Europe has been rocked by increasingly virulent avian flu outbreaks this month, and not just in France and Germany. On Monday, Romania’s prime minister called for a military response to combat the “dramatic” outbreak. People are being evacuated from four villages in Romania where officials said dozens of poultry were dying, many after having been transported by trucks. They are also slaughtering thousands of birds in neighboring Moldova, a change from an earlier plan to only culling those without the flu. The whole of Central Europe is on alert for the virus, and the World Health Organization, the organization that tries to prevent global disease, had issued travel warnings earlier this month.
But is it time to panic? In Denmark, a new drug has been approved to fight the virus. And experts say that the outbreaks in the U.K. and the Netherlands are likely to be less severe than the one that hit Germany. But the outbreaks have caught the public’s attention at a time when Europe is already struggling to rebuild from a series of terrorist attacks, Brexit and ongoing existential woes. Perhaps you might think it’s worth your while to adopt the nuclear option and spread fear by buying up parakeets and eating your kestrel. But on Tuesday night, Wikipedia users silenced the site after they realized its role in spreading worries about bird flu on Reddit. On the site, people have repeatedly warned that the avian flu is about to hit the U.S.
Over at the Guardian, Alicia Hirst is as excited as the rest of us, and not just because she has written the piece explaining why China is the most likely place to encounter the next Big Pandemic.
Those origins keep resurfacing like an Achilles heel, whatever the Russian intelligence can find to justify. There has been no evidence to suggest that China’s “particular strain” of bird flu is as easily transmissible as the seasonal strains that cause H7N9 and H9N2, each of which has now infected 169 people and killed 16 in China, most of them children. In 2016, however, a coronavirus first found in Saudi Arabia — the SARS-like virus known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS — infected 33 people. Among them, two Britons survived and were confirmed as healthy. Yet the claims persisted, until European authorities this month confirmed that there is another, “weakened” but still susceptible, virus in China. There was also a surge in cases of the MERS-like virus in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa — but it killed fewer than half as many people as the seasonally virulent H7N9 strain of bird flu, which has infected 973 people in China and killed 162, according to the World Health Organization.
On Twitter, she launched another armageddon fantasy on Monday, proposing that Britain’s Cabinet should take a few weeks off to live like the Kansans who faced down mass shootings in 2015.
The situation in Europe is deepening and the world is clearly watching, but I have to say I’m glad we live in a world where people can compare the plight of a country like Saudi Arabia to that of some small European country that unfortunately still houses an embassy from a foreign country whose citizens are in trouble with one of their own nationalities. Britain’s current representative to the world decided to take a few weeks off to live like the citizens of a country that’s facing trouble from citizens of another country. Not country that’s running its own world, where it’s only just started to test out drones, but a country that hosts an embassy that’s saying the same thing. What has the rest of the world to say about that?