Thailand: missionary says bird flu is 'not a crisis yet'

 The spread of chicken flu in Thailand is causing some concern, but no real fear, Claudio Vezzaro told the Missionary News Service yesterday. =The lay missionary from Somma Lombardo (province of Varese) has lived in Thailand for many years and currently runs an Italian restaurant giving temporary employment to disabled people in Chiang-mai in the north of the country. From this vantage point, he has been able to get a good idea of how the local population is experiencing this latest social and health crisis. He said: "The Thai people do not seem in the least bit scared. If anything, they are just a bit more concerned and take greater care over what they eat. The tourists who eat in my restaurant are not very alarmed either. "The impression is that the situation is under control. The local media are giving continuous coverage, the news is always on the front page of the newspapers and opens the television news, and the authorities are conducting regular controls on chicken farms. Even the recent death from bird flu of a young Thai boy did not cause panic among the population. The authorities seem to have learned from the past SARS emergency and are taking action to fight the new virus." Thirty-seven year old Vezzaro, winner of the 'Friendly Heart Award' (the so-called 'missionary Nobel Prize') for his work with disabled Thai people in 2001, said that chicken is a staple food in the Thai diet, but, he said, many people are used to raising their chickens at home, and so they do not fear what they eat. "The battery chicken farmers however do fear serious economic consequences, because the authorities are not hesitating to destroy entire batches of chickens when they think it necessary." This raised a concern that some unscrupulous farmers might sell chickens that are suspected of having the disease at low cost to the poor. But for now, he said, there was no real emergency. Source: MISNA

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