CPS:IMAGE ORDER="1">What action should be taken to prevent the spread of the bird flu virus?
This is the second page of your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Anyone who has been into a hospital recently will know, as I do, the NHS could not cope with an outbreak of this type. There are hardly any spare beds (ask the 'Bed Managers' - there's no shortage of them!). Unlike France, we have not stockpiled enough medicines. It may be, of course, that such a pandemic doesn't occur, but we should not imagine for a moment that this country could cope if it does.
David, Manchester, UK
Just worried about what would happen if the free roaming birds in the UK (e.g. pigeons, geese, sea gulls, etc) get infected with bird flu. There are so many of them, especially in public parks such as in London Kensington Gardens. Since a person can get infected not only via contact with the birds but also the feathers and faeces, what would be done?
Jackie, London, UK
A colleague of mine has recently announced that they have been given the vaccine by a friend who works for the government. Given that stocks of this drug are supposed to be severely limited what on earth is going on? Surely this should be more closely controlled! I do not want to get them in to trouble but I find this disgraceful.
As far as I have heard, this virus is not directly transferable from human to human, only from bird to bird and from bird to human. It cannot be caught by eating birds, only at present by those who handle live birds. What concerns me is that this will give this government an excuse to wipe out yet another branch of the farming industry without compensation and, probably, just before Christmas. We will also probably be banned from feeding all wild birds in our gardens, too. My other 'concern' is that only an elite few will receive the appropriate vaccine, the rest of us can do.
We should kill as many migrating birds as we feel fit to prevent the spread of bird flu. Human life is more important.
Keith, Aberdare, Wales
Here, in Jersey, Channel Islands, doses of bird-flu vaccine are on sale across the counters of chemist's shops.
Anthony Hurst, UK
I am worried that this government is going to do another foot and mouth debacle and go on a mad killing spree of any bird that moves. How did this arise in the first place? What farming techniques led to this spread? What farming techniques in this country will harbour the virus?
Karen, Putney, UK
I think a lot of the "only another scare scary" remarks are ignorant and naive. The issue is not what HN51 can do now what but happens IF it mutates to be infectious on a human to human basis AND retains its current mortality rate. I have a 4 and 5 year old girls who frankly are unlikely to survive an infection. That is why I invested almost £300 buying Tamiflu over the internet from Canada to give the ones I love most a fighting chance. The government is doing almost nothing - most of the oft quoted Tamiflu purchase will not be shipped until 2007.
Why doesn't the government spend some of the £16 billion they are going to spend on ID cards on enough Tamiflu for everyone?
Arron Clements, Coventry, UK
Why worry about it? There isn't much anyone can do about it, anyway. Since I am unlikely to be in the population that the government thinks deserves a vaccine, the best thing I can do for myself is eat right (perhaps becoming a vegetarian), get enough sleep and do all things that boost one's immune system. If there is a suspected case of bird flu in the US, it's time for me to start wearing surgical masks. If a vaccine is available to the general population, then I will avail myself of it. Otherwise, the surgical mask will have to do. I will not lock myself up, stop going places or living just because of a virus, even a serious one like this one may be.
Eileen, NC, USA
Is this not just nature's way of telling us that the way we are rearing birds is wrong, and that unless we change our ways the risk is that this virus will pass to humans. It is no different to logging in the amazon, carbon emissions, etc where if we abuse our planet will eventually end up paying the consequences.
It's not the public that's panicking. It's the media!
Allan Gascoigne, Redditch, England
It's hilarious how much is being made of this! I've been travelling in South East Asia for the last eight months, and there are live chickens wandering about everywhere but only a handful of people have died from the disease in a couple of countries (more people die from normal flu!).
Alex Gison, Winchester, UK
I think if enough is done now to contain and irradiate the virus then there will not be a problem. Look at foot and mouth, eventually that was contained but if action had been taken sooner then a lot of cattle and people's livelihoods may of been saved. The government needs to make a priority of looking into sensible measures that can be taken by everyone from the largest companies to the individual to minimise risk at all stages of the virus's progression & possible mutation.
Helen, Derby, Derbyshire
My wife is a nurse in a hospital who expects to get anti-virals but the talk at her job is that unless all family members of nurses and doctors also get anti-virals, there is a serious reluctance to go into work into a high contamination zone only to return to unprotected families at night.
Kev Johnson, Taunton UK
In 1918 the working population worked closely together in factories. Housing conditions were poor with little in the way of heating. Pollution from coal burning caused millions of city dweller to suffer continual lung problems. Nutrition was poor. There was no paracetemol or other drugs to combat fevers etc, and no NHS. Most people could not afford to even see a doctor. To compare then with now is just absurd.
Peter Wagstaff, West Yorkshire
I am a virologist who has worked for many years in both academia and industry including organisations that developed the current drugs for flu. It is important to note that it is prudent to take reasonable precautions to be able to cope with a pandemic should it arise. However, as yet there have been very few human infections with bird flu and those that have occurred have been in people physically in direct contact with birds. Very few cases are even suspected of being human to human contact. Finally when stating alarming statistics of more than 60 people in Asia being killed by bird flu since 2003, please bear in mind that 'normal' flu (which incidentally also originated from birds) kills around 250,000 to 500,000 each year world wide.
