Web Zap*Germs Archive

April 01, 2006

Are Photo-Journalists Spreading Bird Flu??

US National Park Service Photo - for illustrative purposes only
How might quantum physics and the bird-flu epidemic be alike? Well, quantum theory posits that "by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality." This bizarre phenomenon is usually related solely to scientific experimentation on subatomic particles. But it appears to have applications in everyday life, as well.

In a review of the book Jackie Oh!, E.W. Wilder makes the following statement: "Like quantum physics, [news media] observation influences results: the fact of media observation determines outcomes, exacerbating problems...." Wilder's point is that photographers' relentless hounding led Jackie Kennedy Onassis to change her appearance and behavior, in ways she otherwise would not have done. Put another way, the photographers' "observed reality" (Jackie) changed because of their intrusive "watching."

Out of Israel now comes the theory that bird flu may be spread, not just by migrating birds or even bird smugglers, but by the journalists who flock together (pun specifically intended!) to observe and document the spread of the disease. And not just any journalists, but specifically the photographers.
"It's one of our working hypotheses," an agriculture ministry official [told] AFP, asking not be identified.

"Bird flu can be transmitted on clothing, footwear, the wheels of cars and even on cameras," the official added Friday.

"The journalists who came to cover the outbreak then went back to homes and offices across the country. Even if the required protective measures were taken, it is impossible to disinfect photographic equipment without damaging it."

The appearance of bird flu on a string of farms across Israel during March forced the culling of 1.2 million poultry, at a total cost, including compensation, of some 24 million shekels (five million US dollars).

The agriculture ministry had declared the all-clear last Sunday after that initial flurry of attacks.

But two more cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu have been confirmed in the past three days -- one at Maale Hamsha near Jerusalem and one at Kerem Shalom near the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians have confirmed the deadly strain in poultry in the territory too.


At 4/01/2006 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about Photo-Journalists spreading H5N1, in Israel and, honestly I find this statement hard to believe.
I just have one simple question.
How come they have not gotten sick?????

At 4/02/2006 1:55 PM, Blogger Don said...

From what I've read, it's difficult for a *human* to come down with H5N1 -- you really have to be close to the birds, for a period of time, for the virus to invade your lungs sufficiently to develop into an infection. That's why just about everyone who's died so far has been a poultry farmer or member of a farmer's family.

It's not difficult, however, for birds to become infected by H5N1. So it may indeed be possible for photographers to serve as unwitting agents of infection among bird (or even cat!) populations, while remaining well themselves -- they typically practice "touch-n-go" journalism in which they stay long enough to get the story, then dash off to the next (real or imagined) crisis.


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