Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Global Warming Denier States Underestimated the Threat of Avian Flu

A week ago, the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture claimed that avian flu wasn't going to be spreading.

From the Daily Iowan, a week ago today  (emphasis mine - DG):
Avian Flu not expected to spread in Iowa
The meat, eggs, and other products from millions of Iowa poultry infected with the H5N2 avian influenza won’t make it to the dinner table, but that’s not the only problem two infected farms could create for the state.
The H5N2 strain of avian influenza currently has not been found to transfer to humans in any way, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said Monday during a conference call.
He said the two Iowa farms that have confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic version of the avian flu could present problems for a variety of people. 
“There is other financial impact here as well,” he said. “Each [egg] layer will eat around one bushel per year of corn, so once these birds are euthanized, they won’t be using corn for a while.”
...The infected population includes 27,000 turkeys in Buena Vista County and 3.8 million egg-laying hens in Osceola County.
Northey said no other farms are currently under investigation and samples tested from farmers in those areas have all been negative.

“We believe this is not going from farm to farm,” he said. “We do not believe this is spreading in a way that is likely to create other problems on other farms.”
Yeah, THAT appears to be completely wrong, per this timeline update.
April 20 - The biggest outbreak so far as H5N2 is confirmed in 3.8 million egg-laying hens in Osceola county, Iowa. The finding in the country's top egg producing state prompts Mexico to expand its import ban to include live birds and eggs from Iowa.

April 27 - Iowa's Department of Agriculture and the USDA say initial tests have found probable bird flu outbreaks at five commercial poultry sites in Iowa containing more than 6 million birds. One site was confirmed as positive for HPAI a day later. If the other four are confirmed, the country's outbreak would reach more than 15.1 million birds, just short of the largest-ever U.S. avian influenza outbreak of 17 million birds in 1983 and 1984.

April 28 - The USDA confirms H5N2 in three more flocks, including a flock of 1.7 million chickens in Sioux county, Iowa, bringing the state's confirmed tally to more than 5.5 million birds. The three new confirmations lift the nationwide confirmed total to more than 11 million birds. (Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Bernard Orr)
It remains to be seen how this avian flu outbreak progresses; some scientists expect it to continue to get worse.  Some scientists appear to be hoping that warmer weather might actually slow the outbreak and spread of avian flu, but lacking in confidence that this will be the case.  ALL of the scientists who have studied avian flu expect a big escalation of avian flu in the fall, when we have the migration of waterfowl from Canada heading south over the same ares, with additional concern that it will affect other bird populations including potentially pheasants.  This will in all probability lead to additional adverse affects not only in the ag sector, but in the tourism sector as it affects those who hunt both wild or domestic raised waterfowl, but also if it spreads to pheasants, which is already feared by those who raise pheasants for game preserve hunting (although shooting tame birds doesn't really seem like 'hunting' imho).

From, near the intersection of So.Dak, MN, and Iowa:
SPENCER, SD - South Dakota pheasant producers are closely watching the bird flu battle. They're concerned the strain that's already hit turkey and chicken farms might also infect their flocks.
Royal Flush Pheasants near Spencer, South Dakota raises about 10,000 pheasants every year.  Many of those birds end up in private hunting preserves.  An outbreak of bird flu could cost the Royal Flush a king's ransom.
Pheasants supply South Dakota's economy with a profitable nest egg.
"Cafes and restaurants and gas stations and hunting supply stores and that type of thing, it's a big business in South Dakota," Royal Flush Pheasants owner Denny Rowley said.
But these hardy and valuable ringnecks wouldn't stand a chance against the ravages of bird flu.
"A pheasant's a kind of tough bird, it's got cold winters, it's got hot summers, it's got pesticides, insecticides, you got guys shooting at it all the time, some coyote or fox is trying to eat it all the time, it's funny there's any of them here, you know," Rowley said.

The increasing cost of chicken and eggs, the decreasing supply of chicken and eggs, both in grocery stores and in restaurants, both sit down and fast food retailers, and the ripple effect of the avian flu on other sectors of our economy is very likely going to create greater problems reflecting in areas of wealth and income inequality, food insecurity, government cutbacks in food insecurity assistance, and in seasonal employment.

In other news, it has been incorrectly reported that Koch brothers' sock puppet Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in Wisconsin re: bird flu; what Walker actually did was write an executive order to send out a few National Guard troops to help distribute water to areas affected by avian flu.  What you WON'T find in Wisconsin is any reference to the role of global warming on the changing migration patterns of wild birds - a documented fact, as is that the original infections came from migrating wild birds; and you won't find any acknowledgement from Walker or any WI bureaucrat as to the role of global warming and the increase in pathogenicity in so-called 'high-path' avian flu strains spreading.

So far, the mainstream news has focused on relatively trivial issues, like the possible prohibition of poultry at the Minnesota state fair.  I predict that the problems associated with bird flu and with climate change / global warming as it affects US exports and US food supplies, and US public health concerns, is going to be a much more significant set of issues for the 2016 presidential race, senate races, and state level races than is currently predicted.  Most of all, I would expect that the division between global warming deniers and those who recognize the reality of the science as predictions become fact will  result in significant swings in our national, regional, state and local politics.  We are at a point where the impact which to many had seemed theoretical is now becoming real, in people's back yards and gocery carts.  Deniers are going to be finding themselves on the hot seat, and that hot seat is only going to get hotter for them.  Look forward to the (metaphorical) smoke of roasting conservative political tushies on the grill coming to politics near you. (Hint, it smells a bit like burning pork, only more acrid and acrimonious.)

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