Unstoppable Bird Flu On Its Way to the U.S.

Posted on March 10, 2006

MSNBC.com reports that H5N1, the deadly bird flu virus, could be here in the U.S. within months.

"There will be a reasonable possibility of a domestic fowl outbreak" as migrating birds mix with ducks, chickens and other birds in the U.S," Chertoff said. But he cautioned against panic, noting that the Agriculture Department has dealt with other strains of bird flu for years.

"If we get a wild bird or even a domestic chicken that gets infected with avian flu, we're going to be able to deal with it, because we've got a lot of experience with that," Chertoff said, speaking to newspaper editors and publishers.

The big concern is that the virus could mutate and then spread easily from human-to-human. This is what the CDC and the WHO have been watching closely for. So far, there has been no obvious human-to-human spread of the virus. You can see the CDC's avian flu section here and the WHO's avian flu website is available here.

Update 3-13-06: ABC News reports that Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommends that Americans start storing items like canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds. The government won't be able to stop bird flu from arriving in the U.S.

"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."

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