Wed Aug 17th, 2005 at 01:48:09 PM EST
The online version of our city paper is taking some time out from World Youth Day boosterism to tell us:
Bird Flu Possibly Already in Europe
While fairly superficial, as befits a provincial newspaper, this article does contain some interesting details about propagation channels.
(Note: see also whataboutbob's diary Bird Flu replication map for a global perspective on this issue.)
Berlin - In response to the approach of bird flu, the Federal government has intensified its preventative measures. The Federal Border Police (technically the "Federal Police" since July 1 - ed.) are to refuse persons entry to Germany in the event if there is a possibility that they carry the bird flu virus H5N1. ... Researchers assume that the greatest risk of spreading lies in illegal shipments of animals.
It would seem to me that "refusing entry" is a somewhat hollow gesture when someone is standing in a crowded passport control line with a high fever etc., but who am I to argue with the logic of the law? But be that as it may: The extent of the last problem is explained further down in this article:
According to a statement of the Bonn-based "Committee Against Bird Murder", experts estimate that more than 100,000 birds are smuggled into Germany from Russia and Asian countries each year.
A look at the associated news release reveals that this figure refers to illegally imported exotics, i.e. in addition to poultry imports. (The import of poultry and poultry products will likely be restricted through an EU directive soon, but that is not as yet the case).
In other words, there is a high likelihood that bird flu will arrive in Western Europe on the wings of illicit commerce.
What are the authorities doing?
A spokesperson for the Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture said that the authorities were currently researching the cause of a mass bird die-off on the European side of the Urals. The Ministry for Consumer Protection characterized the situation as "highly threatening". A group of experts will meet in Bonn on Thursday to deliberate on further actions. ... Minister Renate Künast (Grüne) will announce the results in Berlin on Friday.
Poultry farmers in the Netherlands are required to restrict their animals to stalls for the time being as protection against bird flu. The experts meeting in Bonn are to discuss whether this should also be applied in Germany.
Incidentally, it is worth noting that the concrete measures described above are all on a law-enforcement level, not an epidemiological one. Nor have I been able to find any indication elsewhere that the German authorities have a plan for handling an outbreak comprising more than a few scattered individuals.