Eddie, London, UK
Of course there's no need to be worried by bird flu. Don't forget we should have all died years ago from mad cow disease. And what about SARS? Or E.coli? Or salmonella in eggs? They're all scare stories. I'm going to get in the car later and drive to rugby training, I've got far more chance of dying in a car crash than I have of contracting a fatal dose of bird flu.
Nicky Mortimer, Paris, France
Thirty deaths a year across the whole of Asia is not "deadly". Compared to the millions a year who die from TB, HIV related infections and malaria this is frankly a joke. Malaria even kills 100 Brit's a year, yet no-one is screaming for the mass extermination of mosquito's. With global warming there's far more chance of malarial mosquito's breeding in East Anglia than a pandemic of bird flu.
Being HIV positive, I am among those who should be more scared than most. Even a simple human influenza can be fatal to me. Let's just hope that the government is organised enough to be able to cope with the increase in numbers in hospitals and visiting GP's!
Anon, London, UK
We have the technology to produce and distribute enough medicine to prevent this epidemic from becoming a disaster. This needs to become a priority over whether or not David Cameron smoked cannabis and every other nine-day wonder, which are insignificant sideshows.
Mike, Ivybridge UK
Just as we are suffering from 'compassion fatigue' as a result of the many reported disasters around the world, so we are suffering from 'scare fatigue' because of the many reported scares. These things come and go. It's all part of the natural process and it's all hyped up.
Bilal Patel, London, UK
I'm more concerned that humanity looks ready to extinguish every single bird on earth in the hopes of preventing a few human deaths. Even millions of human deaths wouldn't be as bad as the wholesale destruction of the planet's other inhabitants. The long term consequences of the former could actually help the planet. The latter could destroy us all.
Lisa, Cambridge, UK
I'm worried now about the annual flu jab I'm entitled to (asthmatic). Firstly that it wouldn't cover this bird flu if needed and secondly this national panic will reduce supplies for the other flus that the vaccination covers. Better get mine quick smart but then am I adding to the panic?
Laura, Kent, UK
Surely pet dogs and cats will come into contact with wild birds and be a source of infection to their owners?
Ian Baldwin, Buntingford England
Yet again we are witnessing a reactive response, instead of proactive one. EU crisis meetings and solutions should have been held and implemented long before the arrival of bird flu in Europe. However, once again, that would have cost money and I have no doubt that they will be trading off the cost of human lives against the financial costs of implementing early prevention as they have done in other circumstances.
Heard it all before. Salmonella eggs, mad cow disease beef, bird flu about to kill everyone. It's all getting very tedious now.
Simon Soaper, England
It seems many people are treating this as another example of hysteria, I feel as a student of immunology this is a serious threat to us. No, H5N1 hasn't killed many people and in its current form doesn't pose much of a threat to us. The worry is that it will mutate, and become as virulent as other human flu viruses. This is also the reason vaccines are a problem to make, until the virus mutates to be virulent in humans, we cannot make a specific vaccine to protect us. That will take time, and in a modern world of global travel in hours, stopping the newly mutated virus from spreading might be the biggest problem to overcome.
David Mansfield, Colchester, England
My grandfather survived the 1918 flu. He was one of only five to do so in his town. However his health was greatly weakened. A pandemic kills in the short and long term. It is serious!
Mary Morgan, Weston England
This whole furore is ridiculous - the virus can't transmit from human to human yet, although I agree the possibility is there; it's impossible to stop its spread around the world as its effectively airborne, carried by wild birds. The human race has experienced high mortality from viruses before and will again, it's the way of nature! If it happens it happens, there's absolutely nothing we can do to stop it, we can only mitigate the effects using an antiviral agent, which we are already preparing - the perpetual media fuss is exhausting and just engenders needless panic!
Rebecca, London, UK
Pretending that it won't happen or that the likelihood is low will not diminish the risk. The best tact is to inform yourself. It is a fact that viruses have made the jump from birds and livestock before. It is a fact that a reliable vaccine can't be produced until a particular virus is isolated. It is apparently a fact that the H5N1 virus has not been transmitted from human to human. History has shown us what is possible, the "Spanish" flu being a sobering example. No one in their right mind should underestimate the potential for a crippling pandemic, but as others have pointed out there is more than enough to worry about until we have more answers.
Some people seem to be getting confused, which is understandable. The threat right now is low. That said, if (and indeed when) H5N1 mutates into a human-communicable virus, the threat will be extremely high. Don't fall into the trap of assuming it will never happen. We've had epidemics before, we will again, and we must not be complacent.
James, Richhill, Armagh
As a Hong Kong citizen, I witnessed the so-called "devastation" of SARS and can confidently say that the only pandemic will be one of terrible hype. I don't understand how we can make valid comparisons between 1918 and today's world, when science and technology are advancing at such rapid rates and people are generally more health conscious, nor have we been ravaged by World War. This unfounded paranoia is truly infuriating!
Sophie, Hong Kong
We should not underestimate the danger the bird flu represents. Pandemics have happened and will happen again. The problem is now when the right little sets of virus meet and exchange dna/rna and become good human to human transfer, it is around the world in hours not months as in 1918-1919. Go read doctor's diaries from the time. Terror was real and it will be again.
Jane, Topeka, KS, USA
As a medical doctor in Hong Kong, having experienced SARS and being at the forefront of new influenza variants, the notion that people trivialize bird flu is absurd. At the best of times, influenza is not merely a 'bad cold' but a potentially serious infection. The H5N1 variant has the potential for causing a sudden and catastrophic destruction of the immune system response to infection, and a rapid demise.
