City Prepares for Bird Flu

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

June 9, 2006

A warning from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention: They say local governments won't be able to rely solely on the federal government for help if the deadly bird flu virus hits the United States. That's why our first responders are getting ready.

“All indications are that it is not 'if it’s going to happen' but 'when it’s going to happen,'” said Charlottesville Police Lt. James Kirby

Local planning is the front line defense against what is expected.

“The worst case scenario [is] as many as five to 10 percent of the people in the community [will be] affected by it. And when they say that, they're looking at as many as 50 to 60 percent of those people may even die from it,” said Kirby.

Those estimates mean 20,000 people could contract the virus in this area. In the event of a pandemic, our medical personnel would be overwhelmed.

UVa hospital would have to set up tents in their parking lots to treat all of the sick.

Charlottesville police would have to enforce a quarantine. With at worst 12,000 people dying in weeks there may be no place for the bodies.

“That's going to be a problem we'll have to deal with,” said Kirby.

First responders believe preparation is the key to saving lives. They're stocking up on supplies, like Kevlar suits, gloves and face masks and they're asking citizens to stock up on enough canned food, water and medication to last 30 days.

“If it does happen [and] we're hoping it doesn't, but it's good to be prepared regardless because if it's not now it could be in another five years,” said Charlottesville Fire Department Spokesperson Linda Johnson.

Again, they are preparing for a worst case scenario. Either way Charlottesville will have sufficient devices in place to slow down the virus until a vaccine can be made.

Bird flu began spreading about three years ago and has killed an estimated 127 people in 10 countries. About 200 million birds though have died.

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