The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization gives its take on the reported cases of the avian influenza virus H5N1 in cats in Indonesia. In a press statement, the FAO said the incident "should be closely monitored" and stressed that there has been "so far no sustained virus transmission in cats or from cats to humans."
The FAO recommended the commonsensical precautionary measure of separating cats from infected birds (duh!) as well as keeping felines away from commercial poultry premises (double duh!) and advised against killing cats as a control measure "because there is nothing to suggest that cats are transmitting the virus in a sustained way." In fact, the FAO warned that "removing cats could lead to a surge in rodents such as rats, which are an agricultural pest and often transmit diseases to humans."
And while there is some concern that cats (and it should be added many other mammals from dogs to rabbits) might as a intermediary hosts for the virus, FAO officers noted that given 80% of cats in outbreak areas have not been infected, it indicates that "cats are unlikely to constitute a reservoir of virus infection" and are actually "more likely to be a dead-end host."
Meanwhile, it seems there are itchy trigger fingers just waiting to perform their civic duty by blasting every damn duck out of the sky. One wonders if the powers that be will fail to learn from the SARS episode when politicians revelling in ignorance failed to tell the world of difference between civet cats and Felis catus, preferring to give way to wanton prejudice and unwarranted fears. Would gun clubbers like Mr Lim even know the difference between migratory birds and residents? Can they even tell the difference between the invasive house crow and native large-billed crow? Or corvids from similarly sized and coloured black bazas?
Will they even give a fool's damn to the perspective that while migratory birds play a role in the virus's transmission, the real major factors "contributing to the spread of the avian influenza virus are poor hygienic practices related to the production, processing and marketing of poultry, contaminated products, gaps in biosecurity and individuals not following recommended control measures?" I suspect not; it's surely much more fun to shoot first and ask questions later. Why waste thought on trying to capture the complexity of reality and comprehend matrices of unproven causations, when after all, the good doctor knows best. Doesn't he? But it must feel really good to be doing "something good for the country", to be – as one faithful servant of his motherland once intoned in defence of his strenuous efforts towards a final solution to a pressing problem – "just following orders..."