31 March 2006

Flu exercise raises questions

Flu exercise raises questions
Del. emergency officials probe problems arising from worst-case scenario
The News Journal
Imagine that a ship carrying exotic animals from the Philippines gets infected with a mutated, highly contagious version of deadly avian flu during its voyage to Brazil. In a matter of weeks the disease spreads quickly to South and Central America, eventually making its way to the United States, infecting more than 1 million U.S. citizens.

Is the country, or the state of Delaware, prepared to handle such an avian flu pandemic?

Fifty-four National Guard units around the country, including Delaware's, as well as the state's emergency management agency and public health officials held a table-top exercise on pandemic influenza Friday to answer that question. But what officials were able to come up with was more questions than answers.
"We find more problems than we have solutions today," said H. Stevens Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, who hosted the exercise from Washington via teleconference.

As of now, the lethal version of avian flu, known as H5N1, that is spreading around the world is primarily a disease of birds. Although it kills more than 50 percent of the humans it infects, it has not mutated into a form that can be passed easily from person to person. So far, there have been 186 cases of people infected with H5N1 and 105 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Jordan Confirms 1st Cases of Avian Flu
The Associated Press
Friday, March 24, 2006; 10:51 PM

AMMAN, Jordan -- Jordan confirmed its first cases of bird flu on Friday in domesticated turkeys north of the capital, finding that up to four of the birds had died of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

Turkey, Iraq and Egypt are the only countries in the region where people have died of the H5N1 strain, which has killed a total of 105 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. But the discovery of sick birds in several Middle Eastern countries has led to extensive slaughters....

....Virtually all the people infected with bird flu are believed to have caught it from poultry. But scientists have long warned that the virus, which is prone to mutation, could transform itself into a version that spreads easily from person to person, touching off a pandemic.

Most people killed by bird flu have been in Asia, and on Saturday China confirmed its 11th death from the disease. The migrant worker died Tuesday at a hospital in Shanghai_ the first death in China's biggest city.

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