This week BMJ (The British Medical Journal) published a fantastic editorial on the ever-widening gap between the scientific reality of avian influenza H5N1 (i.e., bird flu) and the apocalyptic worldwide-pandemic predictions churned out by activists. Animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have a habit of exploiting public misconceptions of miniscule food-related health risks, and they’ve found in bird flu yet another PR vehicle for their anti-meat message.
Fortunately, as BMJ Deputy Editor Tony Delamothe points out, these little things called “facts” tell a very different story from the one we’re hearing from the bird flu fear mongers:
Somewhere, I imagine, there’s a small group of people proud to be counted among the Friends of Avian Flu, or FAF for short. I suspect they have a catchy mission statement, such as "Keeping the nightmare alive," and lapel badges of vaguely bird-like shape.
Their challenge is to keep bird flu forever in the public eye. This should be getting harder, as influenza H5N1 is proving particularly resistant to undergoing the killer mutation that would allow efficient human to human transmission of the virus. Ten years after the strain first appeared in humans, it has killed just 191 people. This is despite the most propitious of circumstances: millions of people and poultry living in very close proximity in South East Asia. Although these deaths are a tragedy for the victims and their families, it’s as well to remember that a similar number of people die on the roads world wide every 84 minutes. [Emphasis added]
For more information, check out our “Bird Flu: Questions and Answers.”