Friday, February 17, 2006
Bird flu may be closer than we think
With bird flu continuing its march around the world, we decided to interview Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government's leading infectious disease expert, for tonight's show. He thinks bird flu could be in the United States in less than a year.
"I would not be surprised if in a period of several months to a year we would
see this even in the United States." - Dr. Anthony Fauci

For a long time, we believed bird flu was a disease that was "over there." Americans paid little attention because it was as peculiar as monkey pox and Gambian rats. But slowly the virus has marched around the world in birds and in humans.

Now, Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says it would not be surprising if it came here relatively soon. Are we ready? The answer is almost certainly no.

We don't have enough medicine, vaccines or hospital beds if bird flu starts spreading in the United States. We learned valuable lessons this past year from disasters like Katrina. If there are obvious warnings, we need to pay attention. It is not cause for panic, just attentiveness and action.
Posted By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Correspondent: 5:59 PM ET
  52 Comments
These are the real reasons we need universal health care in this country?

Don't think so? Don't want to help pay for someone elses medical expenses? Then you better hope they don't get (enter name of terrifying disease here). You could be next.
Posted By Anonymous Woody, Fairfax, CA : 6:22 PM ET
I have been watching the news on the Bird Flu as it goes in a slow but steady progression on the migratory routes. I can't help wondering if birds fly from east to west as well as north/south. I did get a regular flu shot this year when I saw this happening because it's my understanding that if a person has the regular flu and then is exposed to a bird the two viruses can "swap dna" and possibly produce a human-to-human version spread by sneezing rather than touch. I mainly am "not worrying" like Alfred E. Newman because I frankly feel totally helpless about it except for taking vitamins and staying away from obviously sick people or animals. In your opinion, what can we be doing as a society? If you know, tell the President and Congress.
Posted By Anonymous Lucy Warner, Jacksonville, FL : 6:36 PM ET
Bird Flu scares me!I hope we are prepared.I worry we do not take this as a serious thing.
Posted By Anonymous Jen,wolcott new york : 6:38 PM ET
Saying that this virus may show up in the US in a matter of months is irresponsible without more facts and less hype. This is another example of the media scaring the public to make money.

It is one thing for the avian flu to show up in the US within a year (in an infected bird), but entirely another for the virus to successfully mutate in order to infect other organisms via the respiratory system.

You are making sound like the pandemic is on if a bird in the US is found to have avian flu. This is clearly not the case.
Posted By Anonymous Tom Gilson, Greenville, RI : 6:39 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,

Is the issue here masks, gloves, goggles and sanitizers?

If so, since most of these are made overseas, do you think it is time that our government start subsidizing companies that produce these products in mass amounts at home?

Corporations are taking steps to protect themselves and their employees, my desk (and so does every other employee that work for the same company as I do) has a mask, and other items under it. While this is done at the alter of terrorism, it is in the sprit of disaster preparation.

If companies are preparing, the public needs to prepare and the government certainly does. I won't catch your show but I hope it makes an impact in Washington.
Posted By Anonymous Richie Etwaru, New York : 6:43 PM ET
And, as with Katrina, our federal government has proved beyond reasonable doubt, that it is incapable of dealing effectively with anything like this. All they can do is go to fundraisers, chat with talking heads on CNN, and essentially continue to roam around, absolutely not governing, and essentially continue to be completely oblivious.

Oh yeah, the one thing that Katrina did show us the government can do quite well when faced with problems as such: Send in the men with the guns.

Katrina -- read between the lines. This is our future.
Posted By Anonymous Robert MacGregor, NY, NY : 6:49 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,
Yikes! I'm concerned about the growing apathy people are showing. I for one will not be counting on the government to save me from this, or bail me out once this comes to pass. We have been warned, and those who do not heed will wake up one day to the harsh reality that bad stuff CAN happen to them.
I believe it would be in everyones best interest to pay attention to the signs of this impending disaster and prepare accordingly. Five weeks worth of stored food, stored water, medication, and a financial plan wouldn't be so hard to do if one starts now. It never hurts to be prepared, and with a possible pandemic such as we've never seen, we have only ourselves to count on, and only ourselves to blame if we are caught off guard.
Thanks for keeping us up to speed. We are depending on it.
Posted By Anonymous Jen Garvin Fayetteville West Virginia : 6:53 PM ET
Perhaps, the more frightening thought is our government, who has been known recently to make vital mistakes, may be seen as our only line of defense against this horrible disease. I hope that our nation's experts on these matters have thought out and come up with a well-formulated plan of "attack," against this terrorist of a different orgin. Of course, that 300 million would probably really help right about now.
Posted By Anonymous Bo Whitener - Waco, Texas : 6:56 PM ET
At the pace the bird flu is spreading, what counter measures are in place to avoid a pandemic?
Posted By Anonymous Natasha, Vancouver, Canada : 6:56 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,

