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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Is bird flu a serious threat?
Live chickens at a market in Bulgaria where imports of poultry have been banned
What action should be taken to prevent the spread of the bird flu virus?

This is the fourth page of your comments.

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

Living in Hong Kong, we hear about another outbreak of bird flu every year
Jo, Hong Kong
Living in Hong Kong, we hear about another outbreak of bird flu every year and there is no panic. However thanks to the media hype and the general public not knowing much about the disease, the public then start to become very worried, maybe more than they should be. Remember the scare mongering with SARS!
Jo, Hong Kong

I don't see it as a threat to humanity but to those who will be one of the very few casualties of the virus.
Neslihan Baykara, Istanbul,Turkey

I am worried about bird flu, it is spreading pretty quick with all the migrating birds, but I cannot believe that the UK is allowing wild birds that have been imported from other countries, I know the bird was put in quarantine, but it wouldn't of been allowed in this country. I am suffering from ME and my immune system is extremely low, I am worried about bird flu, and if there is an outbreak of human bird flu I will shut myself in the house until I have the vaccine.
Chris, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

As a person with a serious chronic disease, of which there is some speculation comes from viruses, I am tremendously concerned that were I to contract bird flu, my disease could be tremendously affected. I have received no information from anyone regarding whether I should take any special precautions, but be sure I won't be shaking too many hands this winter!
Julia, Nashville, Tennessee USA

I can't believe we are still importing birds into this country, exotic or other! Where is the good old British act of 'Prevention is better than cure'?
Alistair Quinn, Kings Lynn, UK

Rabies can lie dormant for up to 10 months w/o detection? Quarantine for dogs/cats is 6 months - enough said? Killing off all the birds because one died is overkill. Keep them in quarantine and monitor them - maybe even vaccinate them but just kill them because we are overly scared of this flu - no way!
Andrew, UK in USA

The methods used to kill these birds disgusts me. Why are they culled in a more humane way? Why are the animal organisations not doing anything to promote better culling?
Kirsten French, Bristol

Perhaps we should start thinking about culling pigeons. Surely they will prove to be the biggest risk if bird flu reaches our shores.
Anthony James, Tunbridge Wells

Importing birds? From far east Asia! Don't we have enough problems with the wild bird migration? Does Britain really need this flock of imports at this time. Where is our common sense. Ban all Avian imports and their flu right now.
George Greenwood, Sydney Australia

I just don't understand why we are still importing birds?
Jonathan, Hinckley, UK
I just don't understand why we are still importing birds? Nepal has had a ban in place for over two years, why it is that the UK is always the last to act.
Jonathan, Hinckley, UK

I still think there is too much being made of bird flu and that the distinction between bird flu and pandemic is not being made. The H5N1 virus at this time cannot be passed from human to human and may never become a pandemic or a serious threat to people.
Darrel Georgiou, Lincolnshire, England

I am worried about bird flu, it is spreading pretty quickly with all the migrating birds, but I cannot believe that the UK is allowing wild birds that have been imported from other countries. I know the bird was put in quarantine, but it wouldn't have been allowed in this country. I am suffering from ME and my immune system is extremely low. I am worried about bird flu, and if there is an outbreak of human bird flu I will shut myself in the house until I have the vaccine.
Chris, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

We (the public) need clear guidelines about what to do if we find dead birds in/by beaches, ponds, rivers or our gardens. Who do we inform? What do we do? Do we bury them, burn them, or leave them alone? What about domestic cats eating birds? Do we need to think more about these issues?
Caroline Cameron, Dunbar Scotland

Start banning all imports of birds from other countries for a start. Then if human transmission begins ban all flights into the UK. Never mind the economy, if thousands or millions of people get sick and/or die then the effect on the economy will be far worse.
Neil Small, Scotland

OK so 60 people are dead in three years in countries with millions of farmers in daily contact with poultry. The only pandemic I can see at present is a virus sweeping and over excited media.
Anon, UK

If the bird flu turns into a human transmitted pandemic, what are the plans for quarantine or containment? How will you limit people from travelling and potentially spreading it everywhere?
Ken McClelland, Merrit Island, USA

Maybe people could be re-taught to hold their hand over their mouth when they cough instead of spreading their germs everywhere. Also its a shame that this scare didn't happen before the election because we'd all be guaranteed anti-viral drugs before the first week of the scare was over.
Pat, Dundee, UK

Yes, I am worried about bird flu. But about as much as I'm worried about asteroids, catastrophic earthquakes, and the re-emergence of the black-death. It's going to have to be a few orders of magnitude deadlier in order to get my attention. I wish the media would stop all this needless scaremongering. Stop calling wolf!
Matthew Becker, St Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Those who are sceptical of this threat have simply not done their homework. Right now the world needs a primer course in viruses. The sceptics in this round of comments seem completely unaware of how quickly viruses reproduce and can therefore mutate.
Lex Economidis, Overland Park, Kansas, USA

I am confident that with facilities like the internet we can stay well informed about the real risks and dangers
Steven, Glasgow
I am confident that with facilities like the internet we can stay well informed about the real risks and dangers. Pandemics have hit us before, but never during the information age that we now enjoy. But we still need health and disease professionals to speak in public and convey the advice we need to follow.
Steven, Glasgow

I am just a 6th Form student, but even I can see flaws in the quoted statistics. It is ridiculous to extrapolate the mortality rates of Vietnam; our NHS would be much better equipped to deal with the virus. Also, many poor farmers who catch the virus then make a complete recovery will not go near a hospital. Anyway, if the virus ever does mutate to infect humans, the same mutation could easily make the virus harmless.
Michael, Devizes, UK

