Behind Bird Flu Fears

As a photo-op it was great: the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, getting a first hand look at chicken farms in Thailand, a major source of bird flu.

Leavitt said, "We are worried about places where we are not seeing processing done with this level and degree of quality. It only takes one spark to set this virus off."

But, reports CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen, the fact is that Asia has been dealing with bird flu for the last two years, with little or no interest from the United States.

During that time, 65 people in four Asian countries have died, and literally tens of millions of suspect chickens, ducks and geese have been systematically killed.

Of major concern, Petersen points out, is that every death so far has been caused by the flu going from an infected animal to a person.

The fear, Petersen explains, is that the virus will mutate and become capable of transmitting from person to person. That's the scenario that has experts using the words, potential global pandemic.

And there is a lesson to be learned from that other epidemic that started in Asia, SARS: It showed that no matter where the disease starts, in today's jet age, it can be anywhere, including the U.S., in a matter of hours.
  • Brian Dakss

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