Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bird flu ayaders

So far in Africa, the H5N1 virus linked to the dreaded avian flu (bird flu) has been detected in Nigeria, Niger, Egypt and most recently, Cameroon. No human cases of the H5N1 strain have yet been found in Africa. Late last month, the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development disclosed signs of avian flu had been observed in Endibir woreda of the South State. Subsequent samples sent to a laboratory in Italy turned out to be negative for the existence of a bird-flu-like disease, but the damage was already evident in the poultry market with chickens reportedly selling for as low as 8 Birr, previously 35 Birr.

As the scare subsides, and the faithful prepare to end the fasting season with Easter celebration, poultry prices are sure to rise back to normal. Similar scares are bound to happen in the future, and it's no less likely for Ethiopia to be next to record a positive H5N1 strain. The impact on the economy would be devastating and authorities would have no remedy other than containment of affected regions. How would a nation with few resources even begin to combat the virus if it eventually starts to spread between humans? Containment and massive doses of anti-viral drugs have in the past prevented large scale epidemic in China, but not before many already died. Ethiopia does not have large stockpiles of anti-viral drugs, so one can only hope the Ministry of Health has a rapid containment plan at work.

...The World Health Organization recommends countries should stockpile enough anti-viral drugs to cope with a pandemic, which it estimates would affect 25% of the population, but warns that developing countries in particular are likely to fall well short.

Bird flu: Country preparations (BBC) 21 February, 2006