In my practice we call that Preventive medicine. It's Unfortunate our government is reactive and not proactive. Time will tell.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Welch, Raleigh NC : 6:59 PM ET
Oddly enough, it's similar to terrorist attacks on the US. We tend to beleive that attacks just happen overseas. 911 caught us off guard and it is sure to happen again if we let our guard down. The bird flu will hit if we do not take every necessary precaution possible. I dont know think it will hit as hard as people are led t believe. The media is twisted and typically do just about anything to spook people and boost the ratings. HA!
Posted By Anonymous Bubba Smith, Sioux City, Iowa : 6:59 PM ET
If the flu mutates to a human-to-human spread virus, we're in serious trouble, but at this point we're still talking about JUST the flu that kills on contact with the birds, right? That seems to be containable, (although destruction of any of the massive chicken farms here in the States would cause more of an economic disaster than a health one.) Are we ready to deal with an outbreak of the current avain flu, at least?
Posted By Anonymous Cynthia Delmar, Portland OR : 7:00 PM ET
The U.S.A. has a difficult time getting things done now days. Is it the red tape; or is it the democrats vs. republican politicians; or is it public outcry on money spent.The last time the President took the initiative to do something without everyones permission, (spying on citizens; for the war on terror) everyone cried bloody murder!!! Maybe our media and our politicians are infiltrated or infected by our foreighn enemies?
Posted By Anonymous Rey Riverside, Ca. : 7:05 PM ET
Why is it that our government is not paying so much attention to this deadly flu? This is something that we need to take seriously.We as Americans are supposed to depend on our government to look at research and start to prepare for any such outbreak. From the horrific Katrina disaster, I am not any way depended on our government for any type of assistance. Our government needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Our government is never proactive, they are reactive. Our people in the United States of America are going to be defensless when this epidemic comes to our country and there is nothing we have to defend ourselves....because AGAIN WE ARE NOT PREPARED TO FIGHT THIS BATTLE.
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Tampa, FL : 7:08 PM ET
It's not a question of if, but a question of when. Hopefully, when it get's here it hasn't mutated into being passed from human to human. Either way, it will be horrible. We spend to much time saying "It's not going to happen here. It's not going to happen to me." when we need to be saying "It can happen, and it may happen to me. What am I going to try to do about it." I would rather face this thing with my eye's open, than with them shut.
Posted By Anonymous Brandi, Fairdealing, Missouri : 7:12 PM ET
Katrina is going to look like a walk in the park compared to the impending bird flu when it hits the USA. Considering the weak and bungled response to a mere hurricane, our great country is in for unprecidented misery. Take heed, and take care of yourselves. The government won't be there to help.
Posted By Anonymous Derrik, Atlanta GA : 7:13 PM ET
That's is a horrendous threat! Upps, sorry, I am a health freak. What can we do at personal level, Dr. Gupta? Will vaccines really protect us? Should vaccines be administered now? what do you mean that we have to pay attention? Yes, how? Well, I guess I start getting nervous.
Posted By Anonymous Fabienne Gloss, Fairfax, VA : 7:19 PM ET
It must be remembered there has been no human-to-human transmission of bird flu. Even if it reaches the U.S. in less than one year, as your blog suggests, there would not be a large demand for medicines or hospital beds as human infection would remain relatively rare (and probably limited to those individual with direct contacts with birds).
Posted By Anonymous AB, Miami Beach, FL. : 7:19 PM ET
