Accessibility links

Breaking News

US Gears Up For Bird Flu Pandemic


President Bush is expected to sign off on a plan on how the United States would handle bird flu pandemic if Americans contract the disease. VOA's Carol Pearson has details.

The first cases of bird flu in the United States could show up in the next few weeks with the spring bird migration.

In preparation the Bush administration has drafted a plan that spells out in detail how the government would respond to a pandemic that could claim close to two million American lives and possibly overwhelm the U.S. health care system.

The World Health Organization says, in a worst-case scenario, 90 million Americans could contract the disease, as many as 10 million would need hospitalization.

Late last month at the U.S. Senate, United Nations bird flu planner David Nabarro stressed the danger of the current strain of bird flu. "The extraordinary thing about H5N1 is it is a very virulent and horrible virus. It has also moved into 20 countries during the last six weeks."

The U.S. plan is still evolving but it will include directives on who will be the first to be vaccinated and where U.S. currency could be printed if U.S. mints could not do the job. It also includes a plan for drive-through medical exams to check for signs of the disease and expanding Internet capability so more people could work from home and avoid contact with others.

U.S. scientists are still debating such things as how much vaccine would be needed and who would have priority in receiving it.

American poultry growers already have tightened security measures. Poultry farms severely restrict visitors, and chickens and other poultry do not mix with other livestock.

President Bush is expected to sign off on the plan soon.