How Prepared are we for the Avian Flu if it Mutates?

November 1, 2005 -- Posted at 5:08 p.m. CST


JONESBORO -- President Bush outlined an ambitious plan on Tuesday to prepare the United States in case the Avian Flu mutates to where it can be transferred from human to human.  

Kathryn Blackman, Assistant Vice President of Education and Infection Control said to help prevent the mutation of the avian flu, it's important for everyone to get a normal flu shot.  Having this extra protection could be beneficial to preventing a mutation.  “Having both types in their body at the same time that would allow those genes to exchange DNA and that would be the perfect environment for a mutation,” said Blackman.”  


So far there haven't been any verified cases of human to human transmission of the avian flu, but local, state, and national officials want to be ready if and when the avian flu does mutate.  Blackman said, “All of the pandemic flu's that we've experienced through history have been a strain of Avian Flu so they mutate very easily and there's a great possibility that it could.” 


What type of quarantine situation might take place if a pandemic does happen?  Blackman said, “We're talking about the same thing where people use to have to stay in their house and have a red cross marked on their door that they were quarantined.  I think we're mainly talking about quarantining yourself.”  


When the vaccine is developed the United States Government is prepared to purchase enough of the vaccine to treat 20 million Americans.  “Flu is like all viruses that it can mutate very rapidly and to get a vaccine that works for the specific strain that might emerge, that strain would have to be available for them to work on,” said Blackman.   Blackman said she thinks the proactive approach being taken by the government will be very beneficial in the long run. 


Both Missouri and Arkansas have plans in place if there is an outbreak of the Avian Flu.