Thursday, July 27, 2006

Scientists and Inupiat Eskimos Monitoring Bird Flu in Alaska

Scientists are stationed in Barrow up in Alaska, the northernmost city of the USA, to look for early warning signs that migratory birds are carrying the bird flu virus to North America. The virus has led to the death or slaughter of millions of birds in Asia, Europe and Africa. It's also killed more than 128 people who had close contract with sick birds. The testing is part of an effort to sample 75,000 -100,000 birds across the nation, many of which migrate through Alaska. However, for Inupiat Eskimos, subsistence hunting is a vital source of food in a community where grocery store prices include $35 for a steak and $7.50 for a gallon of milk. A public information campaign has eased their fears by instructing hunters to thoroughly cook game birds and use rubber gloves when handling and cleaning their catch. Frances Leavitt, a 41-year-old Barrow housewife, says that after the initial concerns about bird flu wore off, the subject became a joke among the hunters in her family. "They would say to each other, 'Are you going to go bird flu hunting now?'" she said.

See wonderful works of Eskimo Art at Free Spirit Gallery.

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