help it to mutate and adapt” to mammals, said Mr Andrew Jeremijenko, who headed an influenza surveillance project for the Naval American Medical Research Unit in Indonesia.

“Maybe there is a role that cats are playing and we don’t understand it yet,” he added.

Until recently, avian flu experts have long viewed pigs as the most likely mammals in which a pandemic virus may emerge because the animal can catch versions of flu that infect birds and humans.

Indonesia has the highest bird flu death toll with 63 lethal cases. The United States embassy in Jakarta last month warned citizens to avoid contact with wild and stray cats, and to ensure that domesticated ones don’t interact with sick or dying poultry.

Most of the cats infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms, according to Mr Tri Satya Putri Naipospos, deputy executive of Indonesia’s national committee on bird flu control and pandemic preparedness. It’s unclear whether a sick cat can infect a human. Mr C A Nidom, a scientist at Airlangga University in Surabaya, says he plans more research to determine whether felines can pass the illness to other species.

Domestic cats and other felines are at risk of infection from H5N1 if they prey on birds, studies published last year by two Thai universities and government researchers showed. A 2005 study showed the virus was probably transmitted between tigers in Thailand.

— Bloomberg

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

ST 20070226: It’s not the size of the dwelling that matters, it’s how pets are managed

Another great response to this illogic. Mr Lee mentions Tyke, r.i.p, so I thought I should also use this chance to speak out for her and the animals now suffering what she has gone through as a circus animal. Check back later Click here to learn about Tyke. Meantime, here’s the piece de resistance:

It’s not the size of the dwelling that matters, it’s how pets are managed

The Straits Times, Online ST Forum

Feb 26, 2007


In his letter, ‘Keeping animals: How to handle a pet peeve’ (ST, Feb 22), Mr Heng Cho Choon opposes keeping pets in small apartments in a ‘densely populated country’.

It’s not dwelling size or population densities but what kind of pets you keep and how they are managed that matter. Naturally, no horses, tigers and pythons even in a Bukit Timah bungalow. It’s also cruel to confine animals that need open spaces.

The writer’s examples of emaciated dogs and goats on TV only prove that even larger or landed properties in less-dense America have owners who neglect or mismanage animals – it’s not apartment or population size per se.

To learn about animals, he advocates bringing kids to the zoo, the bird park or Pulau Ubin to see wildlife. ‘In Chua Chu Kang, there are fish, goat, frog and chicken farms which are open to the public.’

On TV, did Mr Heng see Tyke, a female elephant in America, being shot on a street after ‘rampaging’ out of its circus tent during a show? If you had been kidnapped from young, seen your mother killed, beaten to submission to entertain crowds and deprived of a natural family life, wouldn’t you have snapped at some point in a desperate bid for freedom?

Living with pets can evoke empathy, respect and care for non-human life while watching or petting them won’t to that degree. Being entertained by animals can commodify them as toys unworthy of concern beyond that utility.

The writer worries that HDB residents near pet shops selling birds and hamsters suffer ‘the noise, smell and mess 365 days of the year’. He wonders about their safety vis-à-vis the bird flu.

Putting fears in perspective, the number of casualties of pandemics blamed on animals are paltry when compared with man’s decimation of his and other species through warfare, infection and pesticides like DDT.

Mr Heng understands that love, devotion and childlessness motivate pet-keeping. Would we have evolved thus if they had been banished to zoos and petting farms? Doesn’t this obviate needing ‘a battalion of animal police’?

Anthony Lee Mui Yu

ST 20070224: Keeping pets a far better experience than the zoo

A great rebuttal by CWS to this illogic. For once, this is in the print edition. Thank Bast for small miracles!

Keeping pets a far better experience than the zoo

The Straits Times
Feb 24, 2007

I REFER to Mr Heng Cho Choon’s letter, ‘Keeping animals: How to handle a pet peeve’ (ST, Feb 22).We agree that more can be done for animal welfare in Singapore, and we are pleased to see that Mr Heng is in agreement about the matter. As he himself says, people do truly love and care for their pets and take them to the vet when they are ill.

There will certainly be some irresponsible pet owners, but as Mr Heng pointed out, the animal police might be one option to deal with this. There are already laws on animal abuse, neglect and abandonment in place.

We are not clear what the analogy between owning pets and a pet shop on the first floor of an HDB block is. If Mr Heng feels that the pet shop is not clean and is lacking in hygiene, then he should alert the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to the matter.

In addition, there is no bird flu in Singapore.

It is a shame that Mr Heng feels that children should be taken to a zoo to learn about animals. At a time when we are trying to become a more humane and compassionate people with a genuine culture, this is akin to pulling down all our historic buildings and monuments and telling people to go to the museum instead.

