10 January 2006
Girl Gets Bird Flu After Kissing Chicken
Talk about an attention-grabbing headline. While the headline brings forth images of bestiality and voodoo, it's actually a heartbreaking story about an 8-year-old Turkish girl who cared for the chickens in her backyard as pets, even though the rest of her family considered them "dinner." When the birds started to get sick and die, the little girl hugged and kissed them goodbye. Why she was allowed to go near sick chickens is unclear. The next morning, her face and eyes were swollen and she had a high fever. Her father took her to a hospital, and five days later she was confirmed to have the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. Luckily the girl responded to treatment and survived, otherwise, this would have been unpostably sad.
Years ago, there was a dead pigeon on the sidewalk in front of my house and within minutes, I had called the Animal Rescue League to report it and my neighbor had called the City's animal control services to remove it -- lest we be infected by bird germs. In the age of the bird flu, you can be sure if a glassy-eyed, bloated chicken stumbled into my yard, I'd have the entire yard quarantined. I guess it goes to show how large a role culture plays in perceiving danger, or not perceiving it at all.