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Websites pop up to cash in on panic

Mumbai, Feb. 22: The scare over the bird flu may have gone down in some places, but the virtual world is full of dire warnings and super sales promotions.

With the current strain of H5N1 virus in the air, a number of alarmist websites have come up. But even more alarming is the way they are prescribing their merchandise.

How Will You and Your Loved Ones Survive The Imminent Bird Flu Pandemic' Do The Recent Bird Flu Stories Scare You' They Should!” screams the website www.beatingbirdflu.com.

“According to the director of the Centre for Infectious Disease, (it) will kill anywhere between 30 million and 380 million people!” it adds.

But the website, which then provides a brief history of the greatest outbreaks of diseases, also provides the solution. It is called Beating Bird Flu and is priced at $24.97. All that the appropriately scared potential buyer has to do is go to the next window, key in his country and PIN Code, and his credit card number, and the website promises the delivery of the book at the doorstep.

It doesn’t just stop there, but targets to recruit salesmen. “SKYROCKET your affiliate earnings by selling the UNIQUE Beating Bird Flu.”

The website www.avoidbirdflu.com lists 14 titles of books to combat the virus.

While some of them have regular or clinical titles, like Bird Flu: Medical Aspects ($49.00), some are direct appeals to the fear for loved ones, as with Bird Flu: Expert Advice To Help you and your family Stay Safe ($24.97).

But some are appeals to paranoia. There is one titled Terror Unleashed: The Coming Bird Flu, Oil, Terrorist, and Financial Crisis ($24.95).

There is a host of others that came up before but are now being hyped again: The Bird Flu Preparedness Planner, Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know and The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat for Avian Flu, which is apparently a marvel of scare- mongering.

Trashing the books, an online reviewer says: “Books on the flu are breeding almost as fast as the H5N1 virus can replicate itself inside a bird’s gut.”

The agencies working to combat the virus have repeatedly said chicken and eggs cooked at 70 degrees Celsius are safe and the flu spreads through external contact, not through consumption. But the authors of the bird flu books know about the huge appetite for panic.

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