Is the deadly avian flu the next pandemic? More and more people worldwide are coming down with it. Is a plan in place in case it comes to the United States? We spoke with workers at the Chatham County Health Department, who said at this point, this strain of flu isn't likely to hit our area. However, if it did, health officials say there is no cure for it.
This latest epidemic has already killed many people in Asia and South America. Now the avian virus, commonly known as the bird flu, is catching the attention of health departments across the Coastal Empire.
"We're going over our plans, we're seeing how they would be able to be used or modified if we had a case of bird flu," said the Chatham County Health Department's Ginger Heidel.
With no vaccine for this particular flu strain, health officials recommend that people get their flu shots. Even though that might not keep you from catching the bird flu, it can keep you from getting as sick and possibly dying.
"If someone were to get the bird flu, they could get general flu-like symptoms, but it can also cause severe respiratory symptoms, pneumonia and even death like we've seen with some people in Asia," said Heidel.
Health officials say if this--or any kind of pandemic--should hit our area, plans are already in place. "Some of the ways we'd respond to an outbreak of pandemic flu would be similar to how we'd respond to any kind of pandemic, and we already have plans in place and have conducted training for that," Heidel said.
Since there have not yet been any reported cases of the bird flu moving from person to person, health officials say there's no need for people to panic. "Certainly, people in the health community are watching it very closely," said Heidel. "As far as people at home, there's no reason at this point to really be concerned about the bird flu."
There have only been about 120 human cases of avian flu reported. Of those, about half died. You can find more information on the Centers for Disease Control website at: