WASHINGTON – A deadly strain of bird flu could appear in the United States in the next few months as wild birds migrate from infected nations, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday.
Chertoff said "there will be a reasonable possibility of a domestic fowl outbreak" as migrating birds mix with ducks, chickens and other birds in the U.S. But he cautioned against panic, noting that the Agriculture Department has dealt with other strains of bird flu for years.
"If we get a wild bird or even a domestic chicken that gets infected with avian flu, we're going to be able to deal with it, because we've got a lot of experience with that," Chertoff said, speaking to newspaper editors and publishers.
"I can't predict, but I certainly have to say that we should be prepared for the possibility that at some point in the next few months, a wild fowl will come over the migratory pathway and will be infected with H5N1," he said.
The H5N1 strain has killed at least 95 people since 2003, mostly in Asia, according to the World Health Organization, and has devastated poultry stocks. Scientists are concerned that the virus could mutate into a form easily spread among people, sparking a pandemic.