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What happens when bird flu kills our food supply?

by: Sick_Of_It

Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 10:26:26 AM EDT

I forsee a lot of cullings when bird flu starts ramping up for a global outbreak.  It's already getting easier for the virus to spread to humans - and other mammals.  Well, we subsist on an awful lot of animal meat.  What happens when all those animals either die from bird flu or are culled?

As we're busy polluting the ocean into giant dead zones, and global warming is making crops sporadic, I can forsee some food difficulties once bird flu has had its way with human society.

The question is - how can we anticipate this and work to avoid the worst problems an animal/human pandemic will create?  Do we let flu infect animals in hopes that enough will be left to eat (well cooked) after the pandemic waves pass?  Do we cull them all in hopes of saving ourselves and hope we have enough food afterwards to feed everyone?

Will there be enough alternative sources of food not affected by bird flu to keep us all alive AFTER the pandemic waves pass?  How do we prevent food panics and scares related to any shortages caused by culling and flu deaths?  Can we even switch to a vegetarian diet temporarily while we're waiting for stock animals to recover their populations, or will we eat them all and to heck with the consequences?

I've seen a lot of prep articles on this site, but I haven't seen an in depth discussion of what happens when ANIMAL populations decline due to bird flu.  We can't hope to suppliment with wild animal populations through hunting because those animals will be just as deeply affected by any pandemic as we are.

We're looking at another "big death" that affects all mammals on Earth.  Keeping animals alive is going to be as important to our future as keeping US alive.

Do the oceans have enough life left to support everyone on the planet if we don't have sufficient stock animals to eat after the pandemic waves pass?  What happens if crops fail, as they did this year in the Midwest?  Are we looking at old-fashioned famine in our future?

Has anyone thought about any of this?

Sick_Of_It :: What happens when bird flu kills our food supply?
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Can you say "Soylent Green"? n/t

That movie gave me nightmares as a child. n/t

[ Parent ]
And with today's food prices...
It gives me nightmares even now!! ;-)

[ Parent ]
Yes, and . . .
I can even say "Soylent Green is people."

[ Parent ]
Ah...but which day is Soylent Green day? n/t

[ Parent ]
poultry outbreak and pandemic, that's a really interesting question
I assume you are talking about the risk of massive poultry deaths during a pandemic that affects our food supply.

That is one possibility but may not be much of a problem, because a pandemic happens when a virus becomes human-adapted enough to pass from human to human.  Such adaptation require certain mutations which current evidence suggests limit the viruses ability to get back into avian species.  (see below) You may have a mixed pattern, of the existing avian adapted H5N1 and its progeny circulating in poultry, and a human-adapted mutant circulating among humans, but those 2 situations may not be synchronous or dependent on each other, ie the existence of a human-pandemic does not necessarily mean there will also be poultry outbreaks everywhere.  

Now for the explanation, for the host-switching part.  Feel free to skip all this if you're not interested in the science.  LOL

A major piece of work published recently, on The Evolutionary Genetics and Emergence of Avian Influenza Viruses in Wild Birds has some fascinating and ground-breaking findings, including this from the summary:

In this study, we surveyed the genetic diversity among influenza A viruses in wild birds. Through a phylogenetic analysis of the largest data set of wild bird influenza genomes compiled to date, we were able to document a remarkably high rate of genome reassortment, with no clear pattern of gene segment association and occasional inter-hemisphere gene segment migration and reassortment. From this, we propose that influenza viruses in wild birds forms transient "genome constellations," continually reshuffled by reassortment, in contrast to the spread of a limited number of stable genome constellations that characterizes the evolution of mammalian-adapted influenza A viruses.

In other words, in wild birds the flu virus appears to exist as a sort of 'RNA soup' without forming into stable 'virus' as we know it.  But that is not the situation after switching from wild birds to other hosts:

In contrast, stable host switching involves the acquisition of a number of (as yet) poorly characterized mutations [24],[33],[52],[53] that serve to separate an individual, clonally derived influenza virus strain from the large wild bird AIV gene pool. Because adaptation to a new host likely limits the ability of these viruses to return to the wild bird AIV gene pool [24],[54], these emergent viruses must evolve as distinct eight-segment genome configurations within the new host.

ie most of the time, once the virus jumps from wild birds to other species is a one-way street.   I said most of the time because H5n1 may be an exception, with emphasis on the word MAY

The ability of recent HP H5N1 AIV to cause spillover infections in wild birds is an unprecedented exception.

