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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

U.S. Poll Shows Concern About Bird Flu

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

Willing to Wait for Drugs

The poll shows that most people would be willing to wait behind certain groups for Tamiflu and other antiviral drugs if there weren't enough doses during a major outbreak of bird flu in the U.S.

  • 80% said they would be willing to wait until doctors and nurses had gotten the drugs.
  • 81% said they would be willing to wait until patients hospitalized with the flu had gotten the drugs.
  • 74% said they would be willing to wait until police and firefighters had gotten the drugs.

Two-thirds said that if there was an outbreak of bird flu in several countries and supplies of Tamiflu and other antiviral drugs were limited, the U.S. should share some of its supply.

Quarantine Backed

The poll shows strong support for quarantining people with bird flu. Quarantines were defined as being ordered by health officials to stay at home, away from other people, for two or three weeks.

  • 78% said that they thought people with bird flu should be quarantined.
  • Almost all (96%) said they would be willing to be quarantined if they had bird flu.
  • Most (83%) also said they would agree to be quarantined if they had been near someone with bird flu but didn't yet have any symptoms.

However, many participants had concerns about how bird flu would affect their jobs.

Of the 649 participants who were employed, nearly 60% were concerned that they wouldn't get paid if they had to stay away from work during a bird flu outbreak in their state. Almost 40% were concerned that their employers would make them go to work even if they were sick and there was an outbreak of bird flu in their state.

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