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Monday, August 15, 2005

One Lone Dying Goose

The geese - over 100 of them - flew away about an hour ago. They may be back tomorrow and they may not. Usually most of them stay overnight. There shouldn't have been so many geese here at this time of the year. There shouldn't be great herons either. The cranes and the storks shouldn't be here as much as they are. I think the green heron already died.

They're here because they are trying to escape the new wave of West Nile, and the wetlands that are usually such a wonderful refuge for them are now deadly. This wave is clearly much more virulent than the original outbreak. Our original Canadians all made it through that. And even if the geese come back tomorrow, very soon they will fly out of here in desperation, looking for a safe place. But they will carry the danger with them.

One lone goose was left, too weak to fly. I went out and left some food for him, but I think he is too confused and ill to eat. I feel so sorry for him but there's nothing I can do but leave food. If he can eat it he may recover. The dogs will chase off predators.

This is exactly what is happening in Asia. As the birds start to die they fly on, taking the danger with them. It's H5N1 in Asia, but the birds will react in the same way as they do to West Nile. The H5N1 is probably much more dangerous than this strain of West Nile.

I saw this coming this spring, as the birds started to die again, the raptors disappeared slowly, and the first goose died. About two weeks ago when all these wild swamp birds flew in I started to worry. They should be resistant, but they aren't, so that means the virus mutated. The real mosquito season here has yet to arrive, and I knew I faced a nasty choice. There is a time here during which you can't avoid being bitten by mosquitos. You can hold down your exposure but not eliminate it.

So I decided to try for an early minimal exposure as a type of do-it-yourself vaccination. Two mosquito bites. Immediate immune reaction - I could see a red circle forming on my skin within an hour. Two days of fever and aches and then I felt better. So I got up again and went to work last week. Bad, bad move. Man, did I get sick. Stiff neck, headache, disorientation, nausea, dizziness. I have been sticking close to home for days contemplating my own stupidity in not taking it easier longer. I don't think I was stupid in trying to get exposed while the exposure was still controllable.

One lone dying goose tells me I guessed right. Take this as a warning. The new wave of West Nile is much worse and even if you have already gotten it once don't assume you are immune. Be very careful about your children. This will infect just about every species of bird, and my batch of geese are going to be carrying this to points north. I'm pretty sure it came from the swamps of Louisiana (thanks Boomr!) and now it's heading north.

And this year or the next, H5N1 is going to come through Alaska or up from South America, and then we are going to see all hell break loose.

This sounds like a horror flick. Take better care of yourself, MoM! You have me worried. And I feel so sorry for the goose. It's great you're trying to help it. How sad though.
It didn't make it.
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