The best way children can learn is through daily experience – not through occasional trips to the zoo.

Dawn Kua Su-Wen (Ms)
Director of Operations
Cat Welfare Society

ST 20070222: Keeping animals: How to handle a pet peeve

Mr “Ban-cats-AND-dogs-from-flats” Heng aka “Old-folks-who-fall-have-only-themselves-to-blame” Heng is at it again.

I agree with Budak who posted this comment on vegancat’s blog entery of Mr Heng’s latest antics:

The most ’substantive’ points he can raise in his rambling rebuttal to counter a well-thought out survey are crowded pet shops (a valid problem but not at all relevant here) and some stupid American TV show? And though he doesn’t state it explicitly this time, it’s clear he thinks pets don’t belong in flats, with no other reason than his perceived notion of their ‘problems. Says something about the ST Forum that they accept such incoherent letters…

Dawn’s thoughts on it are also worth thinking about

ST (22-2-07)

Thanks Vegancat for sending this letter in.

Keeping animals : How to handle a pet peeve

As Vegancat pointed out, it’s interesting that a response to an online forum letter was printed in the print edition this time around.

The actual letter (which I had missed) was a very interesting article on how some graduate students from Darwin Australia came to Singapore to do a survey and found that most Singaporeans were responsible pet owners and that they took their responsibilities seriously. In addition, they found animals to be an intergral part of their lives.

While we don’t know how large the sample size was, I think Mr Heng misses the point when he says that he can only seek to know a fraction of the Chinese soul though he visits China for a few months a year. The sample size here isn’t of one (ie Mr Heng) but presumably the students actually interviewed a number of people, including people who DO live in three-roomed HDB flats.

I also think it’ll be a very sad day when we decide to round up animals and put them in a zoo. It’s like saying that we should pull down all our historic landmarks and buildings and telling people to go to a museum and see them. A child can learn so much more from daily experience – and not from a once or twice yearly visit to the zoo. If you walk around Rome for example, the culture of Rome is exemplified by not just by the beautiful ancient buildings, but the many cats cared for by the Romans. In a young country striving to learn just whom we are, I think it would be a huge shame if we decided to become an arid, soul-less place without animals.

posted by Dawn @ 9:37 AM

 

It is really really weirdness that ST entertains Mr Heng’s dogma, and even lets his letter see ink! Especially when the letter he’s ranting against is an online letter (also appended).


The Straits Times
ST ForumFeb 22, 2007Keeping animals: How to handle a pet peeve

I REFER to the letter, ‘Important to take the time to understand a culture before making judgments’ by Mr Roni Roberts (ST, Feb 16) in which he commented on whether HDB flat dwellers should or should not keep pets as ‘an integral part of the family unit’.

Some people keep pets because they truly love them and care for them with utter devotion. They do not mind spending a fortune to take their pet to see the vet whenever it is sick. Some keep pets because they are childless and want to drive out the silence and monotony of the home.

I once visited a friend who lives on the second level of a block of HDB flats. On the ground floor is a pet shop which sells birds and hamsters. Residents nearby have to put up with the noise, smell and mess 365 days of the year. With the spread of bird flu, I wonder if it is safe to live in such an environment.

The TV series Miami Animal Police shows us that not every pet owner is a responsible individual. It shows emaciated dogs which have not eaten for two weeks and snakes kept in a small cage when their owner was away on vacation overseas. Some goats were locked in a small enclosure and left unfed for days on end.

Perhaps we should have a battalion of animal police in Singapore to ensure our animals are not abused or neglected.

If our children are serious about wanting to know more about animals, they can always visit the zoo, the bird park or even Pulau Ubin.

Pulau Ubin has animals galore, from butterflies and snakes to wild boars and flying foxes. This is in addition to the rich flora which is part and parcel of the natural landscape.

In Chua Chu Kang, there are fish, goat, frog and chicken farms which are open to the public.

Parents can always take their kids to such places for a close encounter with animals.

If Mr Roberts were to live in a three-room HDB flat for six months, perhaps his notion of keeping pets in a densely populated country would be different.

I have visited China for several months in a year and to date I know only a fraction of Chinese culture and the innate Chinese soul.

Heng Cho Choon


 

Straits Times, Online ST Forum

Feb 16, 2007

Important to take the time to understand a culture before making judgments

We are a group of postgraduate students from Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. We visited the vibrant and beautiful Singapore for an intensive study in Cross-Cultural Management Skills last October. We had seven days of intensive study aimed at improving our cross-cultural effectiveness through:

>>Examining the influence of cultural differences on management skills, behaviour and performance

>>Being involved in experiences which enable us to identify significant issues of cross-cultural behaviour; and

>>Examining our own cultural background and how it affects our behaviour and interactions with other people.

