Skip to comments.Risk Of Human (Bird) Flu Outbreak 'Low'
Posted on 04/09/2006 11:31:17 AM PDT by blam
Risk of human flu outbreak 'low'
* Poultry owners within wild bird risk area must keep birds indoors or, if not possible, ensure they are kept away from wild birds
* Bird transport within 6 mile (10km) surveillance zone will be curbed
* Poultry within 1.8 mile (3km) protection zone must be kept indoors and will be tested
The chances of bird flu virus mutating into a form that spreads between humans are "very low", the government's chief scientific adviser has said. Sir David King said any suggestion a global flu pandemic in humans was inevitable was "totally misleading".
No more wild birds have tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain since a case was found in a swan in Fife last week.
Experts are still testing birds found near Cellardyke, and a UK helpline has had thousands of reports of dead birds.
Speaking for the first time about the case, Scotland's first minister Jack McConnell has defended the response, saying it had been "fast, effective and well coordinated".
Two newspapers have printed details of government plans to cope in the event of a human pandemic.
They include a leaked letter from Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson to Schools Minister Jacqui Smith - published in the Sunday Times - in which he suggested an estimated death toll among school children of 100,000 could be halved with school closures.
But a health spokesman said: "This is still a disease of birds, not humans."
The Sunday Telegraph reported that government plans included calling off-duty fire fighters and retired lorry drivers into service to ensure food supplies were delivered.
Documents reportedly outlined concerns about a lack of preparation among food firms, and a potential shortage of HGV drivers willing to go into infected areas.
A Downing Street spokesperson refused to comment directly but said, "obviously you would expect the government to be doing contingency planning for what would happen in a serious flu pandemic."
The H5N1 virus cannot pass easily from one person to another and therefore currently does not pose a large-scale threat to humans.
But experts fear the virus could gain this ability if it mutates. They say it could trigger a flu pandemic in its new form, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.
Speaking on ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme Sir David King said bird flu was not among the human population.
He said the government was preparing for it as a "very low possibility".
He added: "We have got a virus in the bird population that has gone on since 1996, and in Asia particularly there has been a lot of contact between human beings and the birds that have got that virus."
Despite that, a human virus had not developed, he said.
Sir David said bird flu was "absolutely not" present among poultry, and said he was "fairly optimistic" it was absent in wild birds.
He stressed that so far one dead bird had been washed ashore with H5N1, which may have come from a previously infected part of Europe.
BIRD FLU FACTFILE
* Bird flu viruses have 16 H subtypes and nine N subtypes.
* Four types of the virus are known to infect humans - H5N1, H7N3, H7N7 and H9N2
* Most lead to minor symptoms, apart from H5N1 H5N1 has caused more than 100 deaths in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam
* The World Health Organisation says not all H5 or H7 strains are severe, but their ability to mutate means their presence is "always a cause for concern"
"The one swan doesn't mean it has arrived here," he said.
The infected swan found in Fife had a "very similar" strain to one which infected more than 100 birds in Germany, tests showed.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the government's pandemic plans left questions unanswered, such as whether schools should be closed in the first wave of an outbreak and whether the public should be advised to avoid public transport.
"The economic and human consequences of these decisions are immense," he said.
He said there should be an open public debate the issues prior to the onset of any pandemic.
A six-mile (10km) surveillance zone and 1.8 mile (3km) protection zone in place around Cellardyke will remain for at least 30 days from the day the swan was found.
A wild bird risk area of 965 square miles (2,500km) has also been established which includes 175 registered poultry premises, containing 3.1 million birds, 260,000 of which are free-range.
A total of 2,500 calls have been made to the authorities by members of the public reporting dead birds since the flu scare began.
Cobra, the government's crisis management committee is set to meet on Monday.
If you find a dead swan, goose or duck; or three or more dead wild or garden birds in the same place, you should call the Defra helpline on 08459 335577.
I'll post a link to the leaked info shortly.
"He said there should be an open public debate the issues prior to the onset of any pandemic.
It would be nice if we can have one here too without name-calling etc.
There is a lot of bad stuff out there and viruses are mutating. Bird flu is just one concern, Did you know that diptheria is on the rise again? Superbug resistance is a big here and now problem.
Yup. TB too. And...there's a mumps outbreak in (I think) Idaho.
My new tag line
I heard about the mumps outbreak. What's is scary is that people are getting childhood diseases that they were vaccinated for.
I have a lot of "food" trees. I lost about a 100 oranges to birds this year. I just planted a peach tree. I noticed that they got to the one peach. It's an annoyance but with this going on I don't want to attract more than my share of birds in the back yard. They come for food and water. I can't blame them but any suggestions besides tree nets to scare them away?
Yup. Get some toy rubber snakes and put them on the ground and in the limbs of the trees.
Oh my gosh. Do you have any idea how much I hate snakes? I'll have to think about this:')
Let's put this into persective. We have a disease that to date has killed less than 200 humans out of a population of over 6 billion souls. Almost every single one of those human cases involved people who literally had infected bird populations inside their homes.
While many Americans own birds as pets, not many Americans live with dozens of food poultry inside their homes.
This 'bird flu scare' is almost as ridiculous as the 'Y2K' scare a few years back.
Sadly a few people will make money by scaring people into spending money that could be put to better use elsewhere.
The Guardian (UK)
Monday April 10, 2006 1:13 AM
Fears of a widespread outbreak of bird flu in the UK were receding on Sunday as an infected swan found in Scotland remained the only confirmed case of the deadly H5N1 strain.
Laboratories remained open to test carcasses, but the swan discovered in Cellardyke, Fife, is the only positive case of more than 1,100 birds examined since the end of February, officials said.
A spokeswoman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said there were currently no 'report' cases - those which are suspected of bird flu and prioritised for testing.
The the Government's top scientific adviser Sir David King said bird flu was "absolutely not" present among poultry in Britain, adding that he was "fairly optimistic" about its absence from the wild bird population.
He emphasised that to date only one dead bird had been washed ashore with H5N1 - and this may have come from an area of Europe that had previously been infected.
"The one swan doesn't mean it has arrived here. We need to see more evidence of spread before we can say that it has arrived in the UK," he said.
Experts at the Central Science Laboratory in York are continuing DNA tests on the dead swan, which was found washed up in the harbour of the coastal town, in an effort to determine its exact species.
The bird was found in an advanced state of decay, with its head missing, making it hard to identify.
Finding out which species the bird was will help epidemiologists know if it was migratory and where it might have come from.
Until that information is available, Defra is refusing to speculate on how the animal may have picked up the disease.
Actually, if you look at the infection rate among wild bird populations now, although the virus is spreading geographically, it almost appears to be burning out in the wild.
The epidemiology of viruses; infection rates, spread rates, incubation period, virility/mortality rates almost always determines a virus's fate. And this one might be burning out.
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