Bird Flu Spreading in Asia
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Bird Flu Spreading in Asia"
Voice of America
The article reports that a highly deadly and contagious bird flu has been confirmed in Vietnam, South Korea, and now in Japan, with the suspicion by WTO that ten people in Vietnam may have been killed by the disease considered to be dangerous only to birds under normal circumstances.
Japan's media are still running around to report the measured taken by the government and safety concerns of the people at the outbreak of disease in Yamaguchi prefecture located in the western part of Japan, which, until confirmed to be the highly contagious bird flu, killed six thousand chickens. So far, in Japan, the outbreak seems to be a singular event in one chicken farm and experts are assuming that migratory birds have carried the disease causing the epidemic in Japan for the first time since 1925. Japan, among other countries, stopped import of eggs and chicken meat from South Korea last year when the flu was reported there, but unfortunately there are no effective means to stop migratory birds crossing the border.
The timing was not very preferable, either. Restaurants, fast-food outlets, and retailers are now struggling to find ways to cope with the stopped US beef import because of BSE found there. In fact, agricultural experts are currently visiting the US and Canada to find ways to reopen the US beef import, which had supplied 30% of all the beef consumed in Japan until it was banned toward the end of last year.
Meanwhile, people have been weary of SARS. Airports have heightened its health security levels and the reports on newly found SARS patients in China are conveyed as major news by media every time.
One bright spot in all this gloominess, however, is that people seem to be not panicking at all. The news of the bird flu, and of SARS, have been calmly received by the public. As for BSE, people grumble about rising beef prices along with other meat, but very few have indicated their concern in consuming beef served or sold domestically.
Some critics have claimed that people, after experiencing a number of quasi-crisis in health and food safety in the past few years, have become more knowledgeable, which allow them to face with the recent events calmly. But others say that people have simply become numb to the flood of reports coming out, and once the danger becomes visible, such as people actually beginning to see symptoms of SARS, BSE, or bird flu, on humans, hysteria would erupt.
Nobody is certain as to which interpretation is correct, but nobody, at lease in Japan, wants to find that out by the means of any of such events being realized.