Looking-Glass gives you advice
on what you should and should NOT do in a bird flu crisis:
With veterinary organizations giving
out feeble and irrational advice, and an ignorant public whipping
themselves into a panic-frenzy, you are advised to take the following,
more sensible precautions when dealing with animal-based epidemics
such as bird flu and swine flu:
CATS AS CARRIERS?
Firstly, based on various television news interviews during the
2007 H5N1 outbreak, veterinary advisors generally said that cats
getting bird flu from infected birds is remote. Yes, it is remote,
as long as cat owners use commonsense. As one veterinary advisor
interviewed on UK's Channel 4 news naively suggested, it would only
be if a hungry cat came across a carcass of an infected bird and
ate it that it may be at risk. Such a comment failed to consider
that 300 million wild birds are caught by well-fed cats each year
in the UK alone. So common sense dictates that you keep an eye on
your cat when it's outside and try an discourage him or her from
stalking birds whenever possible.
If your cat is notorious for catching birds you are advised to keep
him or her inside when there is a bird flu alert in your area. Also
be aware that rats can eat infected birds and may possibly carry
the infection (although it appears that there is no proof that rats
have yet become infected).
Prevent your dog as well as your cat from catching rats. Also dispose
of rat carcasses responsibly as well as birds of course.
These are the most likely links of cross-infection when dealing
with bird flu, so commonsense steps should be taken to help protect
Even so, with the million to one chance of having an infected bird
in your garden, the chances that your cat will catch an infected
bird is extremely low.
Its also worth noting that recent
research shows that feral pigeons pose no more health risks to humans
than most other animals which we live in close proximity with. The
risk of catching any kind of disease from pigeons is very low. In
addition to this, even if your cat did catch a flu-infected bird,
the chances of he or she catching bird flu and dying from it are
remote, and the chances of you catching the disease from garden
birds or cats, is next to zero. You are probably a 100 times more
likely to win the lotto than catch the virus in this way.
The only way we can become infected by the H51N virus between humans
is if the virus mutates to a form which enables it transmit from
one human and another. The form of H51N in existence at the moment
is only easily transmittable between birds crammed into confined
places by humans ... such as those in the Bernard Mathews incident
in early 2007.
The important message here is not to panic and leave the harmless
The most likely cross-contamination between bird and human - as
have been in past cases - is through direct handling of infected
poultry. It is through sheer ignorance that local authorities in
some countries have been taking mad actions by killing wild birds
and animals as well as stray cats and dogs in public parks and woodland
areas, because they think these animals will spread bird flu.
So ... the idea that killing stray cats, dogs, wild birds and woodland
animals to stop the spread of bird flu and cross-contamination is
ludicrous, and there's absolutely no reason to destroy wild-birds
or birds nests, or to remove bird boxes.
For example, the majority of cats which have already caught bird
flu have survived it. This is an important point, because for any
species to survive disease, an immunity in the species has to be
built up. If some animals die then that is part of the natural course.
Those who survive, pass on the immunity to their offspring and therefore
the disease is naturally minimized or even eradicated completely.
In other words, new generations of animals will have natural immunity.
But by killing healthy birds and animals (and stray cats) now to
try and stop bird flu, we are also killing those animals (being
the majority) which have the natural antibodies to fight the disease.
This destructive, human interference by killing healthy animals
means that the virus would continue to infect species that would
otherwise naturally become immune to the disease. The long term
consequences of our interference are disastrous, because it means
that all species, including humans will continue to be threatened
by a disease that can't self-iradicate. If a disease in the natural
world is left alone it will burn itself out in due course. It is
only because of human interference and the crazy actions of cramming
thousands of birds into confined spaces that we are digging our
own grave, by inviting the disease to establish such potential contact
with humans. The risk of you catching bird flu from an infected
migratory wild bird feeding from your bird table are next to zero.
The risk of you catching bird flu from a passing lorry full of 5,000
infected poultry carcasses from a battery farm are likely to be
far, far higher.
DO NOT STOP FEEDING WILD BIRDS
It is important that you continue to feed birds in your garden.
If you don't, birds will get hungry and this only makes matters
worse, as weaker birds may be more prone to falling ill from disease.
But there is one safety precaution you can take. Instead of leaving
bird food grouped together on a single bird table it's wise to spread
feed around the garden so that visiting birds are not forced into
such close contact with each other.
Also, the more food you leave out the less likely birds will fight
with each other to win their dinner. So remember, spreading out
the feeding area in your garden to enable birds to keep out of each
other's space will greatly help to keep any potential viruses at
For information about pigeons and diseases See
As far as pets are concerned, all you need to do is keep an eye
on them until a vaccination becomes available. A vaccination will
also protect humans from bird flu while animals in the wild will
go through a "natural course of selection" - the survival
of the fittest. Although its unlikely that many wild animals will
actually die from bird flu, remember that the natural progression
of any disease helps strengthen the survival of species in the long
term. Please remember that by destroying healthy animals (as humans
tend to do in their blind panic), this will serve no practical purpose
whatsoever or gain you any protection. Reflect on this information
and use your common sense.
If a potentially dangerous
virus carried by birds has been reported in your area and you have
a garden and pets:
- Do NOT take destructive action
against any wild birds, nests or other wild animals.
- Do NOT remove nesting boxes.
- If you find a dead bird or any
other dead animal in your garden, take the following steps:
Put on rubber gloves, rubber boots and protect your nose and mouth
with a mask. Dig a deep hole (around 70cm), pick the bird / animal
carcass up carefully with a shovel - keeping it at a distance
- and bury it in the hole. Disinfect shovel, gloves, boots (including
soles) and anything else that has come into near contact with
the dead creature. (Take advice from your local council regarding
the proper disposal of disinfected rubber gloves etc.)
REMEMBER, the bird or animal may not have even been infected ...
this is just sensible precaution to stop the spread of any potential
virus in your neighbourhood.
- Keep an eye on your cat when let
out into the garden. If prone to catching birds, keep your cat
indoors with a litter tray.
- Keep dogs on a lead if they are
prone to catching rats etc.
Now read on to learn the background
of diseases and the causes of mutational viruses.
More information and a closer look
at the history and development of cross-infecting diseases see
For more info on Companion Animal
Animal Diseases for
Dummies © 2006/7 - VeggieGlobal and Looking-Glass
1: Introduction and Viewpoint
2: More about viruses and diseases caused through mismanagement
H5N1 Outbreak in 2007
More on BSE / CJD origins
Useful info on bird flu:
Useful info on swine flu:
Help to educate third world countries
about the importance of wearing condoms as well as abstinence to
help stop the spread of Aids: