Illness Among the Chickens

Illness Among the Chickens
The outbreak began in early June, following the first major rush of tourism for the summer. The streets were crowded with tourists?many American, but some Japanese, Koreans, and Europeans as well. As the townspeople focused on selling their wares to the tourists, none noticed the lethargy of their poultry.
As I moved passed my neighbor?s poultry shed, headed toward the street to sell my copied music cds (for I am rather well off, having moved to this neighborhood to care for my ailing parents), I noticed that the chickens were lethargic, and had not seemed to have eaten. My neighbor cursed them to me when I saw him, claiming that what few eggs they laid were soft and broke when he picked them up. I moved when he kicked one, and set up my shop for the day.

The next day, as I passed the chicken shack, I noticed one chicken lying next to the shack?its face was swollen, and the combs of the cocks had taken on a blueish coloration. The chicken also seemed to be sneezing, but I can never tell. I did not see my neighbor that morning, and I moved on. When I returned home, however, I saw him standing in his yard, staring down. He was flushed, and sweating, but in the heat, I took it for granted. One thing however, stopped me cold?all around him, his chickens were dead. It seemed to have come suddenly?some were dead in the water trough, as if they had been struck down while drinking.

After putting on my gardening mask (I have terrible hayfever), I helped pile the corpses into a wheelbarrow and carry them off out of the town to bury them. My neighbor spit and cleared his throat a lot, and complained of a headache and said his arthritis was acting up. I gave him some aspirin, and went home for the night.

Several days passed as normal, and I did not think too much of the chickens. After all, this was the busy season, and I had to make sure that I made enough to last my sister a year, when I left her [to watch] my parents [after] I returned home. However, when my neighbor?s daughter crawled to my door and passed out, I knew that [the illnesses of my neighbor and his chickens] were somehow related. She had an intense fever, and her breathing was shallow, and punctuated by weak coughs. Her eyes were discolored, and were badly swollen; I had no idea if she could even open them, were she conscious. After setting her in a tub with some cold water, I went to check on my neighbor.

I saw him passed out on the floor in the main room, his eyes swollen shut and running with fluid. He was also burning with fever, but whereas his daughter had responded slightly when I spoke to her, my neighbor did not. I went to the nearest phone and called for the clinic, but they told me that they were swamped with similar cases, and told me to keep out of contact with the infected. I laughed at this, thinking that if it were infectious, I was already doomed.

The tourists must have found out about the illness, because no one came around the next day?not that there was anyone to meet them, anyway. I stayed in the house with my neighbors, keeping them in a back room, away from my parents. My neighbor?s breathing became so shaky that he began to turn grey, and I watched [him] pass on without ever gaining consciousness. His daughter was little better, and I forced her to swallow some of my parents? antibiotics, but it seemed to have little effect. She passed on the next morning?just hours before an American van came through, claiming to have inoculations?anti-virals, for treatment of influenza. I was inoculated for safe measure, and I was told that the flu?a flu, of all things!?was not transmitted between humans, so I should be safe. I spent the rest of the day burying my neighbors, and a few others in the area [who] had died before the Americans arrived.

Illness Among the Chickens 7.4 of 10 on the basis of 2445 Review.