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U.S. Poll Shows Concern About Bird Flu

Potential Spread of Bird Flu in U.S. Is a Concern of Most Americans

WebMD Health News

Feb. 23, 2006 -- A new poll shows that more than half of U.S. adults are concerned that bird flu might spread in the U.S.

However, most said they were "somewhat" concerned. Only 15% said they were "very" concerned about bird flu spreading in the U.S.

In addition, most people (78%) said they were "not concerned" that they or anyone in their immediate family would come down with bird flu in the next year.

The poll comes from the Harvard School of Public Health Project on the Public and Biological Security. More 1,000 adults participated in the poll, which was done by telephone in January 2006.

Global Concerns, Public's Predictions

Among the poll's findings:

  • 62% were concerned about a bird flu pandemic (a severe outbreak in many countries at the same time).
  • 69% knew that there had been human cases of bird flu in Asia.
  • 15% incorrectly thought that people in the U.S. had come down with bird flu.

Several questions asked about the possibility of bird flu coming to the U.S. in the next year. Here are participants' responses:

  • 59% thought that wild birds in the U.S. would get bird flu in the next year.
  • 44% thought that chicken or other farm-raised U.S. poultry would get bird flu in the next year.
  • 34% thought that people in the U.S. would get bird flu in the next year.

What Would You Do?

The poll also asked people how they would respond if bird flu came to the U.S.

Nearly half (46%) said that if there was a case of bird flu among U.S. chicken or other poultry, they would stop eating that type of poultry. However, bird flu hasn't been linked to poultry that's been properly handled or thoroughly cooked.

If there was a human case of bird flu in their state, participants said they would:

  • Wash their hands more often (90%)
  • Talk with their doctor about bird flu (84%)
  • Consult a web site for information on protecting themselves from bird flu (79%)
  • Reduce or avoid travel (75%)
  • Avoid public events or events with lots of people (71%)
  • Stay home and keep their kids home during the outbreak (68%)
  • Try to get a prescription for the flu drug Tamiflu or other antiviral drugs (68%)

Most people (96%) said they hadn't talked to their doctor about using Tamiflu or other antiviral drugs to treat bird flu.

Bird Flu Treatment

Just to refresh your memory, bird flu is a virus that usually infects only birds. However, when people come into close contact with affected birds or if the makeup of the virus changes people can be infected.

For bacterial infections, such as a strep throat, there are many different antibiotics available. But for a virus, the antiviral drugs are limited.

Currently, there is no cure for bird flu. Experts had hoped that Tamiflu might slow the severity or spread of bird flu in the event of a human pandemic. But In December 2005, researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that two children in Vietnam who died of bird flu had developed resistance to Tamiflu. A U.S. health official has warned that Tamiflu may not be reliable protection against bird flu.

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