Lethal Bird Flu Threatens Asian Countries - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/27/04

Lethal Bird Flu Threatens Asian Countries

U.S. health officials are taking steps to prepare in the event cases of Avian or bird flu makes it to this country. So far, millions of chickens and nearly a dozen people in Vietnam and Thailand have been infected.

There are nearly a dozen confirmed cases in humans, and at least eight people have died from the virus. There are now unconfirmed reports the flu may now be affecting birds in parts of China.

The Centers for Disease Control says so far the risk here is still very low, but that could change if the virus cannot be contained in Asia. There are no cases in people or animals in the U.S.

The big worry is that the flu strain will change into a version that can be transmitted from person to person, which could make it almost impossible to contain. Right now, the virus is only hopping from bird to person, when a person comes in contact with an infected bird's waste.

U.S. officials are already in the process of securing anti-viral drugs, because lab tests show this strain of the bird flu does not respond to the usual flu medicines. This version of the Avian or bird flu, H5N1 is a lethal strain, and health officials say we have little defense against the bug.

The CDC is also working closely with scientists in this country and around to world to develop a vaccine, but note that it could take several months. Officials are not issuing any travel alerts or warnings at this point, but do advise travelers heading to high risk countries to avoid poultry farms or markets where live animals are sold.

The CDC has teams of scientists in Asia working on efforts to contain the spread and find new cases. Symptoms of the bird flu are similar to the flu symptoms we are familiar with, sudden fever, aches, with respiratory symptoms.

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