This country will do the same as always - warn us about the impending danger, but make no provision until it is an actuality.
Debbi, Cardiff, Wales

Viruses are very sensitive to heat. No virus can survive even a few minutes in temperatures above 60'C. If you cook chicken properly and wash your hands after handling raw meat you will not contract avian flu, even in the unlikely event that your chicken is so contaminated. This precautions will also prevent salmonella and campylobacter infections which are a far bigger risk to the average Brit.
Peter, Nottingham

Having done what little I can, I see no point in fretting about it
Pauline Auger, Christchurch, New Zealand
Here in New Zealand, Tamiflu is available on prescription, and we're being advised by some scientists to stockpile food in case we need to isolate ourselves for a couple of weeks. Despite all the hype, people aren't panicking - yet! However, I am taking precautions, just for my own peace of mind. The as yet unproven Tamiflu is in the fridge; the existing earthquake survival box - a must in these shaky isles - has been boosted; and I've taken note of the need for scrupulous hygiene. Having done what little I can, I see no point in fretting about it. After all, it may never happen.
Pauline Auger, Christchurch, New Zealand

Various local Government Departments have been contingency-planning for more than a year so; yes it is a serious threat. Mass burial committees have also looked at the problem - remember foot and mouth? It could be like that but humans instead of cattle. And what does the Government do? It now starts to provide some very limited form of protection - 2.5 million doses now and 800,000 per month. Let's hope it doesn't occur this year! At this rate there will be just enough doses for Parliament and their families and cronies.
Anon, UK

The amount of misunderstanding is not just the media's fault. Everyone who places a comment on this site has access to the internet, where there is plenty of authoritative advice and guidance. The gossip should be ignored.
Richard, Enfield

I am petrified of the flu coming to England and so are many of my friends, we are only 17 and worrying over this when we should be worrying over our education. They say that 50-250,000 people are going to die from it then I believe there should be more action towards the case to help it go away!
Anon, Lincolnshire England

In response to Alex, UK - Spanish flu arose at a time when the disease was poorly understood and there was no way to provide medication. We are far more able to respond t the threat today - the question is, will we?
Alex T, London UK

The Bird Flu Virus is manageable although some humans may get sick or even die from it. I'm far more concerned that more deadly diseases will pop-up over the next couple of decades.
Chris, Las Vegas, USA

Help countries that can't deal with this problem in an adequate way!
Annemieke, , Rotterdam, The Netherlands
What worries me about this bird flu is that the three pandemics in the last century (which killed millions of people) all seemed to have a link to bird flu viruses. The minute this H5N1 flu links to a human flu virus, it will be able to jump from human to human and I'm sure the death toll will go through the roof. Governments should take action now and help countries that can't deal with this problem in an adequate way!
Annemieke, , Rotterdam, The Netherlands

I pray this is not the calm before the storm. This outbreak has the potential to create a constitutional dilemma in the US. How would the founding fathers feel about a lottery that would seal the fate of millions of Americans? How can the US authorities decide who should live and who should perish? Could this be a chance or the misfortune to play God?
Mehran, St. Paul, USA

It's killed 30 people in Asia in since 2003. There are 4.5billion people in Asia. A serious threat? Are you kidding?
Graham, UK

There is an amazing amount of mis-information and misunderstanding about this, which can only be the fault of the media not doing its job properly. If I understand things properly: At the moment humans can only catch this flu from a bird. What we are worried about is a pandemic. A pandemic cannot happen until the flu mutates so that it can be passed from human to human. In order to create a vaccine we need a sample of the flu. So, no, there is no vaccine yet because the flu that we all need to be vaccinated against does not yet exist!
Oliver Adams, Godalming, UK

I smell a rat here. They know there is a problem, but as usual, sit in rooms discussing it and doing nothing about it. Then they announce there will be a pandemic, not may be, but will be. They are so certain, yet, as usual they will not bother doing anything other than the token amount of protection for public view. There will probably not even be a pandemic, this is most likely yet another fear/control tactic.
Louise, West Midlands, UK

I live in France, just one hour from the English Channel. Despite directives to stop hunts to avert the spread in Rumania, 'La Chasse' is out in force here this Sunday morning. France has a massive poultry industry and I am surprised that this simple measure has not already been enforced to limit the spread.
Linda , Brittany, France

We are more vulnerable to the spread of diseases than ever
Chris, Telford, UK
With our love of foreign travel, our large enclosed shopping areas, and large hospitals it seems that we are more vulnerable to the spread of diseases than ever. Surely in this age of instant video and e-mail messaging there should be less need for people to travel for business reasons and carry viruses around the world in 24 hours or less, far less than the incubation period of most infections.
Chris, Telford, UK

I think my immune system has been seriously weakened by the sensationalist stories in certain parts of the media. The only vaccination is to stop reading these stories.
James, Kettering, UK

I keep free-range poultry and have no facility to house them indoors. There is currently no DEFRA advice and if they have to be culled will there be compensation? UK food processors import vast quantities of freeze-dried pre-cooked chicken pieces from the Far East for use in 'ready-meals' Chinese, Indian, etc. Is this safe to eat?
Chris, Battle, UK

Let's stop the hysteria please
Dr R. Andrew Bean, Abu Dhabi, UAE
I have recently lived in Ho Chi Minh City for 2 years with my young family and experienced the outbreak of Sars and avian flu whilst we were there. Although I don't want to underestimate the dangers involved if H5N1 cross-mutates to human flu it has not done so yet!! Let's stop the hysteria please. I would ask people to remember two things. One, so far only people who live/work with birds more than 8 hours a day have got the flu. Two, every time you take away the poultry from a Third World farmer and kill them all, you are driving that farmer and his family further into poverty and possibly even starvation.
Dr R. Andrew Bean, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Put up notices of the old slogan again "Coughs and sneezes spreads diseases".
RH, Milton Keynes

