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Avian flu: more deadly than you realize?

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Avian flu, in the form of the A(H5N1) virus, is winging its way across the globe with alarming speed. Experts still disagree about its ultimate ability to inflict a worldwide epidemic on the human family

However, Dr. David Nabarro, chief avian flu coordinator for the United Nations, reports that the virus is "now devastating bird populations around the world." Nabarro says he is "quite scared," especially since the disease has broken out of Asia and reached birds in Africa, Europe and India much faster than he expected it to" (New York Times, March 28, 2006). "That rampant, explosive spread, and the dramatic way it's killing poultry so rapidly suggests that we've got a very beastly virus in our midst," Nabarro said.

Experts note that the present strain of avian flu has been around for about 10 years, but has just in the last 12 months exploded as a threat. Nabarro fears that "the virus will soon be endemic in birds everywhere."

Should this happen, the economic impact will cost poultry farmers, processors, shippers and retailers billions of dollars in lost revenues, and the effect will be felt throughout society. Your breakfast habits will change as eggs become prohibitively expensive or unobtainable. Ronald McDonald may have to say "goodbye" to the Egg McMuffin!

The balance of nature could also be radically altered, as insects and other pests are no longer kept under control, due to the loss of bird populations that feed on them. Other diseases would become harder to contain, once the avian flu led to a shortage of the chicken embryos used to produce many vaccines. We could see the resurgence of long-dormant plagues that are currently under control but which have the potential to devastate population centers everywhere.

If the avian flu virus jumps species and teams up with human flu strains, tens of millions of people across the earth could die. But even if that does not happen, it seems almost certain that the world's poultry industry will be left in ruins. In many third world nations, domestic fowl provide the main source of protein, and the nutritional loss will have a severe effect on the health of millions. Even in many developed nations, chicken and turkey meat provide the protein for most of those at or below the poverty line.

With the world's fisheries fast being depleted, through over-harvesting, many people around the globe will be forced to do without the nourishment needed to maintain health and strength. God's word predicted that because of sin, the blessing of abundant food would be taken away. "When I send against them the terrible arrows of famine which shall be for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, I will increase the famine upon you and cut off your supply of bread" (or meat; Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, word 3899) (Ezekiel 5:16).

Where, in this dangerous age, can we find protection from the avian flu and other lurking diseases that threaten humanity? (Read an important article on this issue: "Defeating Disease: How the Bible Can Help")

Our Creator gives us a promise that we can trust, if we are willing to obey Him: "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you" (Exodus 15:26).