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Bird flu is this year's Halloween horror, like SARS and anthrax. Everyone rushes to the mall for flu shots and Tamiflu supplies. But your bedding may also be at risk. If geese get infected, what happens to the white goose down comforter supply? Bird flu has been reported in Vietnam, Asian and the UK. While chickens are the villains and victims (look out, Disney's "Chicken Little," the sky really is falling), the flu has inficted 184 species of wild birds in northwestern China.
It's most worrisome to people who farm or kill birds for food and feathers--you mainly gather down after you cook that goose. The question is, is the goose down comforter cooked? After all, down gatherers can become infected from a diseased bird. Could you get an infection from white goose down comforters? Chinese goose down doesn't go through the same sterilization and quality control as European goose down. The LA Times reports that people are not likely yet to be infected.
The real risk is the shortage of down reported as early as May 2004, but judging from the many white goose down comforters available for sale online, the shortage hasn't hit yet. Goose down comforter manufacturers typically sterilize the down, even though the suppliers put goose down through strict procedures. The cleansers get rid of allergens and dust--ask if they banish bird flu viruses too. If you're uncertain about policies to prevent bird flu infection, ask your retailer or the manufacturer before you spring for a goose comforter. And don't let fear turn you into a silly goose. SARS wasn't as deadly as we thought.