Like many, I have a severe allergy to eggs and therefore I am unable to have the normal flu jab as it is based on egg. Will this mean that the vaccines for 'bird flu' are based on a similar thing, therefore egg allergy sufferers would be unable to have them?
Keri Summers, Eastbourne, UK

How can I protect my chickens?
M. Vincent, Settle, England
Is there any way of protecting chickens themselves against bird flu? I have a small flock which are free to roam around the garden during the day. They share this space with robins, sparrows, wrens, thrushes, collared doves and crows - I cannot keep the chucks indoors, nor can I "get rid of" the natural birdlife....so how can I protect my chickens??
M. Vincent, Settle, England

Yes I am worried. I'm a 20 year old asthmatic who has already had the flu jab and is due to have the to pneumo vaccine next week. I was strongly advised to have these to jabs just to protect myself from 'normal flu' and pneumonia etc. I dread to think what chance I stand if we do have a bird flu pandemic!
Amy, Reading, UK

I am moderately concerned because I keep poultry. I have just read comments from a 'prominent animal health' person - in the Sydney Morning Herald - he wants more attention to be paid to Asia in terms of bird health and conditions to encourage reporting and action. This seems really important. To tackle it at source
Robyn Dutton, Ullapool, Scotland

The technology is available to telework
Patricia Vaz, Whitstable, England
Two things we should be doing to prepare; First, ensure all people who work with birds are given the flu vaccine so as to minimise the chance of them having normal flu at the point when they might contract bird flu. This should help prevent the mutation to the human strain which can then be passed from person to person. Secondly, everyone who works in an office environment and travels on public transport every day should encourage their employers to enable them to work from home. The technology is available to telework and, combined with conferencing which avoids the need to travel to meetings, it would not only be more productive but would reduce the chance of spreading the virus once it has broken out.
Patricia Vaz, Whitstable, England

I'm puzzled in your quick guide you say "At present there is no vaccine to protect humans against infections caused by H5N1 avian flu." Yet in your latest news story on the Indonesian situation you say "'Vaccination can stop the spread of the virus, yes, but to get rid of the virus altogether is another matter,' said FAO spokesman Joseph Domenech." Which of these statements is correct?
Chris Clark, Exeter, UK

I am not worried about the bird flu at all. Of course preparations have to take place instantly. I think fish is a better choice for now and we should make sure pharmacies around the world stock up on medicine which combats this type of bird flu.
Hassan Amidhozour, Tehran, Iran

I can't see that there is anything to worry about. The people that have caught 'bird flu' keep their birds in over-crowded, filthy conditions so what do they expect. How many people in the UK have hundreds of birds living in squalor in their back garden - this campaign in causing unnecessary panic and will result in the slaughter of millions of innocent birds. What will they think of next to scare us with?
Sharon, Brentford

The only thing I can think of on how to protect myself if this happens is to lock myself into my flat and don't step outside the front door until it's safe. It may sound mad but I can't think of much more I can do. I also think that if we get more info on how this illness gets transmitted (if it mutates) and also is it all birds or is it just poultry and one last thing how come it only is (possibly) become a danger to humans and not other mammals? It is all very confusing and I think that's why people are worried.
Janine, Stockton-on-Tees, UK

Pharmaceutical companies and governments are scrambling to buy and sell a vaccine that doesn't exist
Matt Johnson, St. Louis, USA
So far the virus hasn't been found in a human-to-human form, however the major pharmaceutical companies and governments are scrambling to buy and sell a vaccine that doesn't exist. In order to have a working vaccine they need a working human version of the virus. I would be more worried that Roche or another company would create the human version before nature does just to get the patent rights on the vaccine, and then let it slip out to boost sales. I wouldn't put it past them, the UN, or even my own government.
Matt Johnson, St. Louis, USA

The bird flu has got absolutely nothing to do with battery chickens or use of antibiotics and other things in factory farming. I am vegetarian and have many quarrels with the way animals are treated, but let's not muddy the water. This virus has arisen naturally, as these viruses do, in the wild bird population. Migratory patterns have spread it. It may or may not jump the species barrier properly, and if it does we should be prepared. Simple as that.
Katherine, London, UK

Why are the government, and in particular the chief medical officer, scaremongering to the British public? Should they not be playing down the risks of bird 'flu, whilst quietly stockpiling antivirals and funding development of anti-H5N1 vaccines? Perhaps there is a hidden agenda at play here, to raise the revenues of drug companies by increasing demand, or to mask the government's failings in other areas by making a song and dance about a disease that as yet poses no threat.
Judah Eastwell, Rhyl, N Wales

Considering so many people are still dying of AIDS/HIV, it makes me wonder where our priorities have gone. 60 people have died from the flu over the past few years, how many, I ask, will die, today, from AIDS?
Steve Chapman, Plymouth

My greatest concern is that this virus is not going to mutate this year, but next year, or two years from now, or three - when our attention has turned elsewhere and our guard is down again. Meanwhile concern about the possibility of a "bird flu" pandemic may be distracting people from preparing for the very real and immediate annual influenza season!
Cindy K, Oslo, Norway

No advice really seems to be being given to travellers which are going to/through infected countries. What precautions are travellers supposed to take?
Marie Wilson, Diss, Norfolk, UK

I am extremely worried as i have a two year old child. I think that a vaccine should be available to everyone not just the elderly. This needs to be planned now before it's too late
Jodie fox, Nuneaton UK