Part of the experiential learning programme included exploring a hypothesis that ‘pets are not a significant part of homes in Singapore, because of housing constraints, prohibitive costs, rules and regulations and cultural beliefs’.

The methodology involved observations by the group over a period of several days, inviting a cross-section of the community to respond to a questionnaire and offer anecdotal evidence.

Our hypothesis was based on assumptions that Australians live in a space-rich environment and there are very few limitations or constraints that impact negatively on pet ownership in Darwin. We were very aware that we didn’t want to impose our value system in another culture and, in doing so, were careful to choose a culture-neutral topic that would allow us to engage the local communities to get below the tip of the iceberg.

As first-time visitors to Singapore, the group was humbled and appreciative at the level of openness and friendship shown to them by Singaporeans. Not only were they prepared to help with the study but they were also prepared to share stories and time with warmth and sincerity. Our language and cultural differences were transformed into a pleasurable opportunity for shared learning.

The group was seeking to identify explicit evidence to support our thesis, such as a perceived absence of: pet shops, people exercising pets, pet advertising and veterinary surgeries et cetera. Additionally, the group explored Singaporean attitudes, values and beliefs related to pet ownership.

Is housing a constraint for Singaporeans owning pets? All the people interviewed lived in high-density housing, such as flats and condominiums. Although the minority of people owned pets, none of the participants who didn’t have pets gave housing constraints as a reason. On the contrary, they all seemed to agree that it was acceptable to have pets in this type of environment provided the animal was of a reasonable size, well looked after and controlled.

Are costs prohibitive to Singaporeans owning pets? It appeared, from the responses, that the cost of owning different types of pets is well understood and is not a priority consideration for the participants.

Are rules and regulations a deterrent to Singaporeans owning pets? Although most of the respondents were unclear about the specific rules and regulations regarding ownership of pets, they supported the need for appropriate animal-control measures. Most held the view that there is a strong element of self-management by residents of Singapore. Owners who allow their pets to become a nuisance to others will be reported to the authorities and they believe the offending owner will be dealt with.

Do cultural beliefs impact upon the decision by Singaporeans to own pets? The majority of people participating in the study were of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Arab origin. Other than a clear message that Muslim beliefs do not allow ownership of dogs, or birds in cages, there was no strong evidence to suggest any difference based on ethnic origin of the participants.

While carrying out the survey some interesting additional information became apparent. For example;

>>Some people did not own animals because of allergies, lack of time or they don’t want responsibility of ownership;

>>The participants didn’t seem to be concerned that future generations of Singaporeans may not have direct access to live animals, other than domestic pets, unless they visit the zoo and take overseas travel;

>>Most of the participants interviewed believed there was little or no native wildlife left in Singapore;

>>The ownership of pets is taken very seriously and with a very responsible attitude. The indication from the participants was that they were prepared to strongly defend their right to own a pet. They are viewed as an integral part of the family unit;

>>There was a general consensus that stray animals are numerous and represent a health risk to humans. Despite this concern, there was agreement that stray animals have a right to life and should be appropriately cared for. ‘Either people should feed them at the same time everyday, or call the SPCA to collect and care for them.’

By engaging locals on a deeper level, our time in Singapore has taken us well beyond the experience of the average tourist. If the purpose of this unit was to improve our cross-cultural awareness and thus effectiveness, then the group concurs that this has been achieved. Rather than this being taught to us in the usual academic way, it has been a journey of discovery, which was achieved in partnership with the local people of Singapore.

At the beginning the group had assumptions that have since been tested and proven invalid. This demonstrates the importance of taking the time to understand a culture before making a judgment about behaviour and applying our own values to a person and expecting their behaviour to follow.

The implication for the future is that people with different views and backgrounds best achieve successful outcomes when they share responsibility for each other’s learning regardless of culture.

Roni Roberts

Darwin, Australia

ST 20070210: UN raises bird flu alarm over cats

ST seems to have no qualms stooping to sensationalism. Despite its own reports pointing to live poultry trade and human issues that’s at the roots of the current bird-flu-scaring-and-killing-humans pandemic, it has chosen to highlight that cats MAY be a potential source of bird-flu infection to humans, which is still unproven. To date, ALL human bird-flu infections has been through contact with infected birds.

Will this ST article start a new round of dumping, and contribute to the traditional major holiday cat dumping practice here (Chinese New Year is just a mere 7 days away), ala the SARS phenomenon that lead to Kheilly’s existence? There is even an outline of a cat in the print version, and the quote they chose to highlight:

‘This raises some concern not only because cats could act as intermediary hosts in the spread of the H5N1 virus between species, but also because growth in cats might help the H5N1 virus to adapt into a more highly infectious strain that could spark an influenza pandemic.’

