The Birds Strike Back

These may not be the only angry birds out there! (Rovio)

Humans have been eating birds for tens of thousands of years—perhaps as early as 3000 B.C. when the first chickens were likely domesticated. And in that span of millennia, we have consumed more birds and eggs than even the most powerful supercomputer would care to count.

In the United States last year alone, poultry production—which includes eggs, turkeys, chickens and broilers (basically chickens bred solely for human consumption)—topped $38 billion in sales, representing an annual gain of roughly 8%.

Thanks to the people at The Poultry Site for that information, by the way.

I’m not sure how this figure breaks down, but $38 billion seems like a lot of fried chicken, turkey sandwiches and Eggs Benedict, don’t you think?

Birds have certainly suffered at the hands of humans for a long, long time. And as much as I hate to say it, I fear the time for their revenge is upon us.

No sooner had I published an article about a New York salon that uses bird poop in one of its facial treatments—“Beauty for the Birds“—than our feathered friends popped up in the news again, only for something much more sinister.

According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, a woman in the Chinese city of Wuxi may have contracted the H7N9 virus—better known as bird flu—from her dying father while caring for him during his final months. She herself died a short time later.

The deadly H7N9 influenza virus (Yahoo)

If this actually happened, then it represents the first case of human-to-human transmission this year because the Chinese woman never came into contact with poultry; her father was the only possible source of infection. Fortunately, researchers concluded that the virus’ transmission between people was “limited and non-sustainable,” but they also reminded us that this could change.

And if the bird flu is like every other virus out there, it likely will change and adapt—maybe even resulting in some kind of global pandemic in the near future. The capability of being transmitted between humans on a limited basis shows H7N9 has already started to learn from its mistakes, so to speak.

In April, the World Health Organization called the H7N9 virus “an unusually dangerous virus for humans” and “one of the most lethal influenza viruses [they] have seen so far.” They also mentioned how complex the virus is and how we “are at the beginning of our understanding” of H7N9.

I don’t know about you, but this scares the hell out of me. If the bird flu continues to evolve—and all signs point to that happening—then we could be facing on of the biggest health crises in recent history. And I, for one, would prefer to make history for something more uplifting and less fatal, if you know what I mean.

Looks like it’s time to start eating more fish, people!

Posted on August 8, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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