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Q&a On Avian Flu

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  • Q&a On Avian Flu


    Is there bird flu in the United States? Yes and no. Birds get hundreds of flu viruses and no doubt some are present in birds here. However, the deadly strain of H5N1 ? that has resulted in the deaths of more than 100 humans and millions of birds, mostly in Asia ? has yet to be found in North America.

    ? What does H5N1 mean?
    The various subtypes of avian influenza are named for surface proteins found on viruses. The highly pathogenic strain you hear about now is just one subtype of an H5N1 virus.

    ? How does bird flu spread?
    Through nasal secretions and feces of infected birds. Contaminated equipment, clothing and equipment can spread it as well as close contact with infected birds.

    ? Do wild birds spread the disease?
    Migratory birds, especially waterfowl, might be contributing to the virus? spread to domestic flocks in some areas. There are no recorded cases of wild birds spreading the virus to humans.

    ? What threat does bird flu pose to people?
    So far, only those in close contact with infected birds have contracted it. But since viruses can change (mutate), the fear is that avian flu could change into a form that spreads among humans. One theory about the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918 is that the virus might have originated in birds, mixed with a virus affecting pigs, and mutated into a new form that spread to people, who had little or no immunity.

    ? If I notice a bunch of dead birds, what should I do?
    Don?t handle them. Report poultry birds to (803) 788-2260. Report wild birds to (803) 734-3886.

    ? Where can I get more information online?
    ? Linda H. Lamb
    SOURCES: Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health, state veterinarian?s office; ?Flu? by Gina Kolata; S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control
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