Governor Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency for Iowa on Friday, citing risks from the rapidly spreading bird flu outbreak, Reuters reports. The announcement was made after officials identified the virus’ presence at four new poultry farms. Iowa is the third state to declare a state of emergency, after Minnesota and Wisconsin did so in April.
The new strain of bird flu that killed two men in China this week has claimed its third victim, Chinese authorities announced on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of the virus to nine. The news means that cases have now been reported in Hangzou, Shanghai, and Nanjing, where five victims are in critical condition in the hospital; according to the agriculture ministry, no infected animals have been discovered. H7N9, as the virus is known, is not thought to be transferrable from person-to-person contact yet, but because it may not manifest symptoms in fowl, scientists have described it as a "silent" threat. "[I]f this continues to spread throughout China and beyond China, it would be an even bigger problem than with H5N1 in some sense," University of Hong Kong microbiologist Malik Peiris told the AP, "because with H5N1 you can see evidence of poultry dying, but here you can see this would be more or less a silent virus in poultry species that will occasionally infect humans." This year marks the tenth anniversary of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, during which the Chinese government minimized and covered up the virus' spread, and health officials are being careful to make a show of transparency and openness over H7N9—but at least one reported case is said to have been leaked to the media in a blog post by a hospital employee. [Reuters | NYT | AP]
Bat flu? Ha, it's a thing of the past. It's time you start worrying about the bird flu, say the scientists. In as little as five mutations, a group of Dutch researchers were able to engineer a strain of the H5N1 flu that is airborne among mammals. If it were to become airborne, an avian bird flu pandemic would likely follow.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the world as we know it is almost certainly going to end. Scientists have found evidence of flu in bats and are reporting the existence of a "never-before-seen virus whose risk to humans is unclear," which is almost exactly how the devastating virus in the movie Contagion is billed.
Bird flu may still be knockin' em dead in China and poppin' up in Michigan, but quite frankly, it's just not sexy enough to stay even in the first section anymore. You'd be lucky to see it in "World" or "International"; more likely, bird flu is barely scary enough to end up in a "Briefly" bullet point (even Chloe Sevigny remains unfazed). Perhaps the problem is no coherent alert scale that allows for quick ledes and instant news, like the color-coded terror alert levels from the Department of Homeland Security. Therefore, Design Observer helpfully provides the Threat Advisory Pandemic Alert System (TAPAS), which classifies bird-flu threat levels by degrees of fearsome birdlife and permissible poultry-eating strategies. Chicken nuggets are out by "Crow."