Sunday, April 30, 2006



There's an interesting Bird Flu Q & A up on the Anchorage Daily News site. Questions focused around Alaska, which has long been expected to be one of the 'gateways' for the bird flu virus into the rest of the United States as a wide variety of migrating birds pass through the region.

Here's of the more interesting Questions and Answers, for the full thing go here.

Q. Are bird flu and a flu pandemic the same thing?

A. No. H5N1 bird flu primarily infects birds. In recent years, 204 people worldwide are known to have become infected; 113 died. The danger is if the bird flu virus mutates and becomes more easily transmitted from person to person. At that point, it could lead to a pandemic, which is a worldwide, rapid spread of the virus. All people would be susceptible, and death rates could be high.

Q. Should I keep my cat inside all summer?

A. Domestic and larger wild cats have been infected with and died from H5N1 in other countries. There are no reports of people getting H5N1 from cats.

Because H5N1 is not here, there's no risk yet for an outdoor cat. Still, owners should discourage cats from going outside and catching wild birds because they carry a number of disease-causing bacteria that can affect cats, such as salmonella.

Q. During a pandemic, state health officials might ask people to isolate themselves at home for a while to prevent spreading or catching the contagious flu virus. How many weeks of food and water should you stockpile for this time period?

A. Each person should have at least seven days' worth of food, water and other supplies on hand for any kind of emergency, be it an earthquake, storm or flu pandemic.

Pandemics, however, may last much longer than a one-time event like an earthquake. In that case, officials may ask people to prepare for longer periods of time. At the very least, they believe a seven-day stockpile is a good start.

Q. Can the virus survive if it's frozen?

A. Yes. The H5N1 virus can survive if frozen and remains dangerous after thawing.

Who knew bird flu could survive freezing condiitons? So presumably this means a migrating bird, infected with the avian influenza virus, could die pass through a frozen region of the world, hit the ground, be buried by snow or ice and then years later when the bird's body thaws, the bird flu virus could become active again. Very interesting.

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