Avian flu has been found in a South American parrot held in quarantine in Britain. While it is still unclear where and how the bird got the disease, the virus is the same type as that found in migratory birds and some poultry in Southeast Asia, Croatia, Romania, Russia, and Turkey.
More than sixty people who have had contact with infected fowl have died from avian flu. Millions of birds in Southeast Asia have been destroyed in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. Migratory birds and some poultry spread the flu. While the current virus is hard for humans to contract, medical experts say it could mutate into a form that could be easily transmitted from person to person.
Since people would have no immunity to this new flu virus, an outbreak could lead to an influenza pandemic, causing widespread illness and death. In 1918, a flu virus killed more than twenty million people around the world.
The U.S. has pledged some thirty-seven million dollars to help the countries most affected by avian flu, and President George W. Bush has announced his intention to devote an additional two-hundred-fifty-one million dollars to the international fight against the disease.
In response to the bird flu threat, President Bush has called for a partnership "to detect and respond quickly to any outbreaks of disease":
"Since we announced this global initiative, the response from across the world has been very positive. Already, eighty-eight countries and nine international organizations have joined the effort. Senior officials from participating governments recently convened the partnership's first meeting here in Washington."
Mr. Bush says the partnership supports transparency in sharing samples and information and rapid reporting of outbreaks to the World Health Organization:
"Together, we're working to control and monitor avian flu in Asia and to ensure that all nations have structures in place to recognize and report outbreaks before they spread beyond human control."
"A flu pandemic would have global consequences," says Mr. Bush. "No nation can afford to ignore this threat, and every nation has responsibilities to detect and stop its spread."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.