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« The King and his Mighty Libido | Main | The Wabaras: Felicia & Senator Adolphous Wabara; Suddenly Rich? »

October 21, 2005

Avian Flu Pandemic Prevention Among Africans after the AIDS/HIV Blow

by Farouk Martins, Omoaresa --- The number of people the bird flu virus that is ranging from Asia to Turkey, Romania and Greece in Europe, may kill has been estimated from two million to 150 million. Every country is preparing on how to prevent this by head-on preparation. How many African people are prepared before it becomes another “African disease”?

The avian flu infection is a virus common in wild birds that can be transferred to domesticated chickens, duck and turkey making them sick enough to kill them. Before it can become an epidemic, it has to mutate (change) so that it can be transferred from man to man. Nevertheless, the infection has been reported in humans through live poultry or poultry not well cooked or from contaminated surfaces.

So far about 117 people have been infected and at least 60 of them have died.

There is no immunity for this virus and the effectiveness of the present antiviral drugs is not guaranteed. The drug manufacturers are now being courted by leaders in Europe and America to get set for mass production for immunization or combative drugs against the bird flu virus. The Swiss are ready to establish more factories outside. In countries where lawsuit can paralyze a whole industry, these companies are looking for immunity from class action suits.

Between the advice of Professor Blakemore of Medical Research Council in U.K not to panic and that of Dr. Nabarro, the UN Coordinator worst case scenario of 150 million fatalities, Africans still have to be apprehensive because we are the most vulnerable.

We still remember AIDS as the disease that started among certain groups of individuals with promiscuous lifestyles in California. Those who had watched Tony Brown’s Journal then were warned that it might be labeled the disease of the blacks. Before long, there was scientific quackery claiming its origin in African monkeys that was transferred to humans by all kinds of means.

The Lancet 10/29/60 had reported the demise of a sailor David Carr who died in England of unknown disease that was later retested 7/7/90 and found to be AIDS. Before he died, he had spread the disease on his way as he sailed, also to Africa. It became a controversy whether to credit him with the disease. Phillip Emeagwali, the super computer genius, noted this in a presentation.

Needless to say, AIDS have now become the disease of the poor all over the world, proportionally higher among Africans in and out of the Continent. Though many of us take our health seriously, the poor take food and shelter more seriously before thinking about health. Even the food we pick in many cases is of poor nutrition.

While strokes and cardiac diseases are leading causes of death among the rich, in poor countries, infectious and parasitic diseases kill more people. This is why any virus or bacteria that are endemic or impending can deal a deadly blow to majority of poor people no matter where they are in the world.

Please understand that these infections do not pick on poor people because they are poor. They also flourish among the young children and the senior citizens. It is the law of least resistance. The poor are the least prepared to fend for one another. This is why Africans must be prepared and take necessary precautions before the arrival of the bird flu.

There are people thinking loud already about how to prevent the birth of black children in order to decrease the number of crimes, as if most of the crimes are committed by them. As far as we know, blacks do not commit the majority of mass murders. Yet, no black would suggest that those who commit these mass murders should be prevented from being born. Studies are needed about these perpetrators to prevent mass murder. What some of the people discuss among themselves sometimes spill out inadvertently.

So Mr. Bill Bennet, the former Education Secretary under President Reagan might have just been thinking loud. It happens! In fairness to him, he stated that it would be morally wrong. The hint is enough for Africans. Not all the people who thought and planned heinous crime against humanity carried it out. Slavery, lynching, syphilis experiment were morally wrong but still perpetrated on Africans. Yet, there are people of goodwill all over the world devoted to correct past mistakes only to be blocked by a few powerful men thinking loud.

If we do not take care of ourselves, nobody would care enough about us. The reason they call some of these viruses and bacteria opportunistic infection is because they attack the weak and the helpless already with compromised immune system. In cases where overuse of antibiotic disturbed the flora balance in our bodies, bacteria that may normally behave themselves may cause diseases. So if we do not eat and drink well or where people are malnourished, there is no way we can prevent a higher number of people dying of flu that others may survive.

There are some cultural impediments that are no more relevant in today’s environment. Case in point, a man had sexually transmitted disease. Each time he was treated, he became infected again. So the public health doctor who was treating him refused to treat him again until he disclosed his sexual partners. He claimed it was forbidden!

African cultures always separate the toilet far away from the house. Now that both can be accommodated within the same house, we have to make sure that the two systems remain separate. Wells and bore hole must be far from the toilet.

In the face of an epidemic, isolation which may be mistaken for ostracizing a loved one may become necessary. This is why preparation and sensitization before an epidemic may be necessary. Africans have always bear the brunt of any disease. Health Education and Participation can not be over emphasized.

It is very critical to spend most the money for majority of the people. In others words, spend the greatest amount on the greatest number of people. This may be seen as socialized medicine. But those who have controlled infectious and parasitic diseases by adequate clean water and sewage system can only be imitated if we control ours.

Most African countries are still building big hospitals and laboratories we can not maintain. As a result of which privileged people are sent outside the country for headache while primary health care is lacking. That money can be used in the development of drugs and vaccines. There are simple technologies we can develop for our laboratory tests instead of buying these simple kits in Europe and America. Once we run out of them, we complained about lack of foreign exchange to import materials from abroad or broken equipment made abroad. In fact, a few of the businessmen are looking for way to buy vacation mansions outside the Country.

Nigeria banned importation of live and frozen poultry over a year ago but it is still smuggled into the Country by businessmen. President Obasanjo, who is a chicken farmer, said “everything must be done to protect the Country from bird flu”. Dr. Akerejola, a veterinary surgeon, welcomed the ban. Indeed, Dr. Jarhlet Umoh called for more surveillance and training against bird flu. However, action speaks louder than voice. Good proposals but no action. It is over a year, enough time to prepare for the imminent danger we face today.

Fortunately, some of these unscrupulous businessmen are few. They were the ones who imported adulterated oil into the Country causing upper respiratory infection in some people. These are the same people who imported solid waste into the Country. So we should not be surprised if they try to import all the poultries suffering from Avian Flu infection in Asia and Europe destined for destruction. We just have to watch out.

Bird flu virus may not be as deadly as 150 million casualties but there is no reason to take chances.

Farouk Martins, Omoaresa
faroukomartins@netscape.net

Posted by Administrator at October 21, 2005 11:42 AM

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