The former chairman of the Pakistan Poultry Association, Khalil Abbasi, isn't buying any of the talk about bird flu becoming a pandemic that could devastate humanity.
He has his own theories about what is going on :
“The bird flu hype is part of the media campaign of a US-based commercial enterprise, which has former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld as president. All of this is being done merely to boost the sales of its product ‘tami-flu’,” Abbasi alleged.
He said that the H5N1 (bird flu) virus was first detected in Scotland in 1960 and it still exists in Great Lakes area of the USA, but it was “overplayed” when it hit Thailand and other Asian countries. “Why are we assuming that the virus would turn ‘vicious?’ This is a fallacy because no human transmission has been reported so far in the world,” Abbasi said.
PPA chairman, Abdul Basit, said that since 2004, bird flu fears had caused losses worth billions of rupees to the poultry industry. This, he said, had resulted in the closure of 40 percent of farms. “Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs only due to ‘sensational news’ because no human infection has been found so far in Pakistan,” Basit said.
There are around 25,000 poultry farms in the country, employing over 1.5 million people with an investment of around Rs 200 billion. Approximately Rs 45 billion to Rs 50 billion worth of agricultural products and by-products are being used in poultry feed, the PPA chairman said, adding that the poultry crisis would ultimately compound the agricultural crisis.
A vaccine is available to effectively control the virus in birds, and effective use of this vaccine in Pindi, Islamabad and Abbotabad has controlled the disease in those areas. Karachi will follow suite soon, Basit said.
Basit read out a statement issued by Bernard Vallet, director-general of the Paris-based Animal Health Organization. Vallet said that the risks of bird flu were “over-estimated and fears of an imminent pandemic were non-scientific assumptions.”
One of the speakers at the press conference blamed the media for “over-emphasizing” the fears of bird flu. This led to a heated exchange between poultry and health officials and journalists present there.
Before Donald Rumsfeld became US Secretary of Defense, he brought shares in an American pharmaceutical company that helped in the development of Tamiflu. Rumsfeld still held those shares when the US government began talking up the threat of bird flu, primarily, in 2005.
Increased sales of Tamiflu in the United States, and around the world, saw Rumsfeld's shares generate millions of dollars in returns.