I don't disagree with this assessment at all, being a retired medical professional, I have my face masks stocked up and my Tamiflu that I purchased via prescription four months ago. If we are as badly prepared for this as we were for Katrina, this country is in trouble.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Gulf Shores, AL : 7:23 PM ET
Thanks for reporting on this Dr.Gupta.
It is troubling that so many people are still not taking the bird flu threat seriously.Hopefully we will be able to be proactive and use what we have already learned through Katrina etc. when it gets here.It would be really sad if this ends up being yet another national tragedy that we should have seen coming and could have prevented.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer, Durham, NC : 7:23 PM ET
It is a matter of deep concrn! The comming summer will largely change the disease map accross the world. All wild polar (North) bird will start moving towards north and will spread the disease everywher, USA is not exception! Time to take action in a new inovative way and think about new prevention, time to focus for Disease not War!
Posted By Anonymous Goutam , SLC, UTAH : 7:24 PM ET
I have asthma and so I guess I won't be getting on any planes in the near future.
Posted By Anonymous diana, san diego, ca : 7:24 PM ET
I live in Toronto. You would think a large world class city in North America with top health care "experts" would have recognized SARS long before it began to take the toll it did. Sadly I don't beleive we are any better prepared to face this new Disease, and this could have far graver consequences.
Posted By Anonymous Stephanie Sleightholm, Toronto ON Canada : 7:26 PM ET
It is important to understand that there will be no pandemic unless the virus mutates and allows person to person transmission. It is very likely infected birds will find our shores but the possibility of a pandemic remains speculative. It is also important to understand that should the virus mutate and allow person to person transmission there is no way at this time to predict how serious the disease would be from that virus. Marc J. Yacht MD, MPH
Posted By Anonymous Hudson, Florida 34667 : 7:27 PM ET
With the technology the United States posses sanitary poultry operations should be in place across our country. I can't imagine us consuming any chicken, Turkey or ducks and geese includeing the eggs that aren't domesticly raised.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Winfield Quincy, Il : 7:31 PM ET
Please continue the warnings. So many haven't even bothered with the simple flu shot.
Posted By Anonymous Lee Deer, Indpls.,IN : 7:32 PM ET
Tamiflu is not going to be the answer for this disease. The only way to handle this disease on a large scale is through identification and isolation of infected persons.
Posted By Anonymous Joshua Fitzmaurice, Baltimore Maryland : 7:32 PM ET
so if the bird flu isn't killing thousands anywhere else around the globe, why would it start doing so once it hits the states? i understand if it mutates it could become quite the epidemic, but it just seems a little sensationalistic right now....
Posted By Anonymous zach, redondo beach, california : 7:37 PM ET
If the bird flu start to engulf as a pandamic there would not be live human history.There would not be anyone alive to write novel "The Bird Flu" like Camus "The Plague".
Posted By Anonymous J. Judasaini, Cambridge,Massachusetts : 7:41 PM ET
If the bird flu hits the United States, we need to follow the same procedure that is used in cattle that is afflicted with Mad Cow Disease: cull and incinerate the infected animals to prevent its spread. If we don't start stocking up on vaccines and medicine now, we could easily be repeating the mistakes that were made during recent disasters like Katrina.
Posted By Anonymous Jared, Cambridge, MA : 7:47 PM ET
"disasters like Katrina."
Katrina "victims" were warned of the inevitable, and warned to leave - get away from the coming disaster.
Prior to Katrina, people knew they lived in flood zones. People knew their city was sinking.
Prior to Katrina, people knew their city would not hold up to anything more than a category 3 and they did nothing.
Prior to Katrina, people with reasonable intelligence took steps to protect their family.

