In case of killer outbreak, what wou
Robert Webster is getting about this year.
He will spend part of this year travelling to conferences around the world, some timed to coincide with 1918 — the centenary of the Spanish flu epidemic — and to commemorations. He’ll also check in on a research project in Bangladesh watching what happens with the viruses in the big live poultry markets.
“Live poultry markets really intrigue me,” he confesses. “When we shut down the poultry markets in Hong Kong and they did the same thing in Shanghai, with the second bird flu, the spread to humans stopped. We’re watching what’s happening in probably the most densely populated country in the world and the markets in Bangladesh are absolutely loaded with H5N1.
“But, on the other hand, the H5N1 virus is not transmitting to humans and the impression we have is that the virus is getting wimpier and wimpier and maybe we shouldn’t worry so much but, you know, nature just has to change, to shuffle the right hand as it were.”
While the number of live poultry markets has greatly reduced in recent years in Hong Kong, Webster understands their appeal.
“My wife is an excellent cook but American chicken tastes of almost nothing,” he says.
“I have to agree with the elderly people in Hong Kong who say that live poultry tastes better. So I still eat chicken but it’s not my favourite food by any means. I’d much rather eat duck and that’s even worse because that’s where the real problem lies. Cooking kills it; it doesn’t take much to kill flu.”
Which is probably just as
Influenza 100 — Commemorating the 1918 Flu Pandemic:
Why do we still need to know about the 1918 pandemic? The stories behind the names; who were the victims? Lived experiences — remembering 1918-1920
The Spanish Lady and the Armed Forces