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Looking-Glass Viewpoint
Animal Diseases
for Dummies Part Three

VeggieBite ...
The amount of land needed to produce a one-year food supply for a person on a meat-eating diet is 3.25 acres. The amount of land needed to produce a one-year food supply for a pure vegetarian is just 1/6 (0.16) acre.
From: "Diet for A New America" by John Robbins

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:

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 your pets.
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 animals alone!
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.

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 bay.
For information about pigeons and diseases
See Here

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 here.

For more info on Companion Animal Care see here

Animal Diseases for Dummies © 2006/7 - VeggieGlobal and Looking-Glass

See Also:
Part 1: Introduction and Viewpoint
Part 2: More about viruses and diseases caused through mismanagement of animals
Britain's H5N1 Outbreak in 2007

More on BSE / CJD origins at:

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:


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