In the article itself, this quote is immediately followed by these two paragraphs, which are of course lost amidst the bustle of words and that portentously ominous cat outline:

However, the Rome-based FAO stressed, cats have not been found to pass the H5N1 virus among themselves, nor have they infected humans.

It advised against culling cats, even in infected areas, because the animals can control rodents and other vermin that can be dangerous to humans.

We can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And again, as mentioned, please refer to posts by Dawn: Cats and H5N1, and Budak: Before the culling starts for a more balanced, AND educated perspective.

Do consider writing to ST and complain about this sensationalism at stforum@sph.com.sg.

Letters to the Forum editor
Please include your full name (as in IC), your address and a telephone contact number. For women, please indicate Miss, Mrs or Ms.

Send your letters via e-mail: stforum@sph.com.sg
or Fax (65) 6319-8289

When you write to The Straits Times Forum page, we take it that you agree to allow us to archive, resell or reproduce the letter in any way and in any medium.

If you wish to contact the editor of a particular section, a comprehensive list of our key editors is here.

Thank you for writing to us

NOTE: The print edition has an additional caveat – 400 words or less.


The Straits Times Interactive

 

Feb 10, 2007

 

UN raises bird flu alarm over cats

Scientists say the animals have been infected with H5N1 virus after mingling with or eating sick birds

Scientists say scavenging cats in Indonesia, Thailand, Iraq, Turkey, Europe and Russia have become infected with the virus after mingling with sick poultry or eating infected carcasses.

In Indonesia, the US Embassy is warning its citizens via its website to avoid contact with stray cats.

‘While there have been no documented cases of feline-to-human transmission of H5N1, it is important to avoid contact with wild and stray cats,’ it said.

In Java and Sumatra, local animal control officers found that as many as 20 per cent of the dead cats inside infection zones had contracted the disease, the FAO said on Thursday.

‘This raises some concern not only because cats could act as intermediary hosts in the spread of the H5N1 virus between species, but also because growth in cats might help the H5N1 virus to adapt into a more highly infectious strain that could spark an influenza pandemic,’ said FAO assistant director-general Alexander Müller.

However, the Rome-based FAO stressed, cats have not been found to pass the H5N1 virus among themselves, nor have they infected humans.

It advised against culling cats, even in infected areas, because the animals can control rodents and other vermin that can be dangerous to humans.

The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs warned this week that cats be kept indoors and dogs on leashes within infection zones.

But officials remain concerned that this is the first time the virulent strain has been transmitted by poultry to other animals – a potentially worrying development that illustrates just how adaptable and crafty the virus can be.

As many as 166 humans have died from the H5N1 strain of respiratory flu, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organisation, many of them in Indonesia, and all of them from proven close contact with either infected birds or family members.

Cats and humans are among the only mammals to contract the most virulent strain from poultry: pigs, dogs, mice and rabbits have contracted a less deadly form of H5N1, the FAO said.

The news about cats contracting the H5N1 virus is among the latest developments in the global monitoring of the deadly disease.

The British authorities now fear the source of an outbreak at a turkey farm in Suffolk may have been from Hungary, where geese were infected by the virus last month.

Officials say the virus in Britain is ‘almost identical’ to the Hungary virus.

In Nigeria, where 19 of the country’s 36 states have been affected, the FAO has dispatched a crisis management team after confirming the country’s first human fatality.

The H5N1 virus was first detected in Nigerian poultry a year ago.

New outbreaks were confirmed this week in Turkey’s quarantined Batman Province and in western England.

Elsewhere, bird flu-hit China, Thailand and Vietnam have joined Indonesia in stopping the sharing of their virus samples, fearing that corporations will develop expensive vaccines they will not be able to afford.

BPisik@aol.com


‘This raises some concern not only because cats could act as intermediary hosts in the spread of the H5N1 virus between species, but also because growth in cats might help the H5N1 virus to adapt into a more highly infectious strain that could spark an influenza pandemic.’
FAO ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-GENERAL ALEXANDER MÜLLER

H5N1… kill ignorance and panic before all else

H5N1 new development: The American Embassy in Indonesia, H5N1 hotsplotch, has issued a warning to citizens about contact with stray cats on 7 Feb.

But as you can see from posts by Dawn: Cats and H5N1, and Budak: Before the culling starts, to target cats, felis catus, now is just either ignorance or foolhardiness, unwarranted, a wanton waste of lives, and resources (funded from taxpayers’ money). It may also cause other problems, like a rat population explosion.

I hope that the Singapore Government has gotten over its iron-fisted trigger-happy-complex contracted during SARS, and that reason will prevail this round. Bottomline: THINK before acting, don’t be so hasty to kill, like South Korea.

Ref: Threat to cats: H5N1 aka deadly strain of bird flu