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Ready or Not, Bird Flu Is Coming to America


Officials Advise Stocking Up on Provisions -- and Warn That Infected Birds Cannot Be Prevented From Flying In


March 13, 2006 — - In a remarkable speech over the weekend, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommended that Americans start storing canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds as the prospect of a deadly bird flu outbreak approaches the United States.


Ready or not, here it comes.


It is being spread much faster than first predicted from one wild flock of birds to another, an airborne delivery system that no government can stop.


"There's no way you can protect the United States by building a big cage around it and preventing wild birds from flying in and out," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Michael Johanns said.


U.S. spy satellites are tracking the infected flocks, which started in Asia and are now heading north to Siberia and Alaska, where they will soon mingle with flocks from the North American flyways.


"What we're watching in real time is evolution," said Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. "And it's a biological process, and it is, by definition, unpredictable."



Industry Precautions

America's poultry farms could become ground zero as infected flocks fly over. The industry says it is prepared for quick action.


"All the birds involved in it would be destroyed, and the area would be isolated and quarantined," said Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council. "It would very much [look] like a sort of military operation if it came to that."


Extraordinary precautions are already being taken at the huge chicken farms in Lancaster County, Pa., the site of the last great outbreak of a similar bird flu 20 years ago.


Other than the farmers, everyone there has to dress as if it were a visit to a hospital operating room.


"Back in 1983-1984, we had to kill 17 million birds at a cost of $60 million," said Dr. Sherrill Davison, a veterinary medicine expert at the University of Pennsylvania.



Can It Be Stopped?

Even on a model farm, ABC News saw a pond just outside the protected barns attracting wild geese.


It is the droppings of infected waterfowl that carry the virus.


The bird flu virus, to date, has rarely been transmitted to humans. There have been lots of dead birds on three continents, but so far, fewer than 100 reported human deaths. Compare that to more than 30,000 deaths each year in the United States from seasonal flu.


Should that change, the spread could be rapid.


ABC News has obtained a mathematical projection prepared by federal scientists based on an initial outbreak on an East Coast chicken farm. Within three months, with no vaccine, almost half of the country would have the flu.


That, of course, is a worst-case scenario -- but one that cannot be completely discounted.


The current bird flu strain has been around for at least 10 years and has taken surprising twists and turns -- not the least of which is that it's now showing up in cats in Europe, where officials are advising owners to bring their cats inside. It's advice that might soon have to be considered here.


Copyright © 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures


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I wonder if anyone in government has heard of Dr. Osterholm's statement that people need to have

18 to 36 months of food? I realize that Dr Osterholm

is a consultant for the government but is the government

listening to him? Tunafish and powdered milk under the

bed is hardly the answer. I suppose this is a small

step in the right direction but when is the government

going to tell the people the truth? Not only do the

citizens need food, they may need sources for light,

sanitation and water When will the government say

this - when it is too late for the people to obtain


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I for one have never had to deal with a Crisis in my entire life...which might be more difficult to get a hold of this prep thing....than for those who have experienced a true crisis for themselves.


There is a double edged sword to all of this IMHO. I have to agree with Darlene 100%. I have to also remember that there are probably many many people that are trying to do the right thing.


It's not just the fear and panic of the general public. I hate to think of what will happen with the hard core criminals, or the handicap people, elderly, orphaned children and animals.....


This is really happening and I'm still trying to get a grip and am not ready. B/F in cats, birds???? That is scary enough for me, the trickle effect of that is scary.





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Erica, I don't think any of us can really get a grip on the scope or magnitude of this potential pandemic.


The one thing that does make sense to me, is to educate myself in areas I don't know as well (such as home medical care w/o the advantage of hospitals or doctors, etc.) and to prepare with a little common sense towards "what would I need to make it in a quarantine of 6 weeks or 3 months, etc" or whatever time limit you feel lead to prepare for.


When my home got blown away, I had never been through a crisis such as that before. I remember talking to my SIL, and she gave me instructions on what to do right then...as I was going through that crisis, I had others who had experience in it, calming me, and explaining to me what was happening and what to expect. When it was over, it was clear what had to be done. The rest is history but it was a valuable lesson that I reference frequently, but that I made it through quite well because I BELIEVED what others taught me on how to prepare.


That's exactly what MrsS and other sites do. We pass forward all the education we've been blessed with, onto others, helping them to travel the roads we've already passed through. Yes, it is a road less traveled, but thank God for people like you and others that are here that give so freely of their knowledge and experience.


I can only speak for myself, but if my path crosses paths with an indigent or elderly person, I personally would do all I could to reach out and help. That choice affords me the comfortability to lay my head down on my pillow at night in peace. Others may feel differently, which is their right, I'm only responsible for my choices, not theirs.

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