Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

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What is the Bird Flu?

Like humans, animals are susceptible to common ailments such as colds and influenza (flu). Currently in the news are reports of the spread of an avian influenza virus known as H5N1, commonly referred to as the Bird Flu. A few cases of human infection have occurred in Asia, but most of these were people directly in contact with infected birds. 

Why all the concern for Pandemic?

Every year we see new Flu strains affect the public. Bird fluis not the common flu. Bird Flu has not become a disease easily transmitted from human to human, it would have to go through a few changes to become an illness easily spread from person to person. 

Once an illness becomes the kind that is transmitted from person to person, and if someone does not have a natural immunity to the illness, it can spread rapidly. An infectious disease occurring suddenly in a community, region, or country in numbers clearly excess of normal is called an epidemic. A disease that spreads beyond the borders of countries, spreads globally, is a pandemic. 

There have been three pandemics in the last century: http://www.dhhs.gov/ 
  • The 1918 Spanish Flu
  • The 1957 Asian Flu
  • The 1968 Hong Kong Flu

What is the City of West Covina doing?

The City, along with other Local, State and National groups, is preparing contingency plans in case of flu pandemic. A lot of this preparation is applicable to any type of infectious disease, not just the H5N1 virus or bird flu. The City of West Covina utilizes an Emergency Operations Plan to coordinate its efforts of responding to all emergencies, including earthquakes, wildfires, and civil unrest. In cases of infectious disease outbreak, the Medical/Health Branch of the Operations Section of the City's Emergency Operations Center would be at the lead in getting information out to the Public and placing our Plan into action. Portions of our planning depend on our support of the local health system; we are in contact with all the local hospitals and work with them on issues of surge capacity. The City participates with Los Angeles County Department of Health Services in planning for mass inoculations, or medication dispersal, to the citizens to provide protection or relief. 


What is happening at the National level?

Remember that these procedures are in place for any health crisis-not just the H5N1 virus. To date, the H5N1 virus has not mutated to a germ easily transmitted from human to human. This fact has given the pharmaceutical companies and research labs time to work on inoculations and stockpile medications. One of the stockpiling efforts, and part of the National contingency planning, is the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The SNS has large quantities of stored medicine and medical supplies that could be used for any type of health emergency threatening the American public. These caches of supplies are located throughout the country, no more than a 12-hour delivery time to any location in the U.S. Two U.S. vaccine manufacturers and others outside the United States have produced H5N1 influenza vaccine and are currently conducting clinical trials. No vaccine or vaccine production method has any acknowledged superiority, nor have any manufacturers completed clinical studies. 


What should I do for my family?

To better prepare your family, we recommend utilizing the family guide from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to perform some critical thinking. Just like any bad cold or flu season, you will want to do some of the same things; good hygiene, cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze, avoid crowds, maintain your own health to ward off infection. Remember, in a real pandemic, services may be limited because the service people are ill, busy handling other requests, or home taking care of their own ill family members. The young and old will be most susceptible. If you have school age children there is a good chance that you may have to stay home to take care of them because they are ill, or the school has closed. And if you have senior family members, you may have to take care of them at home because the Convalescent hospitals are full or you do not want to expose them to any of the illnesses at that location. 

Will I hear more about the Bird Flu?

Bird viruses have come and gone in the past. You will most likely hear of the Bird Flu, H5N1 virus, arriving in the U.S. infecting wild birds or poultry stock. REMEMBER, this is not the pandemi. The virus at this time has not mutated to where it can infect human-to-human and that is what is necessary to cause a global infection. This gives us time to prepare and the pharmaceutical companies a chance to develop vaccines. 

A central web site for the Bird Flu virus has been established. The latest updates on developing news can be located at http://www.pandemicflu.gov/ 

A print out of the Pandemic Influenza Planning: A Guide for Individuals and Families is available by calling West Covina Fire Administration at 626-939-8824.

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