CDC Issues Warning on Potential Spread of Avian Flu in United States
In its first warning regarding avian flu -- an influenza virus that has recently emerged in birds in eight Asian nations and caused eight human deaths -- the CDC on Tuesday told physicians to ask patients with flu symptoms if they have traveled to places with the outbreak and urged people who travel to those areas to take certain precautions to avoid contracting the virus, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. So far, no cases of the avian flu, also known H5N1 flu, have been reported in either birds or people in the United States (Haney, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/28). Human cases of the disease, which can cause typical flu-like symptoms and severe respiratory distress, have been reported in Vietnam and Thailand (Niedowski, Baltimore Sun, 1/28). The flu has been reported in poultry in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam; another strain of the virus has also been reported in wild birds or poultry in Laos, Pakistan and Taiwan. To prevent human spread of the virus, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said that patients should be tested for the virus, and any results indicating that patients have influenza A should be reported to state and local health departments, which will work with the CDC to determine whether the patients have the avian flu strain. While Gerberding said there is no travel alert or advisory in effect for U.S. residents traveling to affected areas, she urged travelers to avoid poultry farms, live animal markets or surfaces contaminated with bird droppings in nations with outbreaks. Gerberding added that the CDC is reviewing its infection control guidelines to prepare for the possibility that the flu could be transmitted person-to-person (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/28). PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Tuesday included an interview with Gerberding (Warner, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 1/27). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.