amvans's Blog

Musings from a confirmed "Technical Difficulty"

Bird flu can kill you

Several people have suggested I write a book on what it was like to live as an  American woman in the Middle East. I’ve thought about it and it’s tentatively on the bucket list. Until I do, however, I do get the urge sometimes to record some of the more memorable anecdotes. For some bizarre reason (and I’ll not comment on my acceptance or rejection of the decision) we have recently acquired a couple of pigeons. This brought to mind the story of the bird flu and a typical American response to (and the subsequent demise of) a poor helpless pigeon during that time of crisis.

During the height of the bird flu scare, 400 turkeys had dropped dead of bird flu at a farm a few kilometers from home. Being the news junkie I’d become, I knew all about bird flu, for example,  how it migrates with the birds that travel from Asia through Israel to Africa, etc.  So, 400 domestic birds expire within a distance that would not be unreasonable to expect a pigeon to cover;   it is the migratory season and we’re on the path; we have something like 25 free-range chickens  running around and leaving presents all over the yard; I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old, one of whom loves animals of any kind…including chickens;  said child is not very steady on her feet and is frequently crawling about on the ground.  We have all the ingredients for potential disaster: chickens, poop,  young and inquisitive children.

So I come home from work one day during this time and I see that my mother-in-law has captured a pigeon and put it into a cage…on the table outside. My mother-in-law is the sweetest, kindest woman I know and because the pigeon had an injured wing she wanted to help it and keep it safe from the large number of feral cats that also lived on the property.  Of course, I see the pigeon and the first thing that crosses my mind is that the pigeon could have bird flu.  It was the enemy.  At this point in time, my Arabic was pretty limited, so I was reduced to words like “bird”, “not good”, “maybe sick” and the emphatic waving of arms and looking very alarmed. I didn’t know how to tell her about bird flu and the fact that a bunch of turkeys had just succumbed to it.  Regardless, she could tell that I was really upset about the bird and I think when I said something about “sick” she got the gist of it. So she opened the cage and flung that bird so far out into the driveway only a dead cat would have failed to notice it. It was then I saw  it had a broken/injured wing, but by now it was too late. The cats were on to a easy meal and I still wasn’t brave enough to touch that bird, even if I could have reached it in time.

After that, I realized how idiotic and hilarious my behavior must have seemed.   The likelihood that the kids would get stung by a scorpion,  bit by a viper or a rabid animal was probably higher than the probability that we’d all die of bird flu. Nevertheless, I think it was after this episode that I came to understand how easy it is to distract people from real problems with manufactured crisises…at least  it’s a lot easier for me to spot them now.  Fortunately, safe in Colorado, all I have to worry about is West Nile Fever, Lyme Disease, and Bubonic Plague….as long as I don’t end up in the hospital where I’d have to worry about catching the Super Bug.


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