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Bird flu coming to U.S., official says
posted by admin on 05/05/06

Avian flu is expected to be carried to the United States this year by migratory birds

WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- Avian flu is expected to be carried to the United States this year by migratory birds, the White House said Wednesday.

Arrival of the disease, which would spread to domestic birds such as chickens, does not necessarily mean a human pandemic, but government, industry and private individuals should take steps for protection.

"While the human pandemic threat is unpredictable, the spread of influenza in birds is predictable," Frances Townsend, White House adviser on homeland security, said Wednesday. "Nearly 20 countries have identified the virus in their bird populations since the start of February of this year. In addition, in 2006, the virus has been identified on two new continents: Europe and Africa. It is possible, in fact likely, that the virus will appear in our wild bird population this year.

"As we speak, scientists are examining birds that have migrated to the U.S. from Asia and Europe to gain early warning of its arrival. It is critically important for me to point out that the arrival of avian flu in our wild bird population will not necessarily represent a risk to our domestic poultry population."

Townsend made the comments in a roll out of a 227-page action plan for preparing and dealing with an Avian flu pandemic.

The Bush administration, which will use some infrastructure and policies brought into effect in the wake of 2001's terrorist attacks to help fight possible flu pandemics, has asked Congress for $7.1 billion for its efforts. Some of that funding has already been approved.

Avian flu, which first appeared in Asia, is now in about 50 countries. So far, there is no evidence that it can be transmitted from humans to humans, but 113 of the 205 people who contracted the disease through animals have died.

Townsend said given past experience with animal-human transmission of disease, prudence dictated that protective steps be put in motion for dealing with a cross-over.

© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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