Yes it is worrying but I am more worried about the pictures that have been shown on the news. Those poor, poor birds. No creature should be treated like this, they must be absolutely terrified. No one knows if the virus will even get here, let alone mutate. To those of you suggesting a cull on birds in this country - shame on you.
LB, London, UK

Weren't we all supposed to die of SARS last year? I think it's morally repugnant to scare the public when this virus is not even capable of human to human transmission. I have yet to see a piece on the grave dangers of cowpox to the general population...why is this animal disease causing such a furore? Is there not enough non-alarmist news out there that you can report?
Julie Trask, Maryland, USA

Hopefully the winter will deal with any sick wild birds. So it's up to us not to transport viruses. Don't go there/ don't leave there. Regular flu is not a larger threat since risk groups can be vaccinated and non-risk groups don't die. But with new viruses who knows who's at risk?
Eveline Beij, Wageningen Netherlands

Why are 50,000 UK citizens at risk from this so called bird flu when having travelled across most of Russia and other areas of Europe without killing that many people who it should be added live in far more squalid conditions than the UK.
Chris Day, London UK

The WHO says don't panic so I am not panicking
Hugh Blackett, Malaysia
The WHO says don't panic so I am not panicking! Meanwhile if they could heed their own advice we might have less alarmist nonsense and a more realistic view of the situation.
Hugh Blackett, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

There is no immediate threat of the Bird Flu here in Japan, though there were a couple of outbreaks the year before. No panic at the moment. Right now the main concern is still over beef imports from the US, which honestly is the real threat. In the meantime, I will call my doctor with regards to the flu shot, just in case!
Eng Seng, Tokyo, Japan

Once again, it sounds like a lot of rich and neurotic westerners with too much time on their hands to think of things to worry about.
Eric, Manila

Why would I be worried? 60 people have died from bird flu since 2003! Five times as many people die each year in the US alone from lightning strikes! Let's put this "threat" into some kind of perspective and stop this ridiculous scare-mongering.
Andy Balding, Plymouth, UK

If there remains people who still believe that the avian flu may not be a threat to them, then this should be a great alarm, because the more afraid we are, and the more preparation and prevention we take, the less serious will the results be. But conversely, the more we believe "it cannot possibly get that bad" then we better get ready for it to get very bad, worse than we could ever imagine.
John Ueng, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China

Maybe if the poultry/birds in those countries most affected, ie China, were handled properly and not kept in such close confinement, then maybe it wouldn't have been such a problem? You know? If we are what we eat, get it!
Tory, USA

We need to be guided by doctors and medical specialists
Pancha Chandra, Brussels
We need to be guided by doctors and medical specialists and by good old common-sense and not by mass hysteria. Winter-flu jabs will be a good precaution.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium

The electronic and print media in Europe is over exaggerating this issue to the extent that one would think that this menace is an imminent threat to the very existence of mankind. There has not yet been a single case of man to man transmission of the bird flu and till such time that (if ever) this occurs, it would be wiser to concentrate on eliminating existing pandemics like Aids and other curable which are claiming lives in millions.
Sarat Menon, Aalst/Belgium-Mumbai/India

While ordinary flu has indeed killed many more people bird flu has the potential to become a huge pandemic. If the flu where to evolve in to a strain capable infecting from human to human there could be problems not seen since the 1918 pandemic.
Morgan, Farnham, Surrey

The avian flu strain is not, at present and by all accounts that I've seen, a direct threat. However it has significant potential to bring death and suffering on par with the pandemic of 1918. Whether or not the precautions currently in place, and on the table, will be sufficient can only be evaluated in hindsight. And the numbers used for that are not of the kind that many people care to think to heavily on.
Christopher Magee, Fairfax, VA USA

It's the implications of hybridisation that are frightening
Mike Parslow, Fordingbridge, Hants
The messages from the Health experts in the UK has been extraordinarily good. I am disappointed at some of the journalistic coverage though. While the virus strain remains a bird flu, we are OK. It's the implications of hybridisation that are frightening - and the fact that we haven't had a major pandemic of flu for many years. It's a bit like an overdue earthquake!
Mike Parslow, Fordingbridge, Hants

I believe that the media fuels the bird flu panic by assimilating it to other, more significant issues. I live in an area in Canada that was particularly affected by the SARS outbreak. The local media takes advantage of the attention surrounding this issue and refers to the bird flu as the "new SARS". It is no wonder that the resulting effect is panic.
Anna, Toronto, Canada

The government should have started preparing for this a year ago. 50,000 deaths in the U.K is a wildly underestimated figure, we are not prepared for a pandemic and we have not got the stockpile of drugs available. People should be worried as we are now being told that the virus 'will mutate' as it did with the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Richard, Newcastle upon tyne

I am concerned about Bird flu, but at the moment I am more concerned about the fact that I cannot get my regular winter flu vaccination because so many are panicking and putting a strain on supplies. The last time I had the flu I had to be hospitalised due to breathing complications and now my doctor tells me that there is no guarantee I can get it this year due to a 'National Shortage'
Anon, Scotland

What are the odds versus cost?
Ivor, Reading, UK
We criticise the US for not preparing for Katrina. The bird flu probably wont mutate in my lifetime, however what are the odds versus cost?
Ivor, Reading, UK

Don't forget that it only because the media hype something up that governments sometimes bother to take action!
Mark, Ashbourne, UK

The best cure for flu is a couple of days in bed with a hot drink and a hot water bottle. The drug companies are talking it up to make billions.
Barry Davies, Nottingham

The hysteria surrounding this has gone beyond a joke. People get a grip. The UK bird population is not infected. The disease does not transmit from human to human. To transmit from bird to human, the human must have been in very close contact with the infected bird before it died. Chicken is perfectly safe to eat. I seriously wonder at the lack of competence in risk assessment that much of the adult population is indulging in - let's face it, you are more likely to die crossing the road!
Jan, Guildford, UK

