Web Zap*Germs Archive

March 21, 2006

"Why is Europe so neurotic about bird flu?"

...asks the AFP news agency. My sentiments exactly.

The article presents several reasons why Euros are hysterical over H5N1 avian flu. Here's part:
The daftness gives the lie to a continent that prides itself on having the world's richest history in science, the most educated population and a communications system that is second to none.

But there is no surprise among historians and food experts, who say this irrationality has deep roots.

From the 14th-century plague known as the Black Death to cholera, typhoid and killer influenza, Europe has experienced waves of deadly pandemics that, like bird flu, came from abroad, they say.

And, over the past 20 years, confidence in food safety and government reassurance has been badly undermined by a series of scares.

"We mistrust the authorities and their utterances," says French historian Madeleine Ferrieres.

Antoine Flahault, who runs a French doctors' watchdog group called Sentinels for Disease Surveillance, agrees.

"There is a certain logic which says you're better off not eating chicken, when you think about all the past lies and present confusion," he said. "When you are being told that there is zero risk, you remain on your guard."

The source for much of Europe's edginess was the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The stricken Soviet nuclear reactor spewed radioactive dust over swathes of Europe and spurred the rise of the green movement, which feeds on worries about food and environmental safety.


Post a Comment

<< Home