The California officials are expecting bird flu arrive at the U.S. West Coast this summer, making what could be the first sign in the United States of the deadly virus. The deadly H5N1 virus has already swept from Asia across Europe and down to Africa. This announcement was made by California Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe told reporters on Thursday at a state bird flu pandemic preparedness meeting.
Officials said the virus was likely to arrive into either the east or west coast of the United States by migrating birds starting their journeys south. They said some 60,000 birds, mostly waterfowl, would begin their migration south from Alaska in mid-August, working their way down through Oregon, Washington and into California.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt warned against panic when the flu hits US, saying it need not inevitably mean the start of a human pandemic. He said that it would quite certain that a wild bird with H5N1 will hit US, but he said that, it was not necessarily a crisis. Leavitt and other health and government officials urged local governments, schools, businesses and individual families to begin preparing now for a health disaster. He further warned on Monday, that there would be no way that a national government could respond to 5,000 locations at the same time. He stated that it would be very wrong for any community not preparing thinking that the federal government will come to the rescue.
Leavitt also said research published on Wednesday, they are working to develop vaccine and an adjuvant technology that will allow us to boost the effects of vaccine and are optimistic that that can be part of the solution. GlaxoSmithKline on Thursday announced the start of human trials of two new bird flu vaccines using adjutant (additives that are put into vaccines that boost the immune system and make it respond more efficiently). If the vaccines work they would be ready to manufacture by the end of the year, the company said.
The H5N1 virus overwhelmingly infects birds but has sickened 186 people in eight countries and killed 105 of them. Experts believe it poses the greatest threat in recent years of a global flu pandemic that could kill millions, if it acquires the ability to pass easily from human to human.