Well, I just read n CNN that the Bird Flu has been declared, by EU ministers, a "World Threat", only after the possibility of the pandemic arriving in Europe; so, the West is the "World"? And, as a result of such a view of the "World", only the West will receive the advances of science in response to the Bird Flu?
Aristides Garcia, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Worry more about the winter flu
Stewart Goodwin, Leeds, West Yorks
Avian Influenza could potentially be the biggest global threat for a generation however, at this point in time, the disease is only infectious in birds and poultry. Whilst preparing for the possibility that this virus may mutate, we must be aware that any viral disease has the potential to jump the species barrier but do not. Although this new strain is a real worry I feel that it would be wiser for UK citizens to worry more about the winter flu which is one of the biggest contributors to seasonal hospitalisation and mortality in the UK.
Stewart Goodwin, Leeds, West Yorks

Since there is no immediate risk and no vaccine my best plan is to boost my and my family's immune system with plenty of vitamin-rich foods, fresh air and exercise! With any luck we won't get coughs and colds either.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

I wish everyone would stop having this knee-jerk reaction that suddenly all birds (domestic, migratory, ducks on the village ponds etc) are suddenly potential killers to us humans. Why doesn't anyone seem to feel sorry or worried for the birds? After all, it's them that are likely to suffer it first. I know there's the possibility of a mutation to a strain that can infect humans but why do we think we should have some kind of God-given right to immortality? I can think of several sections of the world population that could do with being wiped out - perhaps humans might be humbled again into respecting nature more. In the end, Humans are their own worst enemy, not birds.
Jessica, Norwich, UK

The fact that people are calling for a cull of pigeons illustrates the tremendous level of misinformation that's going round about this, and the government should step in to reassure people - not scare them with stories of 50,000 dead. Bird flu is incredibly hard for a human to catch, even when they work with poultry closely. From a wild bird, it's virtually impossible to catch. No human-to-human transmissible strain exists, and it may never exist. And, even if such a threat materialises, the government has said it will vaccinate the whole population to minimise deaths.
Ian Betteridge, London

To say we'll never see another 1918 is cavalier at best
Georgie, Huntingdon, UK
Tim in New York City asserts that 'flu mainly kills by opening the victim to bacterial infection, and that antibiotic treatment can deal with this'. This is a dangerous assertion on two fronts. First, there is evidence to show that it was not secondary bacterial infection which killed so many during the 1918 pandemic - it appeared to be the flu virus all on its own, and it targeted the young and healthy just as much as the old, infant or infirm. Secondly, overuse of antibiotics now means that many infective bacterial strains are resistant to antibiotic treatment. To say we'll never see another 1918 is cavalier at best.
Georgie, Huntingdon, UK

Should we not be banning the import of birds for the pet industry (finches, etc) which are caught in the wild and then caged - if these are infected, surely having them indoors in a cage and handling them would put us more at risk?
Carol Smith, Croydon, England

Think the media have behaved irresponsibly and created a pandemic of fear. I expect more people have died from measles etc.
Ann Healey, Liverpool, UK

SE Asia has 'had' bird flu since last year and a lot of ducks and chickens have died, and allegedly infected a very few humans who lived with them. If we were facing a pandemic because a Greek turkey 'may' have had it, millions in Asia would be dead. They aren't, in fact it isn't spreading at all. Mark Reynolds is right - the drug companies will have a winter boom!
AS, London, UK

Bird flu travels fastest on a slow news day.
Brendan, Nottingham

Will people stop quoting the Millennium Bug as a perceived threat that never happened? The reason it never happened (in the way it had been originally predicted) is that millions of hours of work were put in by companies to upgrade systems to prevent it. I know, I was involved. It's by far a better way of showing how a perceived threat can be avoided or reduced by careful, thorough prevention. The same applies to any possible human-transmissible version of H5N1 - let's do what we can do prepare for it's eventual and almost inevitable appearance.
Ian, Ashford, Middlesex, England

We do need to know about these things and yes, preparation is necessary. But I feel it has been blown out of proportion. The more you tell people about something the more they believe it will happen and then we have a country full of anxiety crazed people through no fault of their own.
Lisa Fairhurst, Watford, UK

This is the media causing panic to sell newspapers
Barbara, Canada
It's not just an EU panic over the bird flu. The headlines in this morning's Toronto Star are "Flu Pandemic: Catastrophe for Canada." with predictions of millions dying. Governments should be working all out to prevent any problems but this is the media causing panic to sell newspapers.
Barbara, Canada

Bird flu is a threat to birds. It is wrong to treat the birds that are to be culled in such a heartless and cruel way. I wonder when animal rights groups and RSPCA etc are going to insist that the affected birds be humanely treated and not bundled into garbage bags.
J C Humphreys, Canada

I think it is disgusting the headlines in today's papers; I have a 13 year old daughter who is absolutely terrified after seeing the papers. I find it difficult to convince her as I'm not sure what the risks are myself. Should we be worried?
Jackie Mays, Worthing, West Sussex

The world hesitated when AIDS was discovered, only to suffer the consequences of delay. Illness and misery caused through human suffering cannot be treated with an anti-virus package. The only successful remedy is to eradicate the cause on discovery.
John Elton, Chesterfield, UK

I think the media are performing a valuable service. For years when hurricanes entered the Gulf of Mexico the media warned about the disaster that would ensue if any of them hit New Orleans. For years they missed New Orleans, but eventually Katrina happened. It may be years or only months before a human-transmissible form of bird flu evolves, but we need to start preparing now.
Peter Nelson, Chelmsford MA USA

