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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 11:37 GMT
Are you worried about bird flu?
Villager holding a fighting cock during a spring festival in Thailand (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
It is only a matter of time before a pandemic of bird flu hits the human population, experts say.

Countries have been urged by the World Health Organisation to develop or update their influenza "pandemic preparedness plans" following estimates that between two and 50 million people could die from the virus if countries are unequipped.

Stockpiling drugs and vaccine tests have begun in some countries. The UK is facing criticism for its slow reaction but is expected to announce its full pandemic plan in coming weeks.

Does a pandemic of bird flu affecting humans concern you? Should governments be doing more to protect the population?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

It may take months for this to run its course globally
Karl, Peterborough UK
We have every reason to be concerned. Those who feel they are healthy and ok should wake up to the wider implications. If a highly contagious strain with a high mortality rate strikes, the social system and structure of society itself will be under threat. Also bear in mind pandemics will not phase out within a few weeks. It may take months for this to run its course globally. A second wave perhaps more deadly is also a potential threat.
Karl, Peterborough UK

I'm not worried, I'm angry. This is yet another example of a potential killer that the media seems to have jumped on faster than the people that are supposed to protect us.
Jodie, Brighton

I'm not in the habit of panicking. And I certainly won't let some silly flu bother me.
Daniel, Kent, UK

I am not worried I am scared! All we have to remember is SARS a few years back and how quickly that spread. I don't think the media is giving this issue the spotlight it deserves.
Manuel, Toronto, Canada

Many have been aware of this for a few years. Other nations started to prepare up to 2 years ago. As ever it seems that we as the fourth richest nation in the world could only 'talk ' about the forthcoming pandemic. This country is becoming purely a talking shop with action always later than many much poorer nations. Human life appears to many to be very cheap compared to the cost of weapons of mass destruction which we readily produce, and of course profit margins. Wake up and lets take the lead once again as we did in the days of old. Produce the drugs and issue to everyone who wants to have protection. Ask, and most of the population would be glad to help finance the costs for the UK and poorer nations. Enough time has been wasted.
Robert, Preston, UK

If it turns out to be "The Big One", they will be blamed for complacency
JonG, Huddersfield UK
Sooner or later, there will be an international health crisis. It may be Bird Flu, it may be something else. Governments and their medical advisors, it seems, cannot win - warn people and they get accused of scaremongering, ignore something and, if it turns out to be "The Big One", they will be blamed for complacency. Personally, I think there are good reasons to be concerned over this, certainly far more than I was ever concerned by, say, BSE/nvCJD, horrendous though that is for the victims. Only time will tell for sure.
JonG, Huddersfield UK

It seems to me that it should be much more important that we help other countries, especially in Asia, that are closer to the outbreak, and have poorer sanitation and living conditions. Surely that would be the best way to save human life?
Joel Rust, London, UK

I worry! I really worry a lot! Not because the flu will cause havoc in the west, no. I worry about Africa where we still live together with our darling birds. The advanced world will control this I know, but Africa is where the question lies - control can't come when we are already dying in our millions. Let the flu please stay wherever it begins.
Uchendu Chigbu, Uturu, Nigeria

No. Pandemics are a natural part of the cycle of life and evolution. Mobilising a vastly expensive vaccination machine is ultimately futile as with the mutation rate of flu virus the vaccines will be ineffective within months.
Kevin Bennett, Newton Abbot, UK

The bird flu will be our first indication of how badly we have corrupted our immune systems!
Joellyn, Milwaukee, USA

Yes! I am terrified of the bird flu. For too many years it has been anti-bacterial this and germ-free that in so many products that humans are losing their natural immunities to so many common illnesses. Antibiotics have been over used which will allow the flu to become immune to the strongest medicines we have. The bird flu will be our first indication of how badly we have corrupted our immune systems!
Joellyn, Milwaukee, WI, USA

I've just had to reassure my 9-year-old daughter that not everyone will die if they catch the flu. The way the media is portraying this danger is irresponsible and nothing more than scare-mongering.
Sue, Oxfordshire

The vaccine may not solve the problem, but at least it's a starting point and will give the public a feeling of security.
Lynne Reyed, Brynmawr Gwent

This has to be taken seriously - international travel is extremely common, a lot of people work in warm air conditioned buildings and generally keep their homes warm as well which are ideal conditions for an airborne virus. I also think that many people's natural immune systems are less effective because of all the antibiotics that are prescribed. General fitness is another consideration, a good portion of our population are not as fit and healthy as they could be. Anyone who does not take this seriously is a fool.
Matt, Bristol, UK

Where is all the information on how to restrict the risk of contracting it?
Shaz, Manchester
We seem to be hearing a lot about what this bird flu can do and how many vaccines we need to stockpile, but where is all the information on how to restrict the risk of contracting it?
Shaz, Manchester

While the consumer demands ever lower prices for their food is it any wonder disease is so widespread among farmed animals? The farming industry is just responding to consumer demand and pressure from retailers to produce chicken and other livestock as cheap as possible. Consumers have the power to change this - either by buying meat from known sources, or by not buying it at all
Ian, UK

Let me take a guess. Even though the government won't take action to stock the vaccine, I bet that those in power will vaccinate themselves and families, just in case.
M Taylor, Brighton, East Sussex

Not another one - food scares, flu scares, don't do this, don't do that! If we listened to these experts we wouldn't step out of our front doors or eat anything!
Alan, Midlands, UK

Let's open our minds to solutions
Lisa, USA
What good does worry, anxiety, fear, panic do? What are the options? What can we do to prevent/protect? Let's open our minds to solutions, instead of following the typically mundane bandwagon of crying and whining without looking to solve the problem.
Lisa, USA

I would like to know what employers like British Airport Authorities are going to do to protect their staff against Avian Flu. As security staff we have to hand search incoming passengers coming in from all over the world. We must be one of most high risk employees.

