Sitting dazzled

Feb 21st, 2006 | By | Category: Ireland

Are we like rabbits caught in a car’s headlights?

Each day there seems a new story of an outbreak of bird flu; each day it seems that much closer to this small island.

Initially, I took little notice of the stories. There seemed to be authority in the voices of those who said that this was not a cause for alarm. There was no incidence of the flu being passed from one person to another; those who had succumbed had been in direct contact with infected poultry.

However, if there was no cause for alarm it seemed strange that the media persisted with the stories, why bother covering news that is not of concern?

Suspicious that we weren’t being given the full facts, last week I asked a friend who is a General Practitioner in Scotland why there was increasing discussion of an avian disease.

A Yorkshireman, he answered bluntly, ‘Because the virus will mutate and then it will become a human disease’.

The last great influenza epidemic is still deep in the consciousness of the very old in Ireland.

Visiting an elderly farmer in 1993, who was 88 years old at the time, he asked me, ‘Mr Poulton, do ye mine the big flu?’

‘Sam’, I said, ‘the big flu was the winter of 1918, that’s seventy-five years ago’.

‘Ach’, he said,’ye wouldna mine it then’.

I could have gone on to say to him that he was no more than a boy himself when an epidemic that claimed something like 50 million lives swept across Europe.

Seventy-five years from now will there be elderly Ulster farmers asking clergy, ‘Do ye mine the bird flu?’

Are we sitting awaiting the arrival of a disease that will sweep away countless lives and leave Europe shattered for a generation? Like a rabbit in the road we seem unable to move.

Jesus told his followers, Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’. We need similar directness from our authorities.

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