The Bird Flu is a blown up threat and a fear psychosis is created by EU countries with some motives better known to themselves.
C. Sachidananda Narayanan, Tirunelveli, India

Nobody is saying what the wild birds who have flu are suffering - can we not help them and prevent the disease?
Joy Hodgson, Rawcliffe, East Yorkshire

Drug companies are seeking to cash in on something that doesn't exist
Mark Reynolds, Birmingham UK
The media / UK Government are whipping up a tide of hysteria concerning avian flu. There's a clue in the name - avian. Humans can't catch it. I think there's something else going on here, the drug companies are seeking to cash in on something that doesn't exist. Remember WMD and the Millennium Bug?.
Mark Reynolds, Birmingham UK

I think I am now immune to health scares perpetrated by the British media. Certainly my immediate reaction was to ignore this nonsense about bird flu. Anything described as "deadly" ought to kill the majority of people it infects, but there is not a shred of evidence that bird flu is even close to being this dangerous. According to widely-quoted so-called experts, BSE was supposed to kill thousands or even millions of Britons, but has anything come of it? SARS got the same treatment, again maybe a handful of people died. Of course, when something really deadly does come along I will probably laugh it off as media hype and then drop dead the next day.
Richard Hughson, Glasgow, UK

Is it not about time that the governments spent more time, money and knowledge on our own planet and its problems, especially bird flu, poverty, etc, rather than the billions spent on space travel and what might be? They should be concentrating on what is. The people on this planet should be coming first.
Margaret Kincaid, Greenock, Inverclyde

For those who want to know, in South-East Asia, a major delicacy is raw duck's blood. Obviously eating part of a bird contaminated with H5N1 is not going to do your survival rate any good. There are no cases yet of human-to-human cases yet. Remember SARS? That was supposed to be the next killer, yet in Hong Kong, where it hit the hardest, for the most part, life went on as normal. We should not react with the mass hysteria a headless chicken would.
Mazhid, Leceister

Maybe bird flu is only so terrifying because it may actually hit home
Amy, Minnesota, USA
There are hurricanes and flooding in the Atlantic, drought in South America, earthquakes in South Asia, war and famine in the Middle East, and refugees fleeing out of Africa. But that's all "over there". Maybe this bird flu is only so terrifying because it may actually hit home.
Amy, Minnesota, USA

Once again it is the poor farmers who will suffer and pay for the consequence. Surely the government should make sure sufficient vaccinations for those who are most likely to be affected, the elderly, those in poor health.
Cafane Joan Margaret, UK England

I am a concerned parent. Once you have people relying on your judgement for their health, you take a keen interest in trends and news of pandemics. I see a lot in the news about a lack of vaccine, but not much on what to do should you or a family member become infected with the virus. I am disappointed in my government's slow response to ordering vaccine.
Laura Wilk, Plano, United States

Out of curiosity I looked up 'Tamiflu' on the BBC search engine and discovered that most suppliers are out of stock and those who have it are charging two or three times the price. Just like the petrol scare this is getting ridiculous. Who in their right mind is paying hundreds of pounds for doses of a drug which may well be out of date by the time it is needed? The answer is - no-one in their right mind, only people who have plenty of money and are prepared to reduce the stocks needed by governments for the most vulnerable in society.
CC, London, UK

As a young mother of two wonderful children I find this very worrying, scary. Are certain individuals more susceptible to this virus than others, obviously the elderly but what about the children are there certain ages that are effected more than others? What can we do to help protect ourselves and our children?
Kerry Lemart, Kidderminster

The virus is being sensationalised
Ben Stephenson, Berwick
I think that if the BBC and other media outlets reported how many people die in car crashes each day, then no-one would leave the house. 50,000 UK citizens only represents 0.05% of the population. The virus is being sensationalised, I'd like to see how many people die of the common cold each year, it won't be far off.
Ben Stephenson, Berwick

A bird flu pandemic may not be a serious threat yet, but we should nevertheless treat it as a serious and imminent threat lest it get out of hand. At the very least poultry populations in affected countries should be quarantined in the same way cattle were quarantined for mad cow disease. And companies holding patents on possible vaccines should be forced to license them out to competitors so that more laboratories can be involved in the production of more vaccine.
Bruce, Blackwell, OK, USA

Let's turn down the flu hysteria a few degrees. The main way the flu kills is by weakening one's immune system and leaving it vulnerable to bacterial infection. The 1918 flu killed 50 million people because penicillin had yet to be discovered and hospital conditions were overcrowded and unsanitary. And public health infrastructure has progressed to the point that any comparisons with 1918 are academic. This is not to minimize the threat - the world is in fact "due" for another severe flu outbreak - but we will never see another 1918.
Tim, New York City, USA

We should be looking at ways to reduce contagion of flu in general
Dr Julian P Keogh, Germany
We should be looking at ways to reduce contagion of flu in general, perhaps through the design of better facemasks. The 1918 outbreak of Spanish flu abated, and the best way to control the spread of any new mutated bird flu would be to reduce the probability of transfer between individuals in a population. There are many ways to do this, as the Chinese managed with SARS. It doesn't make sense to destroy poultry farmers' livelihoods, put a source of our food at risk, and impose a huge economic and ecological burden just on the basis of a perceived threat which may not materialise. We did this with BSE, but have epidemiologists detected any extraordinary prevalence of CJ disease amongst people in Britain, where BSE was so rampant? Civilization has only limited resources to tackle such problems, and if we run out of such resources we may find the very fabric of civilization becomes threatened, a fabric that is far thinner then we would like to admit, as New Orleans proved.
Dr Julian P Keogh, Germany

Serious attention should be given to the risk of infected birds being brought into this country. In my view no such traffic should be allowed and all EU borders should be similarly protected; contravention of this arrangement should incur very harsh penalties. Wild bird migrations (usually south) may well bring some countries into contact with bird flu, but transmission to other countries should not be permitted simply because of the EU's "open borders" policy.
Stephen Parrett, St Albans, Hertfordshire

This latest release in guidance in case of a pandemic is going to do nothing but fan the flames of panic already beginning to be apparent. There are other diseases out there which pose a much greater risk, with much stronger evidence of causing high fatalities in humans than what has been seen in Asia over the period of time we are talking about. This isn't preparation, this is fear mongering.
Fran, Cardiff

Unfortunately, the threat might be real. Scarlet fever killed millions after World War I - and that killed 2.5% of those infected. With this flu, it seems to kill over 60% of those infected. See the scale of the possible problem? It's only a matter of time before it gets here - hopefully affecting birds only.
Martin, London, UK

With the worryingly high population of pigeons and seagulls in Brighton citizens are worried about how the government plans to tackle the H5N1 virus during a potential pandemic. Thousands of pigeons and seagulls inhabit the Brighton roofs with the tendency to shift their nests inlands, closer to the coastal poultry farms in the South. Are any organisations watching these city birds roaming the southern farming areas?
Jacek, Brighton

I have read news reports that say the virus has not yet "mutated" into a human virus - if this is the case, why have there been 120 cases reported in humans in Asia, with around 60 deaths? Has it mutated or not? It's not clear. Thanks.
Theresa Green, Sheffield, UK

Liam Donaldson's remarks should not come as something new, the WHO has been warning of this since the summer, and the DoH own website has been suggesting a death rate of 50,000 since early September. He is just repeating the DoH and the media's "best guesses". There is nothing new in what he said, so the only question we should ask is why was he giving an interview now, as the content is already available to the public.
Phil, UK

Oh, the wonders of an irresponsible media. It's the MMR vaccine/Autism all over again. Aren't all the terrible human tragedies of the last year enough to feed their thirst for carnage? Apparently not.
TMS, Sheffield

Having only 85% of your target treatment in place is a failure
Richard, Bath
The WHO has been forecasting a pandemic for years. Despite the uncertainties we could have been much better prepared than we are. Having only 85% of your target treatment in place is a failure. This is the largest threat the UK has faced for several decades - This might be scary, but it is not scaremongering as some have said - read up - it is unfortunately the facts. We got away with BSE by the skin of our teeth. Through luck rather than judgement. We don't yet know the nature or scale of any flu pandemic. Let's hope we get lucky again. We are in this position because media and governments no longer carry adequate public responsibility. This is a huge issue, but we need to address it if we are to deal with the many challenges ahead. Let's do the best we can with the situation we have got now. And fingers crossed. But we need to sort our systems out - they fail us terribly.
Richard, Bath

Is anyone investigating the cause of the so called 'bird flu' to try and stop the disease infecting the birds in the first case. Instead of this hysteria and mass killing of innocent birds shouldn't we find out the cause and try and find a cure for the birds or does it just not matter! What will happen next time a specific breed gets a virus?
Sharon, Brentford, Middlesex

There is nothing that can stop bird flu if it becomes contagious to humans. We can't make a vaccine because the human strain hasn't developed yet. There will be no time to anyway. But I will try to get a flu shot because it might offer partial immunity. I'm also stockpiling food in case I'm home sick for a couple of weeks.
Jeremy, Atlanta, USA

Is the whole bird flu thing a media-hyped invention? It's almost as if the media are desperately waiting for it to arrive in the UK just to keep the news frenzy going. Personally I'm ignoring all of the medical advice and running around panicking all day long.
Lucho Payne, Bristol, England

Stifle sneezes or catch them in a tissue
M Cawdery, Consultant Microbiologist
Respiratory diseases are spread by uncontrolled sneezing within 10 metres of a susceptible person. A good preventive measure in the flu season is to stifle sneezes or catch them in a tissue. It can save lives... seriously!
M Cawdery, Consultant Microbiologist

Today my wild bird feeder went from half full to empty in about two hours. This would normally take about three weeks! Looks like a lot of people are worried and have stopped feeding them.
Ben Essada, London, UK

Maybe it will hit maybe it won't. But maybe it's worthwhile for people to start eating healthier and looking after themselves, instead of slowly killing themselves with alcohol, cigarettes and junk food. That way, they might actually have an adequate immune system which will fight off bird flu.
Emma, Yorkshire

The biggest danger at present is the ignorance displayed here and in other media circles. Avian Flu is incredibly difficult for humans to get and currently cannot be transmitted from person to person. There is no vaccine, there won't be one until the flu mutates. Then the government has stated it will attempt to vaccinate every citizen. If it mutates and can be transferred then they will have to develop a vaccine. The current vaccines for normal flu may or may not work as no one knows the final make up of a future flu virus. The media has a responsibility to educate people rather than alarm them.
Simon Kidd, Bath

Yes, I'm a Yank and sitting here in the land of George Bush... (sigh) Who wants authority to violate the US Constitution and use our own US military to quarantine and control here in the States should the bird flu cross the oceans and enter North America. What else is being done here? Not much. Not that our over-worked and under funded ERs and understaffed clinics can handle anything even remotely like this. I spent eight hours in an ER two years ago with a friend with the 'regular' flu during the flu's season peak. Just how bad will things be here if the worst does occur?
Corey, Washington, DC, USA

I am worried about it, and will start buying battery farm eggs until things settle. I know the idea of battery farm hens upset some people, but at least they have less chance of being infected. Human health comes first!
Rod Watson, Winchester

The most serious threat comes from the Media
At this stage I would suggest that the most serious threat comes from the Media, in particular TV, who are overplaying this entire story. People are being needlessly alarmed over a virus that has not even mutated, let alone reached the UK yet. Come on BBC where are all the other varied and interesting European and world stories that the public are being robbed of while you continually overplay the same old news?

