As bird flu looms, country prepares

The state of Vermont was brutally damaged. Young children and adults were dying suddenly and at a quick rate. Those who survived were traumatically forced to watch friends and family suffer.During the fall of 1918, an influenza pandemic, otherwise known as the “Spanish Flu,” had spread throughout the United States and killed over 600,000 people. While the origins of this illness were unknown, researchers speculated that contact between humans and rabid birds created the devastating pandemic.

Almost a century later, our nation is anticipating the arrival of an Avian influenza virus, commonly referred to as “Bird Flu”.

What is the Bird Flu?

It is unknown exactly when the influenza pandemic will make its debut in the United States, but the possible effects of its arrival are life-threatening.

The Avian bird flu is a contagious illness originally found in the intestines of wild birds, and has the ability to rapidly spread from birds to domestic poultry. Humans can become infected with the disease through contact with wild birds or previously contaminated poultry.

“Once the flu warnings become serious, that is when we need to be careful with consuming poultry and having close contact with birds,” said Mary Lou Bolt, Rutland’s District Director of the Vermont Department of Health. “Right now, there is no reason to panic; however, we should be knowledgeable of what the bird flu can do and report outbreaks as soon as possible.”

The symptoms of the bird flu are similar to those of a common cold, but the disease can also result in breathing problems and pneumonia.

According to a Reuters report, two Indonesian men complained of breathing problems and were tested positive for the Avian flu. Due to the lack of medicine and proper treatment in the country, Indonesia is struggling to contain the bird flu outbreaks.

“We should closely watch the situation in countries like Indonesia and Egypt in order to learn from their mistakes,” said Dr. Marie Pavini, who works at Rutland Regional Medical Center. “The flu will hit us sometime soon and each family needs to be prepared.”

Concerns/Preparing for Flu Season

The disease has already brought panic upon U.S. citizens and is rapidly spreading around countries in Europe, Asia and Africa on a daily basis. Once it enters the United States, the influenza pandemic could ruin the economy and result in a decrease of jobs.

“I am very worried that I will have trouble supporting my family if the bird flu is discovered in our state,” said Tim Darensbourg, a local farmer from Fair Haven. “I have no control of what the government is doing to help us prepare, but I can only hope they keep us farmers in mind during the outbreaks.”

The U.S. government has planned to purchase over 400 million vaccine shots in preparation of the bird flu season. These vaccine shots have been tested recently on mice and chicken, but further analysis on the test results have not been disclosed to the public, according to the Associated Press.

Small colleges like Castleton State could be at a significant disadvantage when the bird flu enters the United States. Whether the illness appears next month or next year, doctors are not sure how many students will be able to receive proper treatment.

“I would like to say that everyone will be properly tested for bird flu in the area, but we are unaware of the circumstances to come,” Pavini said. “My main advice for students is to have somewhere safe to stay in case of a serious outbreak.

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