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Avian flu has been around for decades.

COUNTRYSIDE" This is a letter I wrote to my congressional representatives. Maybe it will help other COUNTRYSIDE readers put the avian flu epidemic in perspective.

"When is a pandemic not a pandemic? When very few people get sick or die from the disease. Webster's defines pandemic as 'a widespread outbreak of disease.'

"When is a government suggesting targets and putting out a welcome mat for terrorism of food producers? When they require registration of all farms, large and small, that produce a particular product--on the basis that they are "protecting" the public from a pandemic that does not exist.

"Avian flu was first identified in 1878. Why is our government panicking now? If it was going to mutate into a deadly strain it has had plenty of time. Why is the government wasting tax money and violating property rights of farmers now?

"The World Health Organization's fact sheet states:

"'Despite the infection of tens of millions of poultry over large geographical areas since mid-2003, fewer than 200 human cases have been laboratory confirmed. For unknown reasons, most cases have occurred in rural and periurban households where small flocks of poultry are kept. Again for unknown reasons, very few cases have been detected in presumed high-risk groups, such as commercial poultry workers, workers at live poultry markets, cullers, veterinarians, and health staff caring for patients without adequate protective equipment.'

"Let me review the facts. In over 120 years, this virus has not mutated to a deadly virulent form. In the past three years, there have been less than 200 cases and less than 100 deaths worldwide, and no human cases in the USA, yet our government is implementing an expensive program that will require us to register all our poultry and track all causes of death, funded either by us directly or by our taxes.

"We have spent a number of years working in a developing country in Asia, where every family has a small flock of chickens that often share eating and sleeping areas with humans. It is very unsanitary. There are millions of such households, yet there are less than 200 cases of avian flu worldwide. My family is much more likely to die in a car accident involving a drunk driver. (Almost 50,000 deaths in three years in the USA alone!) If the government is so concerned about public health, why don't you track all sales of alcohol and put electronic ear tags on drunk drivers? There are more good reasons to violate those rights than there are to violate the rights of innocent farmers!

"Furthermore, having all farm poultry on record make it easy for terrorists to target poultry, just as tuberculosis ID records make it easy to target beef and dairy. The facts about avian flu do not justify this course of action.

"My family is now on a small farm in Michigan, and my 14-year-old daughter raises chickens and sells eggs to earn money for college. We sell vegetables and beef locally. Our enthusiastic and loyal customers know that our food is safe, free of pesticides and hormones. If there were a food scare, even more people would seek food from farms like ours.

"But the government is making it more and more difficult to have a small farm. This new program of registering poultry is a violation of our rights and privacy and it is an unnecessary and expensive program that just makes our lives more difficult."
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Title Annotation:Country conversation & feedback
Author:Witt, Gloria
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:574
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