On the other hand, the pandemic is long overdue, will not wipe out humanity as we know it, and will pass. What bothers me are two things: firstly that amongst our inadequate preparations, tamiflu is being touted as a "cure" - it is not, it is claimed to be no more effective than placebo, and it is in no way a treatment for flu - we are being duped. Secondly, I am concerned not so much for the pandemic, as dangerous as it may be, but rather for the collapse of international and national affairs as we respond with panic - collapse of markets and failing economies.
Brian, Hong Kong
Just because, say, 70 people have died out of a huge population does not mean that H5N1 does not have the capacity to spread like wildfire. Quite the opposite, it points to the adaptability of the virus and its ability to become significantly more pathogenic as more and more are infected. The conditions and criteria are right for the human-human transmission strain to become a reality. I agree that the media can sensationalise this issue to sell papers etc. but see it for what it is and a good source of education to get people taking concrete action now. If you really want good information please educate yourselves by going to the WHO's website before posting opinions picked up in casual conversation.
J, Hong Kong
I am not concerned about "bird flu", I am concerned and horrified by the scenes I have witnessed on the news that shows the way that these poor animals are being treated before they are condemned to death. Dragged by thier wings and thrown alive into bins and plastic bags before being thrown into pits and burned alive. How barbaric is that!! I am disgusted to be a human!!
Paul Wilkins, Gloucester, UK
The real victims here may be the species of wild birds which may go extinct or nearly extinct, due to the foolish method of raising birds for food in high density conditions while allowing wild birds to mix with them. Any disease present in either population is guaranteed to be passed back-and-forth, with the wild birds free to carry the disease to their next stop, while the diseased domestic birds remain behind to infect people. Asian governments seem unable or unwilling to stop this practice. The UK must review poultry laws and amend them if they do not prevent such population mixing.
Michael, Calif, USA
This is like the millennium bug, a slightly plausible situation, which most people do not understand, but if it did happen to be true would be a disaster. Like then it will provide a lot of money to consultants and pundits and little else. Let's get on with addressing real everyday problems
Harry, Stockport UK
We as a family are travelling out the south west coast of Turkey next week to our villa and although concerned at this outbreak, we will still go on holiday and hopefully have an enjoyable time. We have faith in the relevant authorities to act accordingly to stop the flu virus spreading.
Gail Burke, Bourne, England
There is no need to take alarm, bird flu can't threaten humanity. Learn from us Africans. We die daily in thousands through Aids and talking about bird flu sounds a joke to our ears. There are better things to worry about and bird flu is not just on the list. That virus is for birds and in humans it will never survive. Too much emphasis on this fear will only lead to undue discrimination in the name of pre-emptive efforts and quarantines.
Kingsley Jika, Zomba, Malawi
Fear is a weapon of mass destruction.
Jon Worden, UK
I would like to comment on the scare mongering that is in fact going on regarding the bird flu epidemic. I have just come back from China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and cannot see what exactly the trouble is. How can one combat a virus until it has been identified specifically? As a visitor to the countries mentioned above I did not feel in any way at risk, partly because I was not in fact working with the birds only consuming them.
E M Ives, Bridgwater England
I'm very worried. I live in an agricultural area of Canada, and work in the poultry operations, vaccinating, stunning (getting rid of used-up layers), debeaking and transporting from hatching barns to laying barns. In every stage, it's inevitable that we are scratched so that we have open wounds and it's inevitable that we come into contact with either chicken blood or faeces. We'll be the first to know if the flu's arrived...but what can we do once its here? I haven't heard of any vaccination available for us. There are literally millions of birds here, and that's just our corner of the province. Some barns have over 200,000 birds. How can we get rid of them? Where will we burn them? This country is not ready for this.
Heather, Winnipeg, Canada
Why not starting to treat animals as sentient beings? Put an end to the horrible cramped breeding of birds and other animals. Then we might have a chance to survive, both animals and humans.
Bodil Gruwberger, Karlskrona, Sweden
I'm not worried about Bird flu. Thousands of people die of common flu every year, yet this strain has only claimed the lives of 60-odd. It seems that the majority of the British public love to lap up media scaremongering.
The flu killed so many in the 1917 -18 outbreak because so many people were impoverished - especially after four years of World War. Fear is not a healthy emotion. Sounds to me the biggest danger is coming under the influence of the fear mongers.
Robin Bate, Edinburgh, Scotland
As a person living in Turkey, I am not so much worried. Because it is said that there is no danger if you do not touch any fowl and if you cook your turkey, chicken, goose etc at 50 degrees celcius. It is obvious that disease pandemics such as bird flu are greater risk to us. But the aim of the institutions such as WHO is to take precautions for these diseases.
Cagatay iris, Izmir, Turkey
I'm 55, asthmatic and worried to hell and back. I've been concerned about this thing for quite a while and I think the death toll could be in the millions in the UK. All the scientists I've read on this issue are concerned, from what I've read of governments, they're concerned too. Its not just the deaths, it will devastate economies and travel.
Brendan Stallard, Atlanta, GA
I will be building a lead-lined shelter in my back garden, stockpiling water and tinned beans and won't come out until the population of the UK come to their senses. There is no effective vaccine to prevent this virus but with the low infection and mortality rates in humans to date, there is likely to be a higher mortality rate from heart attacks caused by the ridiculous ill-informed comments in these discussions.
