Sunday, February 04, 2007
I am a camera - avian flu H5N1
The photographs here were all taken by me a few hours ago at the scene of the first ever outbreak in Britain of the potentialy deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. The outbreak, which was announced yesterday, happened in East Anglia at the Bernard Matthews turkey farm at Holton, in Suffolk, The farm is shown in my photograph below. All 160,000 birds there are being slaughtered, and an exclusion zone of two miles has been set up around the farm.
Holton is a tiny picturesque village six miles inland from the fashionable seaside town of Southwold, and close to the Suffolk coast made famous by Benjamin Britten. The farm where the outbreak occured is on a plateau above the village, and is built on a disused World War 2 airfield. This airbase was the home of the 56th Fighter Group, or as they became known, "The Wolfpack", one of the most famous USAAF fighter units in World War 2.
The first UK outbreak of the potentially deadly bird flu virus is major news, and the world's media have descended en masse on this remote area of rural Suffolk, as my two photographs here show.
Poultry farming is a major industry in the region. In my photograph above the modern and enclosed rearing sheds on the Bernard Matthews site can be seen, in the background, behind the assembled world media who are broadcasting from the scene via satellite links. The media presence is huge because the H5N1 virus is reported to have jumped to humans in Vietnam and Thailand with fatal results. For the past two years Britain has been stockpiling the anti-viral drug Tamiflu. Bernard Matthews' sites have previously been the centre of protests about poultry farming on an industrial scale. There are 22 turkey sheds at Holton, and the photograph below shows protesters there today.
United Nations co-ordinator for bird flu David Nabarro has said the presence of the disease in the UK is inevitable as it is "going to be in bird populations for several years to come. The way in which we'll deal with it is by implementing the well-rehearsed plan, which is to stamp it out at source. We've got to learn to accept that, not see it as a serious problem and just get on with normal poultry-rearing and consumption." The virus has killed 164 people since 2003, mainly in South-East Asia. So far, all those who have been infected worldwide have come into close contact with infected birds.
The UN may not see the H5N1 "as a serious problem". But I suspect the residents and workers in the tiny village of Holton, which is shown in my final photograph below, will have a different view today.
All photographs (c) On An Overgrown Path 2007.
Now read how another viral pandemic decimated Europe and killed a great musician.
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