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Like It or Not, the Bird Flu Is Coming

About the bird flu (search): It is coming to get you. It might be tomorrow in the sense that tomorrow is the future, but not tonight.

The Centers for Disease Control (search) has been getting a lot of questions from people about this flu like:

Is it safe to have a bird feeder in my yard? Yes.

If I see a dead bird, should I report it? No.

That is one of my favorites. Can you imagine the 911 calls if the answer were, "Yes, report every dead bird you see"?

The CDC is already getting half-a-million hits a day on its Web site about bird flu. So, no, don't call about sightings of dead birds.

Then there's this classic for the holiday season:

Is it still OK to have turkey at Thanksgiving? Yes. But, of course, you'll want to cook it just a little bit more.

No, no I'm kidding. Cooking it till the popper pops up will be fine.

A few actual facts about the brand of bird flu we're presently worried about in the future:

It almost never spreads between humans and in two years has infected 117 people, all in Asia, and most of them were bird handlers — people who practically sleep with ducks and chickens and geese.

But having said that, health experts believe the bird virus may one day mutate to a form that is not only deadly but also easily spread among people.

The U.S. Government has started piling up Tamiflu (search) and other medicines in warehouses for that awful day when it comes.

Now you may not have noticed, but bird flu has come twice right here in the United States and passed through without killing us all — a fact worth remembering.

In February 2004, there was an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a flock of 7,000 chickens in south-central Texas, which was the first such outbreak in 20 years.

And in the same year another outbreak of low — low not high — pathogenic bird flu in two chicken farms in Delaware and four markets in New Jersey.

But those outbreaks were in birds, not people.

So here's the bottom line: Keep an eye on bird flu and take it seriously when it comes. Don't panic because it isn't here yet.

And, no, you do not have to whack your parakeet.

Be sure to consult your doctor.

That's My Word.

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