Sure there have been pandemic diseases, but there have also been diseases that are not dangerous and are not capable of human transmission. I will believe a medical article in Nature or Science, but not this ill-informed fear mongering that is currently taking place.
Although mass hysteria probably will be generated from the threat of Avian Bird Flu I feel it is a threat that can't be taken lightly, past pandemics such as the Spanish Flu of 1917 tells us that. As to how to stop a threat of something of this potential magnitude from happening, well that's another story.
I really don't think there is cause for panic. After all, there have not been that many cases of people catching bird flu and it is not even known yet whether it will become such a widespread pandemic as is feared. And the officials being so worried about this hypothetical epidemic just makes me wonder why no one is panicking about malaria or other known diseases that kill thousands if not millions each year, not just 60 people in the last three.
Irina, Oxford, UK
Not enough is being done and it is not being treated seriously enough. It seems that in today's society funds and resources are concentrated and wasted on agenda that is best left alone or handled differently, i.e. Iraq and other money, human life wasting undertakings. Deep down, very important issues that require far more immediate action are given bit part attention and once that mistake is made the cost and damage to the world as a whole is far greater that what was previously thought.
Darren Hainey, Shepton Mallet Somerset England
Right now, the most immediate threat is mass panic and the country grinding to a halt every time a suspected witch - sorry, human bird 'flu case - is reported by our rabid sensationalising media.
Colin MacDonald, Glasgow, Scotland
Hopefully, we have learned from previous such disasters that to be prepared for the worse case scenario is the correct approach to take. It seems to me that trying to stop the halt of an invisible virus is like trying to hold water. We must be armed and ready!
Caroline Reid, Bracknell, UK
When the first cases of bird flu were reported, I was in one of the affected areas in South East Asia. I wasn't worried and took sensible precautions by avoiding bird markets etc. I think everyone hoped that it would be contained and disappear. This hasn't happened and is now very unlikely to happen. It wouldn't be over reacting by saying that if it latches on to the human flu and mutates, it would spell dire consequences for the entire world. Don't be complacent. Outbreaks have occurred for centuries and will continue to occur.
AM, London UK
I would like to know if these anti-viral drugs are effective to contain the H5N1 virus. Should there be a flu pandemic outbreak, how can we protect ourselves and what do we avoid eating?
Margaret Sorrentino, La Spezia, Italy
The UK influenza contingency plan assumes a mortality rate of 0.37%. Yep. That's not a typo, nought point three seven percent. That's around 140 times lower than the observed figure of 52%. Based on a UK population of 58Million, the WHO estimate of an infection rate of 25% (14.5 million people) and the current mortality rate of 52%, you get around 7.5 million UK deaths. I'm worried.
Andy Pryke, Birmingham
The anti-viral drug should be available for all in Britain, what I heard is that the government is only targeting 20% of the population, which is unacceptable. We are not in 1918, the government must consider better supply of this drug.
H Marph, London
This is very much a concern. At the moment, as a vulnerable person on two counts, I can't even get my usual flu jab until sometime in November due to a supply problem. If our health service and its weak ministers cannot sort out the current problems, I cannot see that we will cope if this hits us.
How many people die every day from existing, preventable, treatable diseases while we worry about one that is, currently, hypothetical?
Ben Moxon, Guildford, Surrey
What concerns me the most about this is possibility of mass hysteria resulting in a mass cull of migratory birds. We should know all the facts about this strain before doing something irreversible. The media has a responsibility to keep this from becoming a global panic and all governments have a responsibility to keep their people informed of the facts.
Patricia, Sarnia, Canada
Worried? I'm quite scared - just remember 1918-19! Don't blame the wildlife, killing birds is just a waste of time. Once the species gap is jumped and a human-human version takes hold we will have wiped out thousands of birds and be back where we started. We need to be prepared for the resultant Pandemic (and before it, not afterwards!)
Paul, Bolton, Lancs
As a biologist I am absolutely astounded by some of the comments made by posters, there are some real howlers on this topic, so please note that H5N1 came about due to mutation(s) in a pre-existing virus that circulates within the wild fowl populations. Not as a result of; 1: Factory farming, as H5N1 doesn't exist in domestic fowl populations 2: Seed eating by humans 3: GM foods or feedstuffs 4: Meat eating. Some people need to do some serious revision on biology, or at least stop and think before spouting obvious nonsense.
In the last ten years less than 70 people in Asia have died as a result of bird flu. That's 70 people from a population of over 2 billion. Why does everyone think that if that's as much as the disease has managed to do in Asia in ten years that it will somehow spontaneously mutate into a pandemic as it spreads west. From a genetic perspective there's as much likelihood of a flu pandemic developing from a normal strain of the 'common cold' as there is from bird flu. Beware the spread of panic...
Andrew, Nottingham, UK
This is an issue that could become serious, we have become too trusting of medicine and assume that we can cure anything. If this strain of flu was to become pandemic it could cause serious consequences - you only have to look at the past pandemics to see how many lives could be at risk. I think the government should take action and not just stop imports from countries already affected but as many as they possibly can. This would benefit our farming industry at the same time as minimising the risk of our country being the next on the H5N1 hit list.
It seems to me there is a scare like this every year. If its not mad cow disease or flesh eating bugs, its this bird flu. There is a saying, what's for you will not go by you, stop panicking.
Flu epidemics have killed millions in the past, so why not now ? People should stop burying their heads in the sand and take it more seriously.
Stu, Poole UK
Another food scare, why can't the British people support the ordinary British farmers who raise their cattle, sheep pigs and poultry the old fashioned way? It may cost a little bit more but you'd be guaranteed good quality food and locally produced food not these intensively reared stuff.
Jane Davies, Llandeilo, Wales
Has enough been done? Too much already in my opinion! I agree with other contributors that more has been said and done about this "possible pandemic" in the space of just a couple of months than has been said and done about all the other known, far greater and more certain killers in all of human history to date, and that's because sadly, its far easier to just cull, cull, cull the creatures of God's animal kingdom in a knee-jerk reaction to save ourselves rather than try and prise us humans away from our comfortable culture of cars, cigarettes, poor diet, binge drinking and sloppy sexual habits.
Janet, Greater Manchester, UK
Our best defence right now is making sure humans in the affected areas do not have conventional influenza, so we should be saturating those areas with normal flu vaccine. Next we should prepare for the collapse of poultry and egg farming around the world and explore the worst case Category 5 scenarios. Remember Katrina!
Tom G, New Hartford, CT
Well, as I have managed to survive the various other pandemics - ie HIV, Mad Cow, SARS, etc, I guess I might just make it through the latest chickenlittle the sky is falling on my head panic. After all, I want to live long enough to drown when global warming melts the ice caps....
Andrew MacDonald, Luxembourg, Luxembourgh
Governments must give this 100% priority and here in UK we need vaccine for all and not just for 25%of population or key workers.
Paul Barnes, Lichfield, UK
No, at present I am not worried because you can only catch the virus directly from infected birds. However I would be scared out of my wits should the H5N1 virus mutate so that it acquires the capability for normal airborne transmission, directly from human to human.
Those who claim this is a non-story should read up on centuries of world history and realise that pandemics which kill millions occur with worrying regularity with at least one in an average lifetime.
Very worried! My mother was the only survivor in her family as her parents and siblings died in January 1919. Everyone should read The Great Influenza by John M Barry (2004)
H P Davis, Wenham, MA USA
I cannot believe the fuss over this it has killed 60 people. The recent hurricanes/earthquakes have done far more damage and I don't see anyone rushing to put a stop to global warming. The average healthy person has more chance of being hit by a bus or cancer than catching this I think everyone should take a deep breath and stop panicking and focus on other issues that require more urgent attention.
Jane, Frimley UK
People, even now, are underestimating the impact of bird flu. Even if we avoid the disease crossing the species barrier to humans, an even risk at best, the disease will affect many millions of chickens in the UK. This will mean that most of the organic and free range stocks, those kept outside, and most at risk, will be destroyed, along with a large proportion of the factory farmed population. Chicken will become more expensive than beef. Are we ready for the huge increase in food prices? It will hit our economy hard, even if there isn't killer flu amongst humans.
Alex Wright, Aylesbury, UK.
I think there is potential to overreact. So far there has been one fatality from possible human to human transmission in Asia. If there is evidence in the future that the virus has mutated to allow transmission between humans, then I might become more worried. Why does the EU Health Commissioner advocate mass vaccination when the vaccine contains strains of influenzas A(H1N1), A(H3N2) and B, is this a psychological exercise to make people feel safer against something they wouldn't have been particularly worried about had it not be for over-hype?
Sue, Northants, UK
We have pet ducks, what will happen to them? Do we need to look forward enough to 'get rid' of them now, or do we wait? Will they catch it confined in the garden or is it large flocks that are at risk? What chance do we have finding out information when it's clear that officials aren't even sure what's going on!
Jo, West Sussex
The complacency shown by the comments on this forum is shocking. Has nobody heard of Spanish Flu, The Black Death etc? From the figures I've seen 'Bird Flu' has a higher mortality rate than both of those (117 cases, 60 deaths). I'm glad to see governments are taking the threat more seriously.
Gareth Davies, Swansea
I note that some people think that having the flu jab will help, but this has been pooh-poohed. My thoughts are that if more people are vaccinated against the flu, then fewer people are likely to have the flu and H5N1 together. My understanding is that if a human contracts both viruses simultaneously, then the virus could mutate into the human-human strain. It might therefore help indirectly..?
Fiona, Isle of Man
When the human-to-human form eventually spreads, how will we tell bird flu from normal flu? Only when it's too late is my guess. And to those who think this is all just scare-mongering and 'these things are never as bad as they seem', surely that's just what a lot of the people of New Orleans thought when Katrina was at their doors? My own thoughts are for my kids - how do I protect them? My understanding is that we'll all get infected eventually as it becomes part of the normal gene-pool for influenza, but most of us will have no problem with it - just the unlucky people will succumb to its deadly abilities (if it is deadly). And it'll come in more than one wave, so is it best to get infected first time or second time round? There are so many unknown things about bird flu arriving that I don't think we can ever plan for it.
Richard Mallett, Broadstairs, UK
As of now bird flu is not transmitted person to person. As noted, if it mutates and becomes transmissible person to person, a pandemic is possible. The US is planning to obtain sufficient vaccine for 1.5 million people. I believe this is a prudent precaution even if the flu does not mutate. If the flu does mutate, I believe it will spread world-wide very rapidly - and there will not be sufficient time to produce much additional vaccine.
Dave Woods, Cleveland/USA
Maybe when mankind realises that it doesn't rule the whole world animals and birds will be kept in more humane conditions for those that have to eat them. It is no wonder disease spreads when these birds are forced to live in their own muck day-in and day-out. Perhaps the breeders should think of this as a lesson to be learnt about the way they keep their stock.
Maybe we should slaughter our battery farmed hens, as they are surely the birds with which humans have closest contact. They live in very unhealthy conditions and are breeding grounds for disease.
Flu H5N1 is tough as viral strains go. There have been three pandemics in the last 80 years and we are almost certain to have another, statistically speaking. The tougher the virulence the more fatalities shall occur. The logic is confused with H5N1; it is an Avian-borne strain and this is where all the focus should be in stopping Avian flocks and mass infections. It seems that mass culling of poultry stocks is the best, immediate answer and forgoing economic blight.
No, I am not worried. One big difference between 2005 and 1918, at least in the U.S. is that over 60% of men and 80% of women are washing their hands. How many people washed their hands regularly in 1918? Not very many. Hygienic practices, repeated educational announcements in the media, and hospital precautions will thwart the bird flu as it did SARS.
Greg, RN, Wichita, USA
Having read the comments so far, all I can say is "you bet I'm concerned". If it happens & 130 million people die, that will be the end of the Western World as we know it. All governments/ military and financial institutions will collapse. No Banks, no pay, no food, large numbers of unburied dead and further disease will be the result, not dissimilar to nuclear war. Our government's response is to buy antiviral drugs for health workers (and no doubt themselves). Are we stockpiling antibiotics to treat lung infections, are we thinking the unthinkable - I think not. If it happens I'm off on my boat for six months, nicely out of harms way!
David Evans, Frinton-on-Sea UK
I worried, I have been following this for a year now. I'm a single mum with 3 young sons, what exactly can I do to protect us? I'm thinking of stocking up on food and stuff, say enough for two months, then if there is a pandemic I would just lock the door & stay indoors for as long as possible. Is this over reacting?
What a lot of fuss over nothing! Not for the first time we're all shaking in our boots over a non issue. We all face greater risks of death crossing the road, driving cars, smoking, drinking and watching Saturday night TV than we ever have of catching bird flu. All the scares in the past have not taught us anything! A bit of common sense is what's needed here. Let's all carry on with our lives and not get so het up over non stories.
Unlike the USA which has banned imports of birds captured in the wild and sold as caged pets, the EU still allows this trade. The trade is decimating birds in their native forests and exposing humans very directly to these potential sources of avian flu.
Sue Miller, London, UK
And how am I supposed to tell if a bird has a cold or flu? Or any kind of illness for that matter? This is going to open the floodgates with panicky people reporting anything and everything. Maybe they should have asked well established bird-watching groups, RSPB members and wild bird sanctuaries? Surely they are the experts here?
Richard H, UK
I wonder how many people on here who are calling for catastrophic culls of wildlife realise that cars kill 3,000 a year in the UK and seriously injure 30,000? Perspective is the most important factor in making a serious decision so before we go wiping out whole species, let's act as though human life really is worth something and tame the car culture.
Pat B, London UK
Perhaps the general public would be wise the read the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department of Health and Health Protection Agency Websites before making such radical comments, not helped by media scares.
The French government have ordered enough doses of antivirals to enable them to treat the entire population of France, should the need arise. The British are assessing which places could be used as temporary mortuaries in our cities, and, having ordered enough antivirals to treat only 20% of the population, have also drafted orders to the army and police to guard the sites where these drug supplies will be stored, to limit their issue to "essential workers". Says it all really.
Anne, Haslemere, Surrey
I am worried by the increase in people eating seeds and the chances of bird flu crossing the species gap using the plant kingdom as a genetic bridge. It seems eating seeds is seen as fashionable and healthy these days and people aren't being warned to the dangers of such a lifestyle choice.
Fr. Matiban, Catenham, England
Signs of bird flu have been seen here in Turkey and government officials have started extinguishing all birds with that may carry possible risk. I guess many of us won't be eating poultry for a long time.
Esra Karatash Alpay, Istanbul, Turkey
The developed West has for the last few years taken it to be a problem for the far East and only paid lip service in trying to understand the infection and develop counter measures. Only now that migratory birds are taking it closer to home is money being poured to fight it.
B Selvadurai, Klang, Malaysia
The solution to these types of problems is that the governments all over the world should spend many times more money on medical research, and every one in the world should become vegetarian.
Jila, San Jose, California
For a start we need to stop the inhuman intense factory farming conditions that enable such disease to be created and mutated. With so many different animals all being fed a host of genetically modified food and supplements, if bird flu does not prove to be a threat, then it will not be long till another type of disease will be spawned and cause a far more severe threat.
Oliver, Bingley, West Yorkshire
I am a researcher at the National Institutes of Health outside Washington DC, and nothing has concerned me more about H5N1 bird flu than the reactions of people in forums like this one. The bird flu has the potential to be a health problem, but as it exists now, it is simply not a particularly virulent disease for any human population. It has not yet been shown to be contagious between humans, and it can be treated with conventional medications for fever and respiratory illness (the mortality rate from H5N1 is about 33%, with most deaths resulting from substandard medical care). The fear of H5N1 is in the potential for mutations that allow it to become a far more contagious and virulent disease in humans, but there is no reason to assume such mutations will occur any time soon.
EP, Washington DC, USA
My friend, a vet, is extremely concerned about the possibility of the spread of this virus, so much so that he is spending over £300, buying a private supply of the antiviral drugs available via the internet, for his family of four. This is enough for me to take this threat seriously. Why not the Government - could it be about money???
Lisa, Manningtree, Essex
I work on a poultry farm and it doesn't worry me that I am in contact with these birds every day because at the moment there is no bird flu in this country. However all it takes is 1 wild bird to get into one of the sheds, and this does happen, and there is a high chance they will become infected. At this moment in time bird flu cannot be passed from person to person, but can be passed from bird to human. So people like me would be the first in line, yet we have received no instructions on how to deal with our birds should an outbreak take hold. We can't kill all 120,000 birds ourselves can we?
George, Aberdeen, Scotland
More should be done to educate the public. Until this is done, there will be increasing hysteria and demands for impossible to implement quarantines and calls for everyone to be given a "flu jab" with a vaccine that doesn't yet exist. A good place to start is the BBC's own health pages, which is very informative.
Richard Gregory, Southampton, Hampshire
The more people panic about bird flu, the greater the risk of a culling frenzies (similar to that seen during the rabies scare). What people do not realise is that bird flu has been round for a long time and only becomes a risk if it mutates. Having worked in a zoo I recognise this. The only time I ever saw the curator become concerned about a bird death was when it involved a potential case of bird flu or avian TB. This government is creating (once again) unnecessary panic which could result in the death of many migrating birds including the rarer species. Thank you Mr Blair.
I am worried, many people in the UK, have very little information about it, and the Third World is even worse, the truth is places like the Middle East may have it and ignore it. It is very worrying indeed.
Ahmad Hmoud, Jordan/Swindon
What do I feed the family at Christmas? Beef has the threat of BSE. Fowl (turkey, chicken, goose etc) is potentially a killer. Anyone fancy a nice nut roast?
Tom, Ipswich, UK
Disease pandemics such as bird flu are a far greater risk to us than terrorism, since they have the potential to kill tens of millions of people. Sadly the level of response and funding appears to be completely the other way around.
David, Malvern, UK
I'm not worried at all, really. Yes, we may have a pandemic in the next few years, but the disease will likely be less lethal after it mutates to accommodate human-to-human transmission. In the last few years, we've had SARS, smallpox, even anthrax alerts. I think the public health community likes to have a new crisis in the news every year or so. I'm a little desensitized to it.
While the governments have to take necessary precautions (culling, vaccination etc) the public should not worry about it too much. At the end of the day, this is a natural cycle; new viruses evolve and our immune system adapts to them.
Ercan, Ithaca, NY
Never mind watching out for sick birds landing on our shores, If (and it's a huge if) this disease is as infectious as the scaremongers claim, why are we still permitting access to this country for people from affected areas? Why are we still permitting return flights to affected areas? Either HMG is incompetent in disease control (not entirely unbelievable given their record) or avian flu isn't the end of the world as we know it.
Trevor, London, UK
The most worrying thing is the ignorance written on this page. Vaccine? There isn't one. We can't even begin to make one until the virus mutates so it can pass from human to human. Up to that moment the human race is relatively safe. The government can do little except stock up on antivirals, and these may have limited effect. Their only other option is to prepare for massive numbers of patients with breathing difficulties who will likely go down with pneumonia. Hygene and scrupulous cleanliness is the man in the streets only option.
I wonder what animal rights protestors will make of this. Culling animals may be an answer to the problem. Would the alternative, a vaccine which is tested on animals, be less palatable?
Ian Thomas, Miskin, Wales
I am most anxious about the avian flu pandemic threat. This government does not have enough vaccine for the population therefore huge numbers will die if infected. I have no confidence in this government to look after the health of the UK population.
Margot Parker, Kettering, UK
To those who say we should just "have the flu jab" - remember that there is as yet no proven effective vaccine against the H5N1 strain. Time will be of the essence if a mutated H5N1 strain turns up, and it will take several months for a new vaccine of unknown effectiveness to be created in sufficient quantity to protect the population, and even then it might not work very well. People expect that science will always protect us, but sadly sometimes it can't.
Anne, London, UK
The only thing the government should do is educate the public about the real risk of this disease. Even in Indonesia where it first appeared only eight people have died and the last victim drank raw duck blood! The bird flu in Turkey is very bad news if you own a chicken farm. It poses less risk to the British public than malaria (which kills 100 UK citizens a year).
I know this sounds a bit extreme but with all the problems with beef, pig and now chicken/turkey products - I think I am going to go for the vegetarian lifestyle and organic at that. Our food is slowly poisoning us and nothing seems to be safe to eat anymore.
Clair, Taunton, England
I believe other countries already have a vaccine and seemed to plan for this at least a year ago. We will not have a vaccine until April 2006 which will probably be too late - talk about bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Perhaps the health of the nation is of no importance - but I am sure all members of the Cabinet and their families will have access to the anti-viral medicines available. As for the rest of us - it's too bad.
Now that you've got my attention and I'm suitably concerned enough to want to play my part in helping to combat this menace - would you please help me by telling me: how do I tell a sick bird from a healthy bird? What constitutes a suspicious bird death? What types of bird are more susceptible than others? We've got a seagull problem in Torquay - do I declare "open season" on our unsuspecting feathered residents and open fire? That would really anger Torquay United because I may unwittingly 'wing' their mascot. How about giving us some real guidance on what to do?
