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Sick Chicks

Will These Roosting Chickens Have the Flu?

by DAVE LINDORFF

Talk about your roosting chickens!

While the U.S. government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on the much ballyhooed "War on Terror", creating vast secret intelligence networks, organizing a whole new government department, and reassigning resources and personnel from basic police work to anti-terror functions, while Interpol cooks up scare stories about Al Qaeda improbably developing sophisticated biological weapons that would allegedly be able to kill millions of people, nature is handing would be terrorists the ultimate weapon:

Sick chicks.

To cause the collapse of western economies and spread fear and panic among the populations of post-industrial societies-most notably America where the health system, especially for the poor and working poor, is in near collapse- all a terrorist has to do is to smuggle a bunch of flu-infected eggs from Vietnam or Thailand into the target nations, hatch out the chicks, and release them into commercial poultry farms.

The first result of this low-tech gem warfare would be a financial disaster for agricultural economies.

Then would come the inevitable health crisis, as the Asian bird flu first becomes endemic to Europe and North America, and then begins crossing the species barrier to mammals and ultimately to humans, as it is already starting to do in Asia.

The World Health Organization has been monitoring the bird flu crisis in Asia for several years now, watching as, with each new annual outbreak, it jumps more easily from bird to human. Over the past year, the H5N1 virus-based disease, which has a 72 percent fatality rate, has killed 45 people-apparently all of whom contracted the disease directly from exposure to chickens. This is a much higher number than a year ago, indicating that the virus is gradually mutating into forms that can make the jump from bird to mammal more easily. The real danger comes when a mutated version manages to infect a human and then become transmittable from human to human.

Because the bird flu virus is of a type that humans have not developed any immunity to, this development would likely lead to a pandemic, in which millions would die.

The recent corporate fiasco involving the failure to produce adequate flu vaccine for this current flu season should not make people sanguine about the likelihood of a competent response to such a crisis.

Instead of spending all those billions on the nightmare fantasies being hatched in the fevered minds of this administration’s neo-con cabal and their police apparatchiks, the U.S. should be spending whatever it takes to help the poor countries in Asia combat the disease there with medical help, farm development aid, and general economic aid. The U.S. should also be diverting a big chunk of those wasted anti-terror dollars to reviving health care in poor regions and neighborhoods of America, where health clinics, hospital ERs and primary care physicians and pediatricians have all been vanishing, if they ever existed.

The real terrifying thing is that according to the WHO, a bird flu pandemic is likely to strike even without an assist from some egg-toting, globe-trotting extremist. The government’s inattention to this global medical threat makes the country a sitting duck.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com