Oh yes its serious and it will be made more serious by the fact that the NHS can't really support an outbreak of hang nail let alone a pandemic. The good news will be that we can always pop over to France or perhaps India for a jab or perhaps a burial.
Paul Cater, London, England

Weren't we all supposed to have died of BSE long ago? This is just the latest health panic, spurred on by publicity seeking scientists and tabloid headline writers.
Pete, Nottingham, UK

Hmmm... I wondered why we had a senior government official giving us the 'doomsday' scenario. Nothing to do with Brown's gross miscalculations regarding the economy? That would probably have made the front pages without the bird flu story. One thing is for sure, Donaldson's speech has probably done a lot of damage to the poultry industry already.
Jeff, Derby

I have 40 ex-battery hens. My daughter from London with vulnerable child wants to know if it is safe for them to visit me this week. I am taking precautions by not letting grandchildren feed or tend the hens and am isolating footwear worn when feeding them. My daughter's partner is a pharmacist and would rather they didn't visit or I visit them in London. Is he correct?
Irene Hockin, Barnstaple, UK

We're not out of danger because we're in the modern age!
Chrisse, Houston, Texas
To Peter Wagstaff in West Yorkshire, yes there were more crowded working conditions in 1918 but now we have people under continual stress which weakens the immune system, many still have poor nutrition even in developed countries, and worldwide air travel can rapidly spread the virus. And offices, elevators, shops and commuter trains are still crowded enough for flu to spread easily. We're not out of danger because we're in the modern age!
Chrisse, Houston, Texas

Unfortunately, these are the by-products of human consumption of animals. E-coli, BSM, Bird flu, etc. are all symptoms of unnecessary human farming of animals.
Steve Dunne, Glasgow, Scotland

Probably the most worrying thing is the level of ignorance shown, especially regarding vaccination. There is no vaccine for the human form of avian flu yet, and there won't be until and if the virus mutates. The DoH website says that the whole population will be vaccinated when the vaccine is available.
Richard P, London

Why wait until there is a pandemic to begin health screening at ports? Surely this is akin to, "shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted"?
Laura, Aberdeen, Scotland

A morbid person might rate the most likely things to kill them this year. Car crash, cancer etc would all be high on the list. How far down would bird flu be? Somewhere near the end no doubt. Why worry about it?! At least not until it is real and we can actually do something about it. There's no point making vaccines for a human version of the virus that doesn't exist yet.
Tom, Surrey

60 deaths worldwide compared with the regular annual flu death toll in the UK of 12,000?
Robert Saunders, Milton Keynes, UK
I think we should keep a sense of perspective. About 60 people have died world wide from this flu. At the moment it would appear too difficult to contract this virus from birds, and virtually impossible to contract it from another human. I appreciate this may change by mutation, but let's not panic just yet! 60 deaths worldwide compared with the regular annual flu death toll in the UK of 12,000? 60 deaths is less than a week's death toll on British roads! Robert
Robert Saunders, Milton Keynes, UK

I do not know about spreading flu, but it is about time there was something done about people spitting all over the place, this is a serious hazard but the people that spit do not think they are doing anything wrong, they probably do not know that they are spreading germs to the rest of us, even when they sneeze, people do not use handkerchiefs as often as they used to they prevention is better than a cure, so something should be done now, not when it is too late
Margaret, South Yorkshire

The real worry is that the government tells us not to worry. Based on previous examples of the governments grip on the situation, I think we should all be worried
Cris Baxter, London

Shouldn't the government offer free flu jabs to children and the workforce, so as to keep future generations safe? This was a comment from my grandmother who's 90. So no offence meant for the elderly!
Carol, Surrey

Why didn't the infected migrating birds die at the point they migrated from?
Glyn Williams, Budapest, Hungary
One question hasn't been answered yet or perhaps it has, just not publicised enough: if migrating birds infected swans in Romania and they died fairly quickly, why didn't the infected migrating birds die at the point they migrated from?
Glyn Williams, Budapest, Hungary

It's important that the public are aware that bird flu, "normal" flu and pandemic flu are not the same things. Bird flu in its current form is not a major health risk in the UK as it does not spread human to human; also bird to human transmission is uncommon even for those who work with birds. Normal flu is more of a risk as it kills thousands every year in the UK (mostly the very young and old) and people in these groups should continue to be vaccinated as they are every year. Pandemic flu is potentially a great risk as it both spreads fast and has higher mortality rates. However there is no current pandemic strain, and while an increase in bird flu may make the emergence of a pandemic strain slightly more likely it does not make it a certainty.
James Wing, Sheffield, UK

Why on earth is the Chief Medical Officer indulging in this irresponsible scaremongering? If there have been only 60 deaths in a population of several billion from a virus that does not easily transfer to humans, where on earth is this figure of 50,000 deaths in the UK alone coming from. Could there be some influence from drug companies who will be looking for a market for their vaccines?
John McCormick, Belfast, N.Ireland

Spanish Flu killed between 30 and 40 million people worldwide in 1918/1919 and was caused by avian influenza (Bird Flu).
Alex, London

Surely this automatic, wholesale slaughter of birds in infected regions is completely wrong and foolhardy. 1) It is patently obvious that you can't stop some birds from migrating away from the slaughter and 2) The decimated bird population will have no chance to develop a natural immunity that, apart from saving its own kind, could help us humans down the line. Laura
Laura Pritchard, London, UK


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