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Poarch advises on avian bird flu

By By Matthew Nascone
The recent avian bird flu epidemic in Asia has sparked interest about how the flu could spread. Many questions are being asked of health officials regarding when the virus will spread to the United States.
These questions have arisen in the Atmore area and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians asked Cpt. B. Kevin Molloy of the U.S. Public Health Service to explain the dangers and preventative measures being taken.
Molloy, who is the Indian Health Service's national emergency operations manager, spoke at an influenza summit in the Tribal auditorium Monday and informed local residents about what to expect from the so-called bird flu.
"This virus is not in what we would call a human to human transmission period," Molloy said. "The only way we know of that humans are being affected is when they are in close proximity with an infected bird."
Molloy said this could be a bad thing though because if it does not affect humans there is not a vaccine for it yet. But he said there are scientists ready to battle the disease when it does become a human carried virus, if that does in fact happen.
Tribal Emergency Management Director April Sells called the summit. She said this is a good way to inform the public about how to prepare for such an event.
"We wanted to have this summit because people need to know how to protect themselves," she said. "And we were glad Cpt. Molloy agreed to come down here and help us out."
Another reason for the summit was to inform the people about the danger of the bird flu growing to a pandemic stage. A pandemic is a problem that faces the entire world and not only a specified area. Molloy said the World Health Organization is looking at this problem with a world perspective.
He said the most disconcerting aspect of the disease is that 50 percent of the people infected will die from the disease.
"This is a very tough and serious virus and we need to be prepared for when it hits the U.S.," Molloy said.
He said a good thing to do would be to stockpile non-perishable food items and water to be ready for the disease to hit. He said to have enough food for about 12 weeks. Molloy said there could be aspects of life affected by the pandemic.
"You could see your schools and churches close down for a little while," he said. "And town meetings and other types of meetings could be postponed."
Molloy said flu outbreaks are not uncommon and in the past there have been about three outbreaks every century. The last outbreak to hit was swine flu. But Molloy said the Public Health Service would attempt to contain the spread of the disease as much as possible.
A meeting was also held in the Tribal auditorium Monday to determine how local service industries would handle the outbreak if it were to reach this area, Sells said.
The latest information on the preventative measures in the fight against bird flu can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.
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