Bird Flu Preparedness

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

April 12, 2006

Recently, new cases of bird flu have been reported in the United Kingdom, and have experts worried about a spread to North America.

A top government leader is saying yes prepare for the worst, but don't worry right away because bird flu won't spread overnight.

There have not been any cases of the H5N1 strand of bird flu in North America, but experts say it is inevitable because of migratory birds.

"We're seeing one particular variety of bird flu that is spreading across the world and has the potential to effect humans," said Dr. Bill Petri chief of UVA’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health.

Most of the cases are from bird to human interaction and few from person to person.

"So I think in the U.S. we're probably less likely to have that happen very frequently because we don't usually grow our own chickens. We're usually having Tyson or Perdue do that," said Petri.

Dr. Petri is covering for one of his colleagues who is working with the World Health Organization on a drug that treats it.

"With one exception, every case is treatable with Tamiflu and there is a vaccine that is undergoing clinical trial. It's not as effective as we would like it to be, but it is effective in over half the people that have received it," said Petri.

If a person does contract bird flu, it needs to be treated right away for the drugs to be effective, but it's difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to regular flu symptoms. Additional bird flu symptoms include nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

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