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Avian Nightmare

It sounds like something out of a very scary science fiction movie, but the fear is real and to be tackled.//

A leading vet of Britain is promoting a drive for vaccinating thousands of poultry workers against the seasonal flu.

Fred Landeg, deputy chief veterinary officer is emphasizing the need to inoculate around 60,000 poultry workers, vets and farm workers before this year’s flu season. This is a move designed to prevent an outbreak of bird flu among humans.

Come this February, due to cold weather predicted, thousands of wild birds will be moving west; areas of Britain included, away from cold frozen lakes and in search of open water.

These birds may be carrying the deadly H5N1 virus, which causes avian flu. There are fair chances of these birds passing the virus on to poultry.

If the persons who care for or deal with poultry in any way, were to get human flu at the same time, the results could be mind numbing. There is the chance that both the human flu virus and the avian flu virus could swap genetic material and mutate into a form against which currently no drug will work.

Says David Salisbury, the Department of Health’s director of immunization “You end up with something that has genetic material from two different viruses and then you have no immunity at all because you have got a completely new virus. These are theoretical concerns but are viewed as significant and so should be managed.”

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has already infected more than 260 people in 11 countries, killing more than half of them.

The Government believes a pandemic is inevitable, killing 50,000 people in Britain alone.

National Health Trust has pledged half a million pounds and will be giving resources needed for the move, to primary care trusts across the country, this February onwards.

The vaccination season is expected to run from January 22 to march end.

Quelling doomsd ay talk, Salisbury added “The immunization programme we are announcing today is a precautionary measure which reduces any very low risk of a pandemic flu virus emerging in the UK.”

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