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Chicago Official Weighs In On Bird Flu Development

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  • Chicago Official Weighs In On Bird Flu Development
    Chicago Official Weighs In On Bird Flu Development

    (CBS) CHICAGO There's cause for concern ? but not panic ? over the latest case of bird flu in Southeast Asia.

    CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that while American health experts are ready for it, they're not ready to conclude it's the start of a pandemic.

    Halfway around the world in Indonesia, a family tragedy raises the specter of a worldwide disaster. Did six people who died of bird flu become the first victims to spread the virus to each other?

    "These are rural settings. People there are still in contact with birds. It's not totally clear what all the factors may be so we're still waiting to get more information," said Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Mason.

    It's alarming nonetheless because it could trigger the pandemic that doctors fear.

    "It's not necessarily true that person to person spread equals a pandemic, but it certainly is a necessary step to find us in a pandemic," said infectious disease expert Dr. Stephen Baum.

    It's something Chicago's health commissioner has been preparing for.

    "Our major defense from the beginning is going to be great epidemiology. That is: where is it who's got it, and how do we contain this?" Mason said.

    Dr. Mason's projections indicate that a moderate pandemic spreading to Chicago will infect 1 million, require hospitalization of about 13,000 and would leave about 2,500 dead.

    Right now, there's no vaccine like we have for seasonal flu, which hits Chicago every year. Currently, there's just an anti-viral drug to lessen to effects of the flu. Mason's priority is having it when and if it's needed.

    "We're gonna make every effort to have it on hand. We have to," Mason said.

    The only good news here is that Chicago and Illinois appear better prepared than most to react to a pandemic, obtain supplies, and contain its spread. The state received a rating from the Centers for Disease Control matched by only 15 other cities and states nationwide.