Friday, September 02, 2005

Bird's nest soup and the Bird Flu scare

Bird Flu High Alert has been declared in Indonesia since the outbreak caused the first death in July this year. Should Malaysians be concerned, especially since we are seeing increasing interest in commercial birdnest farming in our towns and cities?

So far the virus had killed 65 people in 4 Asian countries since late 2003, the latest victim being a 5 year old girl from Indonesia. And the Indonesia government had closed down the country's biggest zoo, the Ragunan Zoo on the outskirts of Jakarta after bird flu was found to have infected 19 exotic birds.

Although Malaysia so far has not seen any case of bird flu, it does not mean that we should not be vigilant towards this highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of the virus. And we have cause for concern considering that our authorities are presently rather lax on the issue of regulation of commercial birdnest farming in shophouses and abandoned buildings in and around towns and cities in various parts of Malaysia. These "swiftlet houses" have mushroomed all over the place, sometimes the upper-most floor of a multi-storey commercial building is converted to a "swiftlet house" and some would even convert a whole building into a "swiftlet hotel", right next to where people live or work on a daily basis.

I don't know if these birds pose a danger to the people as in whether they could possibly be a potential carrier of the bird-flu virus but nevertheless, it does not take much intelligence to know that they generate a lot of bird droppings which certainly could not be healthy or hygienic for the surrounding environment. Given a choice, would you want to live or work next door to these "bird hotels"?

Let us hope that our country will be spared this latest health scare, otherwise we will see some knee-jerk reaction by our health ministry when people start to look for scapegoats in the event of an unfortunate outbreak of this fearful disease in our country. After all, Indonesia is not that far away from Malaysia.

Labels: ,

adopt your own virtual pet!