Wednesday, May 03, 2006


From : "A strain of bird flu not dangerous to people turned up at a live poultry market in South Jersey during routine testing last week and samples are undergoing further tests, the state Department of Agriculture said.

"Preliminary results from the National Veterinary Services laboratory showed the samples, taken from birds at a live poultry market in Camden County, did not have the N1 type of virus.

"'Anything that was sold, if it was properly cooked and handled, it would not be of any consequence to humans,' said Agriculture Department spokesman Jeff Beach.

"...the infected samples found last week are undergoing further testing at U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratories in Ames, Iowa, to confirm the strain of the virus."

157 birds at the market were culled after the virus was discovered.


In the event of what the US government refers to as pandemic flu, a new report predicts a death toll of two million people, civil disorder, the breakdown of American society, massive disruptions to business, personal lives, critical infrastructure and food deliveries.

Pandemic Flu basically means avian influenza, or another strain of the flu virus that mutates to human-to-human transmission levels with a high lethality. The avian influenza virus, at present, has killed more than 55% of the people who have been, officially, infected, within ten days of the infection occurring. The current death toll stands at more than 160 people.

The report's plans to cope with a pandemic flu outbreak is aimed squarely at the lingering threat of a bird flu pandemic, but it was commissioned by the US government under the idea of establishing a nationwide plan that can be honed, modified but called into action the moment a particularly deadly flu virus goes pandemic.

The report estimates up to 40% of the nationwide work force being off the job at any one time during the length of a pandemic outbreak, either sick with the virus, caring for someone who is ill, staying away from public and work places due to fear of infection, or quarantined to their homes should entire neighbourhoods be 'locked off' from the outside world.

While travellers would be checked and quarantined, if necessary, there is no part of the plan that refers to a closing of US borders in an effort to halt further strains of the virus from entering the country, or from persons infected leaving. Nor does the plan recommend closing borders in an effort to prohibit a pandemic flu virus from entering the US, should an outbreak occur internationally, or in the rest of continental America.

International flights, in and out of the US, however, are expected to be limited. There are provisions in the plan to also limit the movement of Americans around the country.

The full report, to be released by the White House tomorrow, is expected to reiterate that the US is prepping for a death toll of some two million people, which the report cites as a worst case scenario.

The report is supposed to instigate a fast track approach to nationwide pandemic flu preparations, but the report will also acknowledges just how hard that is going to be, and mentions that such a plan could take years to get into place.

This is why the report pushes for immediate action to be taken, through all levels of the US government and the private sector. The main aim is to protect the "basic functioning of society" along with the economy and national security.

The failure of basic infrastructure across all levels of the government and US business and society is regarded as particularly problematic.

For example, 85% of food production, food transport, medicine production and financial services are run by private entities. In order to keep up such services, the private entities would need their staff to continue coming to work, or be able to work from home, during a pandemic flu outbreak.

The report points out that unlike other disasters that threaten mass deaths - earthquakes, hurricanes, floods - pandemic flu will not take down power lines or smash electricity stations, it won't destroy banking systems or the banks themselves, it won't trash malls and food outlets or wipe hospitals off the surface of the earth, nor will it directly disable computer networks, upon which the US is now almost completely reliant.

Yet, says the report, pandemic flu has "the potential ultimately to threaten all critical infrastructure by its impact on an organization's human resources by removing essential personnel from the workplace for weeks or months."

Some of the more interesting advice in the report for employers who decide to keep their business open during a pandemic flu outbreak : workers should keep at least three feet away from each other at all times, face to face contact should be limited, teleconferencing and working in absentia, down the phone lines, would be far preferable.

Breakdowns in public order, rioting, raiding food stores, over-running hospitals, trying to steal anti-virals, for example, would see state governors deploying National Guard troops to reign in the mayhem. Should it spread, or be uncontrollable at a state level, federal troops would be allowed to be called in.

Should then martial law be declared, in a state, or across the nation, federal troops would be allowed to shoot on sight in total quarantine zones. As in, if your neighbour is quarantined and 'locked-down' you would not be able to leave your house, without permission, for any reason.

For now, the US has stockpiled enough anti-virals to treat some 5 million infected persons, but Presiden Bush's plan is to have enough to treat 80 million. The report acknowledges that will take years to accomplish.

The report estimates that with open borders, pandemic flu would arrive in the US within two months of an outbreak overseas. Though an outbreak in Canada or Mexico, would obviously reach the US itself within weeks, or days, seeing as the virus' symptoms can take up to a week to fully manifest.

The reason why the US would not seal borders is a matter of impracticality. More than 1.1 million people enter and exit the US's 320 official ports of entry, and exit, every day.

The report says sealing borders would not stop pandemic flu reaching the US, only delay what is already deemed to be "the inevitable" by a few weeks.

Mandatory quarantine, where whole neighbourhoods, or cities, would be locked-down, is regarded in the report as the last resort, because such quarantines would be difficult to enforce and would restrict the delivery of food, medicines and other essentials, should there be enough truck drivers available, or willing, to make the deliveries in the first place.

But the report billboards one demand above all others : That the government tell its citizens what is going on, the truth, as soon as they confirm it.

To delay telling Americans that pandemic flu has arrived in the US, and that it is spreading, would do nothing to stop the virus reaching its maximum potential and would instead help its spread, thereby killing more Americans.

The longer the ultra-bad news is delayed by the US government, the worst the eventual outcome will be for all Americans.

Go here to read further coverage of the planning report

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