Search for "bird flu" on Google News today and you get 17,700 hits.
The background story is that millions of birds in Asia have died of this virus. In Vietnam, 60 people have died of it. If you refine the Google search with the addition of "human fatalities", and put to one side the frightening predictions of hundreds of millions of deaths, you see that there have been several deaths in each of the south east Asian countries affected.
There have been no reported cases of human to human infection.
IF the virus mutates so that it can pass between people, then the situation might be very serious indeed. If.
All of this has practical implications for us Pig Sty Avenue people. We keep chickens for eggs, and I'm down there every evening to give them a feed and close their hen house door to keep the foxes out. And we've a brand new baby who would naturally be susceptible to infection, and less able than a grown up to fight it off.
If our chickens are to get it, then wild fowl migrating across Jarrow would have to land or shite amongst them. If I was very unlucky, I might get it, but calculate the odds by looking at the millions of infected birds in Asia against the dozens of human fatalities. And then we'd have to break all records by being responsible for the first ever human to human infection.
Hmm. The fact is, there is bird flu, and it's appearing in eastern Europe now. The other fact is, statistically, the world is due for another big flu pandemic sometime soon. But the press have tried to put these two facts together, and they don't necessarily fit.
Meanwhile, these reports make us all more afraid, more biddable to the dictates of those in power. And it knocks Iraq off the front pages.
So the Pig Sty Avenue chickens' necks are safe for now. Hooray!