Absolutely! My Gran lost her first husband and daughter to Spanish flu. We need a vaccine to administer to everyone - not just high risk. I'm not high risk, but as a teacher who uses public transport, I have a much great potential of transmitting as well as contracting a deadly virus to lots of people. We must also do our best to protect not just elderly but also our greatest asset, our children.
Leigh, Edinburgh

The flu pandemic after the First World War killed more people than died in the war itself
Chris, Belfast, UK

With all the fuss there was a few years back over Sars which had a far lower death rate than the current outbreak of bird flu, I'm not surprised there is a lot of media attention. It's worth remembering that the flu pandemic after the First World War killed more people than died in the war itself, and it's foolhardy at best to assume that such a pandemic cannot happen now.

Especially given the fact that world wide travel is now so common place that any instance of a bird/human flu crossover would be spread over many countries before the medical community ever got wind of it.
Chris, Belfast, UK

I've been following this issue for quite some time and it's become one of the reasons that I no longer consume animals. I don't normally get a flu shot, so in this case I would use avoidance tactics rather than trust a new vaccine. These virus' mutate so quickly, a flu shot would be minimally helpful anyway.
Candice, Los Angeles, USA

As yet they have no proof it can spread between humans, and the number of deaths have been minute. After the fuss made about Sars, I'll be a cynic until this so-called pandemic comes to fruition.
Tim, Manchester, UK

I've lived in Hong Kong since the early 1990s and have lived trouble-free through countless bird flu, Sars and other so-called scares. They're always blown out of all proportion by PR-hungry scientists and media moguls desperate for ratings. It's pathetic. There are more people dying of natural causes every day in London than have ever died of bird flu or Sars.
Mark, visiting London

As a medical researcher I feel we have to take this seriously and have a solid plan in place to deal with any expected outbreak
Alistair, Birmingham, UK

One of the most important things that can be done at the moment is for the government to be as open as possible about the contingency plans they have in place and be honest with the public. That, coupled with responsible media involvement will prevent widespread panic amongst the general public and educate them about the virus and the disease.

Headlines that incorporate phrases such as Killer Flu do no help at all and will only inflame the situation. As a medical researcher I feel we have to take this seriously and have a solid plan in place to deal with any expected outbreak, which it would appear we are doing. However, although it is right to be concerned, we have to keep level headed about it and not panic.
Alistair, Birmingham, UK

Judging by the way foot and mouth was handled in the UK, yes I'm worried! Prevention is better than cure!
Andy, UK

It could be the next pandemic and many will suffer and die. It does seem to be a sad state of affairs that folks very often are concerned when their own lives are at stake but if it is others, our concern drastically drops.
Penny, USA

Yes - very worried. With the BSE crisis, hunting, pair trawling, civet cats, dolphin deaths and TB in cattle, it seems whenever humans and other animals come into close proximity, the result is extreme suffering and blood. Farming has a lot to answer for, but it's not just farming that is to blame.
David, Cornwall, UK

We can prepare or we can wait and see
Ajana Zabel, Singapore

Perhaps in Asia - and after Sars, we have to be very concerned. While Singapore will use any measures to prevent it spreading here, it is the less-developed countries that are the problem. I do not believe that Vietnam would be able to cope if the bird flu spreads further. This strain has a very higher mortality rate and kills even young, healthy people. We can prepare or we can wait and see. If we are stupid enough to do the latter then any pandemic could merely be regarding as a thinning out of the gene pool.
Ajana Zabel, Singapore (ex UK)

We already had the warning shot across the bows with Sars. Viruses can spread globally within a day or so, in this modern age of air travel.
Mark Gillespie, Weymouth, UK

Yes, H5N1 concerns me a lot. Especially as I feel that too little is being done to prevent a major catastrophe. With a mortality rate well above 70% this will be something to tell our grandchildren - if we are lucky to survive it!
Henrik Nykvist, Gothenburg, Sweden

Of course it is a concern. Anything with the ability to kill up to 50 million people has to be a concern. It's not possible to comment on our preparedness, our secretive government has not told us how prepared we are - or are not!
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England

Makes the Sudan I crisis look like a joke doesn't it?
Garry Williams, Newbury, UK

I'm not concerned in the slightest. I eat healthily, exercise daily and have a good immune system. If you look after yourself, it's a proven fact that you are less susceptible to bugs. I haven't even caught a common cold in two years.
Susan, Leeds


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