All of the above apply to host switching from wild birds to poultry as well as to mammalian species.  For human-adapted viruses, current (limited) knowledge would suggest a totally different evolutionary path once the host jumps species.  The virus quickly tries to adapt to the human immune response, and develop unique mutations in order to continue to circulate in the new (human) host.  Various studies have identified a number of mutations that are consistently present in human flu viruses and (with one exception) never found in avian viruses.

A single amino acid in the PB2 gene of influenza A virus is a determinant of host range.

Characterization of the 1918 influenza virus polymerase genes

Interspecies transmission of an H7N3 influenza virus from wild birds to intensively reared domestic poultry in Italy

All 'safety concerns' are hypothetical.  If not, they'd be called side effects...

sorry the one exception
is E627K in the Qinghai strain of H5N1.  This is the first time that this mutation is found in virus samples from avian species.  The significance is not clear, because there appears to be no difference in transmissibility or lethality whether the virus has that mutation or not.  It may be that E627K is a necessary but not sufficient condition for human-adaptation.

Avian influenza virus (H5N1): a threat to human health.

All 'safety concerns' are hypothetical.  If not, they'd be called side effects...

[ Parent ]
sorry typo in last paragraph
not 'the host jumps species', but 'the virus jumps species'

Need more caffeine..

All 'safety concerns' are hypothetical.  If not, they'd be called side effects...

[ Parent ]
Yup I have thought about it.
Thats what all those heirloom seeds are for.
The amount of vegetable protein required to produce animal protein is anywhere from 5 to one to as much as 25 to one, IIRC (it's been a while). In many agrarian cultures, meat is an adjunct to the diet, not the basis of the diet as it is today in the West.

And the fish hooks and automatic trot lines.

And various other preps.

It is not likely that H5N1 will cause wholesale extinctions;  some mammals are likely to survive. We just need to wait a while until the population builds back up to a viable level. In the meantime, eat something else.

And no, I'm not referring to long pork.

Prudent People Prepare Properly

"better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!"

The price of Rat.

 Good Post. Look to what happened in India and Viet Nam when massive numbers of chickens where culled - the price of every other food went up. The story that stuck out in my mind was the price of rat topped $2.

 Also - once culled, the eggs that would have been sold for food must be used to raise new chickens.

 Roughly half of those chickens will be hens who can grow up in six months to a year and start to lay eggs. The other half can be sold. Sorry guys but only a handful of lucky roosters are kept to tend the hen house.

 It takes time for the poultry industry to rebound.


The best way to prepare
for a temporary interruption in meat supply (or for a long term increase in meat prices) is to practice making and eating meatless meals. For example, how about a "Meatless Monday" as a new tradition. Over time you develop perfectly yummy meals that you enjoy eating that don't have meat. Next, start looking at reducing the amounts of meat consumed the rest of the week. Most Americans eat larger portions of meat, relative to the rest of the meal, than people in the rest of the world. It is healthier for both people and planet to reduce this.

When meat is a less central part of your dietary habits, there is less need for concern if availability becomes a problem.

Protein needs? If you are eating enough calories, you don't need to be concerned about not getting enough protein. In the United States, even vegetarians are eating something like 4 times too much protein; meat eaters 6 or 7 times more than they need. Excess protein puts strain on kidneys and contributes to cancer risk anyway, so a diet with much smaller amounts of meat or animal products is healthier.

World Food Shortage as seen by the UN
Over 3 months ago the red light went up in the UN, they were complaining about the corn crops and distribution of its product.  

We in the USA now have more corn then any time in our history.  Over 30 percent is now used to make an alternate to gas.  So instead of feeding the world we want get to use our cars!

Any other ideas of why most of the world hate the USA.

The 300,000,000 birds that have been destroyed will have made a big dent in the world's food bank.


  No warning - no way to fight - no way to win!  
We need help in our local communities to survive. Remember that quote:    "...No man is an island..."


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