Prior to a possible Bird Flu Pandemic, what have we been warned about? "Possibilities?"
Prior to a possible Bird Flu, has something been issued to tell us we live in an area likely to be affected?
Prior to a possible Bird Flu, have we been warned our city lacks the hospital beds or medical facilities?
I will protect my family every way possible, I am reasonably intelligent. Intelligent enough to know, that "Hurricane Katrina" has NOTHING to do with or has any vague similarities to a possible Flu Pandemic. They DO NOT equate! They are not the same! Hurricanes can be forecast within days/hours of landfall. Pandemics, unexplained. Hurricane paths are predictable. Pandemics, random. Be responsible in your blogs AC, don't compare apples to oranges. Katrina was a disaster. But it is not the forever comparison.
Posted By Anonymous Rob Jacksonville, FL : 7:50 PM ET
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm staying away from chickens!
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, Chagrin Falls, OH : 7:58 PM ET
The Government should mandate testing of wild fowl on a regular schedule.
Each state should be required to capture and test a required number
each week or month as set forth by the USDA. This would be any early detection system since the virus will most probably enter the US via
migratory birds. I have suggested this
to the Secretary of Agriculture of Delaware, but he just scoffs at the idea. I certainly hope that he has the last laugh. The cost and labor of this would be very minimal.
Posted By Anonymous Donna L. Sinnamon, Lewes, Delaware : 7:59 PM ET
Perhaps Dr. Gupta needs to be more exacting in his languange. "Bird flu" kills birds and a very limited number of humans who are infected. This would not tax the healthcare system. If he, and Dr. Fauci are talking about a flu pandemic casued by a virus mutating from "bird flu" he needs to discuss that clearly. If Dr. Fauci belives that we will see a flu pandemic within a year, that is significant. If it is "bird flu" that is much less significant.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Archer, Memphis, TN : 8:00 PM ET
Oh who cares? We're all going to die. Whether it's the bird flu or Bush's incompetence we're all doomed. We can worry about thousands of diseases until we are blue in the face. (No pun intended.) Pots and pans are giving us cancer, soda gives us cancer breathing gives us cancer, drugs are killing, people are killing, kids are killing, wars are killing, CARTOONS are killing and we're going to sit here and pretend they we're so shocked and worried that something else in the world is killing? Please. Let's here more about how doing NOTHING for the people in New Orleans is killing.
Posted By Anonymous Theresa Costello, Immaculata, PA : 8:05 PM ET
Because we don't have enough hospital beds to treat flu patients in the event of a pandemic, it would be wise for Americans to learn how to treat the flu at home. With no other option but home, how many people would die simply because they dehydrated - a fairly easy symptom to treat if one is diligent enough to treat it. We MUST begin educating OURSELVES on how we are going to care for loved ones if they become infected. Most of us will not have Tamiflu hiding in our medicine cabinets.
Posted By Anonymous April Poley, Buffalo, Wyoming : 8:06 PM ET
My concern is that officials in Washington will just talk about the Bird Flu until it happens in the US and then they will react ineffectively, putting lives in jeopardy as with Katrina.

