Thursday, November 03, 2005

Send me your poultry

The news media have been abuzz with talk of a potential avian flu pandemic. Although the much-feared influenza strain has not proven capable of easy human-to-human transmission, scientists fear that it will mutate and wreak havoc on a population with no built-up immunity. The scientists will say that you have nothing to fear from eating poultry, provided it is well-cooked. But is that a chance you really want to take? Do you really want to play chicken with such a frightening virus? As a compassionate religious leader, I feel it is my duty to do whatever I can to protect my loyal human followers. And so I offer you the opportunity to send me your poultry. Whether it be chicken, turkey or quail, I will eat it, thereby removing any threat to the human population. The H5N1 virus is not believed to be a threat to the canine population, so I can safely dispose of this tainted meat. It is the least I can do.


Anonymous said...

Again, your selflessness is a inspiration to us all

Leslee said...

You are so brave and so selfless!

JMG said...

Hmmm. I sense another motive. Perhaps it's to deliver aid to hungry dogs in shelters?

Seriously, though, I'm sure you've heard of the canine influenza that is going around. 80% of dogs who are exposed to the virus actually come down with the flu, and 10% of those die. It's quite scary. Lots of the dogs who were left behind during the hurricanes and who were taken to shelters have come down with it. I've heard that a vaccine is in the works. I hope you are being careful when you are around other dogs.

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I have heard about canine influenza, but the information has been spotty. I think it would make sense for pet caretakers to avoid boarding their dogs, and to be vigilant about watching for coughing or other symptoms. This Chicago Tribune story has some sources who appear to be credible, and they say that the virus is nothing new and that the threat has been overblown. It's long, but I will post the whole story here.

Scare over `canine flu' overblown, experts say


Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO - (KRT) - Despite news reports warning that a new killer virus at dog tracks and animal shelters could move into the pet population, many experts say the "canine flu" may be an old and basically harmless disease.

"This virus has been circulating in the dog population for a long time - perhaps decades - and was unrecognized because it is so mild and so easily treatable," said Brad Fenwick, vice president for research and professor of infectious disease pathobiology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Since last year, the canine flu virus has been implicated in dozens of dog deaths at greyhound racetracks and kennels from respiratory disease. Some facilities were forced to shut down for weeks to be disinfected. Rumors flashed on the Internet. Researchers were said to be rushing to come up with a workable vaccine.

But experts such as Fenwick, who specializes in medical problems of racing greyhounds, say a vaccine may not be needed. Although the virus can spread easily in the close quarters of tracks and shelters, it does not sicken many dogs - and those that do become ill usually recover with proper care.

"Half the dogs exposed to this virus never get sick," Fenwick said. "Of those that do, the majority will recover on their own. A very small percentage (less than 1 percent) are at risk of getting a secondary bacterial infection that is easily treatable if they're given antibiotics."

"There is no killer dog flu crisis in greyhound racing, or outside it, for that matter," he said. "There's a lot of misinformation and a lot of unnecessary hysteria. Basically, it's a lot to do about very little."

The canine flu often causes "kennel cough," whose classic sign is a harsh cough that often prompts owners to think the dog has something caught in its throat. Kennel cough can also be caused by bacteria and other viruses, and a vaccine exists to prevent the bacterial version.

Most animals recover from kennel cough with no treatment; others may require intravenous fluids and antibiotics to fight secondary infections.

"There is a small number of fatalities, basically due to age or some other concurrent illness," said Joanne L. Carlson, president of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association. "I think it's important not to panic, just to be aware of it and watch for the main signs - coughing, gagging, a fever and nasal discharge. If your dog has them, consult your veterinarian."

The journal Science recently published a paper that identified the canine flu virus, finding that it is closely related to the horse influenza virus. Because that flu had crossed from horses to dogs, the paper raised the possibility that it perhaps could transmitted from dogs to humans.

But the scientist who led the study attempted to reassure the public.

"We must keep in mind that this H3N8 equine influenza virus has been in horses for over 40 years. In all these years, we have never been able to document a single case of human infection," said Dr. Ruben Donis, chief of molecular genetics for the influenza branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is tracking the illness. "That's not to say there isn't any risk ... but at this point there is no reason to panic."

Cases of canine flu first turned up last year in 22 racing greyhounds in Florida. Since then, scientists at the CDC, the University of Florida and Cornell University have found evidence of widespread infection in racing dogs at tracks across the country. The infection is believed to have spread because the dogs travel from track to track.

The researchers also tested 70 dogs of various breeds with respiratory diseases in Florida and New York pet shelters and veterinary clinics, of which 97 percent showed antibodies that indicated prior exposure. That finding cast doubt on whether the virus was really new.

Tests on stored blood suggest the flu virus began infecting racing dogs between 1999 and 2003.

Fenwick was called in to consult by Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha, Wis., which suspended racing for four weeks in April and May when it found itself coping with an epidemic of kennel cough.

According to Bill Apgar, the track's general manager, "about 950 dogs were involved and 80 percent showed some symptoms. But none of them died. Everybody did a really good job of handling it and it was contained at Dairyland. It never got outside."

Fenwick called the Kenosha track a good example of what's been happing at the tracks.

"No big deal: A zero mortality rate," he said. "It got recognized in greyhounds because we have such large numbers of them in certain locations, and veterinarians were called in to treat the dogs. Even a mild respiratory disease is of special concern to a canine athlete."