Fears About Bird Flu Pandemic In East Texas Are Premature

Avian Flu is all over the news this week. It's being billed as the next pandemic. But what exactly is this so-called "bird flu?"  And is there really a reason to be so alarmed?

Dr. James Wright is the Regional Director of Zoonosis Control Division of The Texas Department of State Health.

"Anytime you have a new virus like this you want to watch it. I don't think there is any reason for panic now in our people, in our citizens," Wright said.

He specializes in diseases that transfer from animal to human and says, "Right now, we don't feel like this virus has the ability to go from person to person."

The Avian Flu outbreak in Asia has most commonly been spread to humans through direct contact with animals like chickens or turkeys.  Dr. Wright says this is encouraging for the United States.

"Our poultry husbandry system is such, that we don't come nearly as closely in contact with our poultry as they do in Southeast Asia," said Wright.

In order for there to be a widespread, Avian Flu pandemic, he says the virus would have to mutate.

Wright said, "If it intermarried with a human flu virus, then it could go from human to human. And that would give us considerably more cause for concern."

That's why he says protecting yourself from the common flu will play part in preventing a major outbreak of the Avian Virus in the U.S.

Lindsay Wilcox, lwilcox@kltv.com, Reporting