As the death toll from a new strain of bird flu continues to mount in China, U.S. health officials are preparing for the possibility that the disease will strike our shores.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is monitoring the bird flu and plans to start preparing a vaccine in case it is needed.
So far, the new strain of flu known as avian influenza A (H7N9) is only in China and has not yet been found to be capable of being transmitted from person to person.
The H7N9 bird flu strain has caused five deaths out of 14 people infected in China, setting off alarms in Beijing, where officials are mobilizing resources to fight the virus. Hong Kong and Japan also stepped up vigilance, with Japan posting airport warning signs to be on the lookout for people with flu symptoms, and Vietnam banning the import of poultry from China.
Thus far, the World Health Organization has not enacted any travel or trade restrictions thus far, but that organization says it is closely monitoring the situation.
In past global infection scourges – the avian bird flu (H5N1), the swine flu (H1NI), and HIV – made the jump from animals to human-to-human transmission.
Since the swine flu epidemic of 2009, which is estimated to have killed up to 400,000 worldwide, U.S. government health authorities say they are better prepared to fight off any threats from new viruses such as the new avian flu.
Whether the virus will threaten the U.S. is “difficult to answer because we have only a small number of cases so far and the government is investigating them even as we speak,” Tomich told Newsmax Health.
One area of potential concern, though, is that the Chinese flu victims apparently did not have contact with each other, which is an indication that the virus has the potential to spread. However, the virus does appear to respond to flu drugs, such as Tamiflu, Tomich said.
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