Three people have died of the H5N1 bird flu virus so far in 2009, including a 16-year-old boy who was confirmed to be infected with the virus on Monday and died Tuesday morning in central Hunan province. A two-year-old girl confirmed on Saturday to have the virus was still receiving treatment on Tuesday.
Chinese officials have warned that there may be additional cases of bird flu as the Lunar New Year approaches. Over 220 people are under observation for the disease after having been in contact with the bird flu patients. The bird flu kills 100 percent of the poultry and over 60 percent of the humans it infects.
Thailand’s health ministry has warned that 14 provinces are at risk for the avian flu during the cooler weather, which increases the virus’ chance of spreading. Health officers called “Mr. Bird Flu” have been sent across the risky provinces to monitor for infected birds or humans. H5N1 has not been reported in humans for three years in Thailand, but rapid detection, reporting, and containment are major tools in the country’s self-defense against the disease. Of the 25 known human cases of avian bird flu in Thailand, 17 have died.
An outbreak of avian flu in poultry has been reported in the mountainous country of Nepal and 12,000 chickens and ducks have been necessarily slaughtered to prevent its spread. Six out of every seven chickens brought from a quarantine office in Kakadbhitta tested positive for the disease. Everything within a 3 km radius of the quarantine office has been declared a bird flu emergency area. All poultry raising/ producing equipment that cannot be sterilized must also be destroyed. The bird farmers will be compensated, but the toll hits the poultry industry hard. There is a freeze on all buying and selling of chickens, as well as all poultry-related production or consumption.
The bird flu has been found in dead birds and wildfowl in northeast India, on the border of China and Nepal. An initial 15,000 birds are expected to be destroyed.
While the bird-flu is not easy for humans to catch, experts are fearful that H5N1 could combine with the seasonal flu and spread wildly, killing millions. These containment efforts are a serious effort to avoid such an epidemic.
With the discovery of antibiotics in the 20th century, scientists predicted the end of death and suffering from infectious diseases. During the past 25-30 years, however, we have witnessed the reemergence of well-known diseases. In recent years, new pathogens have emerged, some of which carry antibiotic-resistant genes or mutations enabling them to move across different species.
Yet, as we consider these concerning prospects, we are told not to worry. Worry is assuming a responsibility that God did not intend for us to have. While we need to be diligent in preparing for whatever contingencies may confront us, let us not forget the Lord’s exhortations:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. –2 Timothy 1:7
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from…the pestilence that walketh in darkness…A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee…neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. -excerpts from Psalm 91:1-10