Angie Pallos
Henderson, NV
Posted By Anonymous Angie Pallos, Henderson, NV : 8:07 PM ET
The spread of H5N1 into Europe is of concern. Currently, it's found in birds, but the minute it goes human to human the spread will be rapid. Worst case scenario think back to Katrina and the governments slow reaction.

Americans should not wait and start developing an emergency preparedness plan of their own. Stock up on food, water, N100 masks, gloves, tamiflu, anti-bacterial cleaners and wipes. Doesn't sound like much but whatever you can do to prepare is more than most Americans are doing.
Posted By Anonymous Damien Olmeda, Henderson, NV. : 8:13 PM ET
We should be worried. We do not have enough Tamiflu, and even if we did there are already strains proving to be resistant. This has replaced the #1 spot for my list of worries, replacing the 'Katrina Cough'(being a resident of New Orleans).
Posted By Anonymous Gabers, New Orleans LA : 8:17 PM ET
I do not think our country is ready for the bird flu. When I was in Turkey in December, and came back, All I kept hearing about was the bird flu spreading there. What worried me, was how easy it could spread human to human, just on an airplane itself.
Posted By Anonymous Anna, Menomonee Falls, WI : 8:24 PM ET
*Did* we learn lessons from Katrina? Have there been dramatic changes in streamlining communication and cooperation between levels of government, or have they all had their moment of embarassement and gone back to "business as usual"? I fear that, should bird flu mutate into a strain easliy communicable between humans, our failures at preparedness and our government's weaknesses will turn the entire country into a post-Katrina-esque mess. Hopefully its eventual arrival here will only mean less poultry to eat, but while I'm not actively worrying about the disease, I have no confidence in the government protecting the people from it.
Posted By Anonymous Sara L., Los Angeles, CA : 9:01 PM ET
Should I carry a personal supply of Tamiflu when I travel far away from home?
Posted By Anonymous Susan Taylor, Natick, MA : 9:05 PM ET
i try not to be a paranoid person, but the possibilities of this bird flu thing scare me. i try to talk to my family and friends about it- preparing for it- and they just scoff at the idea of a pandemic ever happening. hopefully they are right and i am wrong but i am still trying to prepare a little- just in case.
Posted By Anonymous sydney, atlanta, ga : 9:18 PM ET
It still amazes me how people around the world will see things happening, and see signs of what could happen in the future, but will completely ignore the signs. It's like when they saw the signs of "Katrina" coming, but did not react in a way that could have saved more lives. Now we see a possible epidemic coming, but government does not appear to be reacting in a 'fast and hard' way to combat it. If bird flu were to hit the U.S. and combine with our already existing problems of unemployment, future job loss, past and future hurricanes, evacuees and homelessness, lack of medical insurance, expensive medical treatment, and unconcerned government agencies, we would not be able to contain it. We would begin to experience terrorism from within (Americans in fear of each other). Maybe it's time for everyone to give serious consideration to the many verses in Luke chapter 21.
Posted By Anonymous Cindy, Troy, Michigan : 9:28 PM ET
Not only do we not have a vaccine...we don't even have the syringes to vaccinate people if we could. Our healthcare response preparedness is still no better than pre-Katrina!
Posted By Anonymous Jon, Washington, DC : 9:36 PM ET
Boy, that's not too difficult for someone (even a lowly little housewife like me) to comment that the bird flu will be in the US in less than a year. Considering we have how many countries meeting in ITALY for the Olympics and they've just found it over there. Wow, what a prediction doc!
Posted By Anonymous Deb, San Diego, CA : 9:37 PM ET
I've been tracking this story for quite some time. It's amazing that what started in Asia what seems like only a few months ago, has marched right across one continent after other. It's only a matter of time before North and South America will be affected. I only hope that the United States will be prepared.
Posted By Anonymous James, Bronx, NY : 9:37 PM ET
That is a misleading entry. First you refer to "bird flu continuing its march around the world"... then continue with "bird flu could be in the United States in less than a year" So if we experience the same incidence of bird flu in the US that the rest of the world has seen thus far our country will be overwhelmed without enough hospital beds? Beds for whom - chickens and swans? Its one thing to say the bird flu might become pandemic and that we aren't prepared for that eventuality; its much different to equate the US not being ready for sick birds who pose little if any immediate danger to anyone other than those with intimate contact to the birds themselves.
Posted By Anonymous Dan, Syracuse, NY : 9:37 PM ET
When Dr. Fauci is talking about bird flu being here in 6-12 months, is he talking about among birds or among humans? I think it's important for CNN to draw such distinctions clearly to start raising the quality of awareness and discourse. My poorly informed guess is that the disease will be widespread in birds in the US long before a human transmissible form has evolved. If this happens, it truly will be important for our country for media outlets such as CNN to spread practical and calming advice, rather than using the event as a hook to keep people nervously watching the TV.
Posted By Anonymous John Overdeck, Short Hills, NJ : 10:07 PM ET
Aloha,

I live in beautiful Honolulu, Hawaii. Everything seems far from here. But tourists from around the world visit every day. Even birds from Alaska, such as the golden plover, migrate here.

I agree that the bird flu may arrive sooner rather than later. It is necessary to prepare for such a pandemic. When it strikes, it will be too late. Tourists will stop traveling to places such as Hawaii... only the birds will keep coming.
Posted By Anonymous Charles C. Goodin, Honolulu, Hawaii : 10:15 PM ET
As Steve, my brother-in-law, a survivalist, fundamentalist, born-again Christian said when I asked him about the bird flu, "If you're afraid of the bird flu, you must be a chicken!"
Posted By Anonymous Kathleen, Amarillo, Texas : 3:31 PM ET
I read on www.slobodnaevropa.org that there was a specimen in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That raises a worry. Countries which haven't the soundness and stability for the means to contain an epidemic may become its boiling-pots. It is in the interest of the Americans and the western Europeans to invest in damage control.
Posted By Anonymous Parabosnian, Millburn, NJ : 6:34 PM ET
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