Alan Orbison, Torquay, Devon
"The British public are being warned to look out for evidence of any suspicious deaths amongst migrating birds" And what qualifies as suspicious?
SARS and now Asian Bird Flu; what factors lead to so much disease coming out of Asia? Is the WHO monitoring the sanitation practices coming from Southeast Asia?
Marsha Bodary, Utica, Michigan USA
Really, what is the point in worrying about this? It isn't like we can do anything realistically to stop it. If it is going to happen it'll happen.
Jan, Guildford, UK
I don't know how everyone else feels about this but it scares me witless. I'm old enough to remember Spanish flu and the toll it took. Should we not just shoot these migrant birds to be on the safe side?
Bill Stitt, Edinburgh
The bird flu seems such a worry. It was only last week when I was in China and I was so terribly worried about the bird flu, I think the government should do more to stop it.
Elizabeth Ellen Sheriden Englegart Hewitt, Melton Mowbray, UK
This government hasn't a clue about what people are in our country, how on earth will they know what birds are here?
I think people should be stopped from visiting places where the avian flu has been found and quarantine put in place for people who live there or are there already. Then tackle the people suspected of carrying the virus before launching a cull on birds throughout all areas.
Ryan Hudson, Wetherby
The government will not do anything until it happens here and then only maybe will they do something as long as they're not infected. Personally I'm not really worried about it.
Yvonne, Liverpool, UK
I don't know about anyone else, but I certainly doubt if I would be able to recognise an ill bird, so asking members of the public to report suspected cases is only going to have a lot of false sightings causing more panic. Apparently, Britain is one of the best prepared countries in Europe, but is it enough? There is no way of knowing until the flu arrives - if it ever does.
Dave, High Wycombe, UK
I am sure the government will handle this as well as they handled foot and mouth disease.
Chris Q, Bradford, England
Of course more should be being done, however it appears that it's very hard for the government to justify the expense of producing a vaccine that may not be required. However I suspect that government ministers, MP's and senior civil servants will all be first in the queue for the limited existing vaccine if the worse does happen. Those of us that actually pay their salaries will have to make do with face masks and aspirin.
The bird flu threat is very scary - but I'm not sure what more can be done, if it's coming with migratory birds it will be difficult to stop it entering the UK.
Julie, London, UK
I wasn't overly worried until I saw at the weekend about the cases in Turkey. It has obviously spread to Europe faster than predicted and I have no faith that Tony Blair or our government have given this its due attention. Our government has consistently let us down over so many issues over the last few years, but being woefully unprepared for the onslaught of avian flu could well bring a death sentence to many civilians and there is no excuse for our lack of preparation. No excuse at all.
Certainly not. All we are getting is propaganda in the press. How are people supposed to know the 'reality' or the 'magnitude' of the threat without clear facts? Same thing happened with foot and mouth. The only time I can remember the government warning us continually about a crisis, was the Millennium bug (which never happened). But I am left wondering about this flu, maybe we are all at risk? Is there enough vaccination? Or maybe it will fizzle out like the propaganda regarding anthrax attacks. We just got to put our trust in God. He knows.
Pastor Daniel Jordan, Woodford Green
No there isn't enough being done. I live next door to a man who has a large cage of birds in his garden only feet away from our property. What would happen if they became infected? If avian flu was in our area it could easily be passed from wild birds to those housed in cages. The authorities can perform a cull on wild birds but there would be many more birds in domestic situations that could be carriers - any cull of wild birds would therefore have limited effect. Given the seriousness of the situation the government should use their powers to enforce all bird owners to register with them or be fined.
Sarah, Chester, UK
There are far too many of these outbreaks being linked to our food. We need to go back to good farming, and stop the live export of any animal. Look what BSE did too our economy and country's reputation.
Kiran, Bristol, UK
Short of building a 10,000 foot wall around the country, it is inevitable that some infected birds will arrive here. We must assume that a human form of bird flu will, equally inevitably, occur (whether "home grown" or brought in by infected people) and base our plans on that premise. To me, that means ensuring we have enough vaccine for the entire population - not just the "at risk" groups.
Mike, Aberdeen, UK
Yes I'm worried given what's been discovered about the 1918 pandemic. I'll be ordering surgical face masks for the family to wear on public transport. The kids say they won't be seen dead in a mask.
Dave Ball, Wokingham, UK
Of course we're "worried". What other reaction, apart from absolute indifference, would you expect when the guy in the street is warned over and over again about some world pandemic, without being told what our various governments will do to protect us, or what we should be doing to protect ourselves? What's the point of warning us about something we can do nothing about? It's absurd, and causes disease.
No not enough is being done. We all should have the option of having the flu jab now. If bird flu does strike the UK and people die as a result, I am certain that the government will launch an inquiry in the aftermath to see how it could have been prevented.
Michelle Davis, Chippenham, Wilts
At the moment this is just another health scare and we should wait until there is a problem before we try to fix it. Haven't we learned anything from the hysteria surrounding 'mad cow disease' or the MMR vaccine?
Christian Tiburtius, Reading, UK
If it's anything to go by when we had the foot and mouth problem, I am do not hold much faith in the governments response to this one.
Chris, Horley, Surrey, UK