01 February 2004

Today, we talk about the bird flu

It was here that I out-predicted China's admission of bird flu, but anyone could've seen that coming. Today, I put forward the case for Singapore.

No, this isn't out of spite for the Most Expensive Newspaper in Singapore, which boasts that "Singapore is prepared for the bird flu". Emergency plans have been drawn for an effective mass culling of chickens (See related: "Snap General Elections"), and switching from imports of Malaysian chickens to frozen Brazillian poultry.

Interesting plans, but hardly "preparing Singapore for bird flu", and hardly combating the real problem of bird flu. The H5N1 virus is uncontrollable. In the months since April, the virus has had time to spread from poultry to pigs in China. My prediction: a further, belated revelation in the weeks to come that this piece of speculation from scientists will be confirmed.

Consider: the natural reservoir of the virus resides in wild migratory birds travelling North-South between Russia, China and Indonesia, Australia/NZ. As silent carriers, most of the natural hosts will not exhibit any signs of flu. Even if the poultry farms are all culled, in April the migratory birds will fly back North, reseeding the virus.

What does Singapore have to do with this? A fair number of these wild birds use Singapore as a nesting ground during the October - April season. The birds are here among us, on our mangrove swamps, as guests in the Jurong Birdpark and various Gardens, on the golf courses, on the lush green grounds on the NUS and NTU campuses =D

Yet, for all the evidence of where the virus resides, we do not hear any news of researchers in Singapore taking stool and blood samples from these "visitors", or taking pre-emptive action by culling all birds here. Part of me is outraged at the double standards from the ENV, which crazily started killing stray cats at the peak of the SARS panic, despite the fact that "Civet Cats" (the culprits in China) are a breed of mongoose, and look more like rodents and racoons than felines.

Now, in an ideal world, the best way for Singapore to prepare itself against bird flu is to eliminate the natural reservoir of the virus, aka kill the birds:

1. Make use of our RSAF white elephants for once, and fire all missiles at any wild migratory bird daring to enter our airspace. Take care not to aim anything at Johore.

2. Forget about not aiming at Johore. Shoot Johore for harbouring the terrorist avians and brand it a rouge state.

3. Get the ENV in action. Not just the teams of sharpshooters who practise their skills on crows. Let's push the war further, confiscate all the coffeeshop ah-peks' birdcages and shoot those birds, just to play safe.

4. Remember the silly RC-approved messages on the notice boards in HDB flats? "Do not feed pigeons. They spread bird flu" is how they can help spin the message in a convincing way.

5. Get the Senior Minister on TV. He will threaten to break bird heads, it'll send out a really clear message.

6. Shooting birds to be included in Rifle Range tests for all NSmen.

7. Mah Bow Tan to head the new initiative for Singapore to win gold medals at the Olympics for air rifle and trap shooting events. Clubs all over Singapore to be set up, and practise on real life birds.

8. Mini-Lee revealed by The Straits Times as an excellent shooter during his student days, to inspire people's trust in his leadership and "human-ness". He will be nominated to be the honorary head of the shooting clubs that Mah will set up.

9. KFC is taken over by Long John Silvers.

10. NUS scientists and the Life Sciences industry collaborate to genetically engineer birds that glow in the dark when infected by H5N1.

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