Friday, March 24, 2006

The real (current) threat from bird flu

It's the third world economies, stupid:
The bird flu epidemic may cause significant political instability in some countries, and add to the unrest that terrorist organizations thrive on.
Consider Egypt. Long a major poultry producer, with an internal consumption of some 800 million birds a year and an export market of several hundred million more, Egypt has just been hit by bird flu and has initiated massive slaughter of suspect flocks. The epidemic could result in losses of $3 billion, easily 1-2 percent of the country's GDP. It will also lead to widespread bankruptcy and destitution among the 2.5-3 million people employed in raising poultry. Worse, malnutrition may become a serious problem, as poultry accounts for about half of the animal protein the average Egyptian consumes. Actually, poultry has become an even more important source of food because of a recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Egypt is already coping with widespread Islamist agitation, and the fallout from bird flu could readily lead to further internal problems. And with reports of at least two cases of human infection, this situation could easily deteriorate further.

You don't see most American media reporting on this aspect of the bird flu. They're too busy scaring people into buying papers and watching segments on the evening news with scenarios we aren't even sure will play out.

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