Chicken Coop Epidemiology

With the exception of washing baby bottles, when I married and changed my career to poultry farming, my clinical work was mainly vaccinating chickens before they came into production, for New Castle and Pox. There are many strains of New Castle, but it is a disease that essentially affects the central nervous system.

Every year, in the late spring or early summer, we would join Marty’s parents, Rosie and Abie, at our farm and then later at their farm, for inoculating. Rosie would wear an old housedress, rubber galoshes, and a babushka. I had jeans, a painter’s hat, and sneakers. Our employees would coax or carry the chickens to one side of the room, and create a pen with screens; to keep the vaccinated birds separate from those that weren’t. We screened off a section of the room with enough chickens for us to handle easily. When the chickens in that pen were vaccinated, we moved the fencing to form a pen for the next batch. This procedure was repeated until each chicken received the vaccine.

The men would catch about three chickens at a time and spread their wings out on a table, so Rosie and I could stick each chicken with a needle and vaccine, between the wing and the web; referred to as the wing /web method. We had to work quickly; the dust was flying and the chickens were squawking. Every now and then we would stick ourselves. You couldn’t blame the hens if they gave you an occasional “k’nip.” After all, don’t you feel like “sticking” it to whomever gives you a “shot”?

Rosie would always rinse the remaining drops of ketchup from the bottle, when cooking, to use in soups and sauces. She would also add a little water to the almost empty vial, to remove all of the remaining vaccine. I too, like to salvage the last drop from jars and bottles, but ketchup isn’t exactly vaccine. When I mentioned this to Marty, he accused me of overreacting and explained the concept of “herd immunity”. Many birds “escape”, and it was of little consequence if some chickens received a diluted dose of the vaccine. If most of the flock received the vaccine, the bird that avoided inoculation was not apt to get sick, because the incidence of disease carrying organisms was low. The possibility of an outbreak, therefore, was slim.

It wasn’t long before my mother-in-law and I joined the ranks of unemployed “chicken stickers”, when we adopted more effective, and less labor intensive means of immunization. One of the preferred techniques was disseminating the vaccine in a water spray, at night, when the chickens were asleep.

We are able to maintain a higher standard for immunizing people because the person administering the vaccine has control of the procedure. However this person has no control over the population that chooses not to be vaccinated, for fear of adverse results, and is willing to benefit from the “herd immunity” supplied by those who do assume risks. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, it is everybody’s responsibility to share possible risks so infections are few or non-existent.

Vaccinating reminds me in some ways of voting. Recently, I attended a meeting of our town committee where the November elections are the main topic of business. I heard people say, ”Oh, he’s in a safe district, he won’t have trouble getting elected, and my vote won’t be missed.” We can never be sure of the dynamics of politics. Every vote is necessary. Just as we shouldn’t rely on “herd immunity” for immunization, we shouldn’t rely on “herd immunity” in elections. We have a shared responsibility to control the possibility of an epidemic through immunization. We have a shared responsibility to elect competent public officials through the ballot.

Healthy chickens mean healthy eggs.

Healthy chickens mean healthy eggs.

 

 

Where are the Flowers?

It was 32 years since I was in the American Legion Hall in Madison, Connecticut. My first impulse was to look for World War I German helmets, or flowers on the mantle that now held other memorabilia and souvenirs.

My oldest daughter, Lisa and her husband, Matthew, planned to have a lawn wedding at our home, in June 1982. Lisa arranged for personal flowers for the family, but didn’t think that we needed flowers for an outdoor wedding with foliage all about. This was the year of the “hundred year flood”, and we experienced torrential rains for better than one whole week. We had ordered a large tent, for the reception, which fell down on the Thursday preceding the event. The proprietor assured us that if the rain stopped and the lawn dried before Sunday, he would put up the tent.

On Sunday, June 6, it was still pouring and everything was sopping wet. In fact, a neighbor was married in the yard of her home, on Saturday. Everyone took their shoes off and danced in the mud.

We called upon friends who found a dry place for the nuptials, the Madison Legion Hall. I grabbed toilet paper and paper toweling, just in case, when I went to check the hall out early Sunday morning. There was a portrait of President Ronald Reagan hung above the wooden mantle of the stone fireplace that displayed captured World War I helmets. There was a collection of rifles on the walls. I told my daughter that the room was rather dreary and needed some flowers. None of the local florists were able to help us. Lisa called Matthew and he drove up with a station wagon loaded with iris, peonies, and rhododendrons from his father’s garden. Lisa’s friends from Wales, Helen and Terrance, filled vases with flowers for the tables. They hid the helmets and covered the mantle and the entire room with flowers, transforming the space.

We couldn't hide the gun racks.

We couldn’t hide the gun racks.

 

About one hundred members of the family and guests, who were not discouraged by the weather, crowded into our living room for the ceremony. We served cold hors d’oeuvres in the dining room before adjoining to the reception.

The caterer pulled everything together; a tour de force, “The band played on”, and everyone danced. The weatherman provided sunshine, later in the day, and we were able to take pictures out of doors.

In the middle of May this year, on a beautiful spring evening, I represented Killingworth as a delegate to the State Senatorial Convention, held at the Legion Hall in Madison, to nominate a candidate for the State Senate. During the span of 32 years, the hall had undergone renovations and rejuvenation. The room is now is spacious and welcoming. It has the feeling of a community center rather than a shrine to militarism. I could only visualize the hall full of the flowers and helmets!

The delegates were enthusiastic about their candidate, Ted Kennedy Jr., nominated-for-12th-district-state-senate-race son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Ted reminds one of his father, minus the Massachusetts accent. Kennedy, an attorney, specializes in Health Law. Although he never held public office, he has actively, promoted improved health services. With his capability and commitment, he should be a strong force on the State Senate.AR-140519435.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667

The newlyweds were excited about a new life, together, sharing their dreams.

The delegates were excited about the new candidate, who, if elected would see that his constituents had a voice in the Connecticut State Legislature.

 

We Can’t Go Back Now: Tunisia, Egypt, Syria

When my husband, Martin and I served in the Peace Corp in l989, in Tunisia, we learned the language and studied the culture, while traveling through much of the country. Our sites included a tour of the ruins at Carthage. We became familiar with Mid-Eastern cuisine and were able to prepare a good Tunisian couscous. Stateside, we managed to substitute foods that were available for a Tunisian meal.  We are in contact with many life-long friends. But we can’t go to Tunisia now.

On a trip to Egypt, we immersed ourselves in Egyptian mythology.  At the museum in Cairo we saw the mummified remains of the pharaohs and other rulers of ancient times. While cruising the Nile between Cairo and Luxor we witnessed people swimming in the Nile River without any fear of crocodiles. There supposedly were thousands of crocodiles walled on the other side of the Aswan Dam. However, when we visited the Aswan Dam, not a single croc showed its face. We can’t go to Egypt today.

A three- day excursion to Damascus, Syria, was included in a visit to Jordon and Israel. We combed the shouk, hunting for special spices that friends and relatives requested. Marty and I walked through the entire old city and quenched our thirst with marvelous mango drinks. When people learned that we were from the U.S., we were welcomed.  We can’t go to Syria now.