Health chiefs urge calm

Health officials were urging the public not to panic last night as they stressed the likelihood of humans contracting the potentially deadly bird flu virus was “very, very low”.

Health officials were urging the public not to panic last night as they stressed the likelihood of humans contracting the potentially deadly bird flu virus was “very, very low”.

The message from health agencies was that the outbreak was detected early and swift action taken to contain it.

They insisted it was perfectly safe to continue eating poultry, as there was no evidence that avian flu could be contracted from food.

And experts played down fears that the bird flu strain - which has caused the deaths of 164 people in Asia and the Middle East since January 2003 - could ultimately mutate to a type easily passed between people.


You may also want to watch:


Health Protection Agency chief executive Prof Pat Troop stressed that the virus “doesn't pass easily from bird to human” and the risk to the general population from the outbreak was “very, very low”.

More than 100 people in Suffolk, many of whom worked on the farm, have been given anti-viral drugs as a precaution.

Most Read

The Department of Health has also stockpiled enough Tamiflu antivirals to cover a quarter of the population, as advised by scientists.

So far the only people who have developed symptoms are poultry workers, mainly in south-east Asia, who have come into contact with infected birds.

At the moment not a single case reported across the globe has been a result of human to human contact.

But Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: “We are preparing very, very seriously and thoroughly for the possibility of a pandemic flu.”

She added: “It is a very remote risk but if it did happen it could be very serious indeed.”

Conservative MEP Neil Parish, one of the European Parliament's leading members on bird flu preparations in Europe and chairman of its agriculture committee, said there was no need to panic.

“This outbreak has been detected early and action taken swiftly to contain it.

“The EU and Defra have put in place some very stringent procedures to prevent an outbreak from spreading. Of course we must all be vigilant, but there is absolutely no need for panic or hysteria.”

According to advice on the World Health Organisation's website, poultry and poultry products can be “safely consumed provided these items are properly cooked and properly handled during food preparation”.

The Food Standards Agency also stated: “Even if virus is present in meat or eggs, several factors will contribute to preventing or limiting its effects on people.

“First, the virus is easily killed by cooking. Second, even if it is still present after cooking, the virus is destroyed by saliva and by gastric acid, as well as the fact that there are very few receptors the virus needs to enter the body in the gut.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus