The article further notes that "[h]umans gobble so many chickens that the birds now count for 23bn of the 30bn land animals living on farms." Importantly, "Chicken is cheap... . A pound of poultry in America now costs $1.92, a fall of $1.71 since 1960 (after adjusting for inflation). Meanwhile the price of beef has fallen by $1.17 a pound to $5.80."
|A hen and her chicks I saw in|
Poor food security in industrial and developing countries alike, however, have been well documented over the past several years. Fred de Sam Lazaro, director of the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, and a special correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, produced a report explaining that "viruses like Avian flu, Ebola and Marburg often fester in animals before moving into human populations. Animals in regions that are geographically remote present particular challenges for disease containment. But in Thailand, local residents are using technology, including digital scanning, to track animals and stop outbreaks before they start."
As Mr. de Sam Lazaro notes: "There are more chickens than people in remote Thai villages like Huay Ton Chok, and people do worry when their chickens stop crossing the road. That's because, five years ago, this village suffered an outbreak of flu-like disease that killed hundreds of birds. So when farmer Udom Putipatharakal thought one of his chickens wasn't doing well and another looked really ill, he reported it."
"For four years," according to Mr. de Sam Lazaro, "Pariwat Roomak has been dispatched from the local health department, responding to calls about sick animals in the area."
Mr. de Sam Lazaro further explains:
Pariwat enters all of this information into an app on his smartphone and transmits it directly to the local government health office, the veterinary department and to a major university to be analyzed. It's part of a participatory One Health disease detection program, more simply called PODD. And it has become a model for programs like this all over the world. It's villages like this one that scientists fear could be the cradle of the next superbug, one that can jump from animal to human, and then mutate so it can leap from human to human. So the objective of this exercise is to track every diseased animal, particularly chickens, so as to contain an outbreak before it becomes a pandemic.According to Jarwan Chaicom, who heads the local health department for this region in Thailand, "Before we adopted the system, the villagers didn't have a way to connect with each other or with us. The local government is quite far away from them. Language is another barrier, because we have seven ethnic groups and seven languages in this area."
A smartphone app developed for the program translates those languages, so all the responders can track where the diseases are occurring. Patipat Susumpow leads the firm that designed the app. It had to be simple. "The penetration rate of smartphone is not really high in those communities," says Mr. Susumpow. "So most of our volunteers either never used a phone before or used like a very simple phone."
In the case of documenting the ill chicken in Huay Ton Chok, Mr. de Sam Lazaro reports the next stop for the diseased bird was a two-hour bus ride to Chiang Mai University where "scientists determine the type of disease, the likely cause, and, accordingly, recommend action to prevent its spread, whether it's administering antibiotics to animals or disinfectant spraying."
By utilizing mobile technology, Mr. Susumpow adds: "We hope the app can be the placeholder for democratizing the power of response and disease management back to the community."
Click here to watch the video or read the transcript of the PBS NewsHour segment.