The politics of bird flu
Avian influenza outbreaks in Southeast Asia have focused an intense global spotlight on the entire region, specifically on China’s role in an adequate global health network which would be able to prevent or to contain a severe outbreak of the disease. Highly-publicized and politically-charged battles over samples of the H5N1 virus, transparency, timely case reporting, and China’s contribution to and cooperation with global institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO), have all emphasized the mounting political positioning of public health prevention measures. The language surrounding viral samples of avian influenza highlights the increasingly overlapping worlds of politics and public health. In an age of popularized discourses about national biosecurities, risk, and the growing threat of globalized, contagious disease, bird flu has been recast as a focal point of contention, a figurative space where the stakes are high — both for public health systems and the political structures which support them.
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