Ask Dr. Manny: Bird Flu Fears

This week's mail indicated that readers and viewers are very concerned about bird flu, and that many Americans are perhaps worrying needlessly because of myths, misconceptions and misinformation about the nature and threat of the virus.

Do you have a health or medical question for Dr. Manny? Email him at Ask Dr. Manny and he may answer the question on the air or in this column.

Below is a sample of this week's mail:

Dear Dr. Manny,

We live in a manufactured home park next to a family that has pigeons. They fly all over, landing on our house and property. I am concerned about this with the current threat of bird flu. How dangerous are these birds?

Right now, there hasn't been any incident of infected birds [in North America.] Yesterday we read about some birds being infected in Canada. That was typical avian flu, not the deadly strain found in Asia. So, right now, I don't think you should worry about pigeons in your neighborhood. I think that you should practice good hygeine and keep them off your property.

Dear Dr. Manny,

I have a 16-month old grandson. How can we protect small children against bird flu if it becomes prevalent?

In general, children get infected with the general flu more severely sometimes than adults do, that's why we emphasize vaccinations for children. They are also the primary carriers of the flu for other family members getting infected.

If we do get a pandemic of bird flu, you would want to follow general precautions: Talk to your pediatrician, keep kids at home, make sure you take them to the doctor so you have preventative measures.

Dear Dr. Manny,

I have Type 2 diabetes. Previously, when I took the flu shot, I became ill with the flu. I did not take it last year and did not become ill. Should I risk it again this year?

Type 2 diabetic patients are one category of people who should get an annual flu shot. The side effects of the flu shot are very mild, may include tenderness in the arm. They are far less worse than coming down with the flu. I wouldn't worry about getting sick from the shot. I would get my flu shot immediately.

Dear Dr. Manny,

If you can still get Tamiflu capsules from your doctor, how many doses do you need to be safe?

Yes, you can get it from your doctor, but a lot of doctors are being very careful about giving free prescriptions so that people can have the drug at home. This is a medication that must be taken under medical supervision. It is not indicated for children under one year of age. It is not indicated for pregnant women. It has specific dosages. You have to take it within 48 hours of developing symptoms. You can talk to your doctor about Tamiflu, but right now, you do not need to have this medication at home.

Dear Dr. Manny,

What do you think of the national flu strategy President Bush announced Tuesday?

I think the plans are absolutely fantastic. It's a very well thought-out plan to fix the vaccine industry in the U.S., which, as you know, is broken right now.

Ask Dr. Manny

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FOX News medical contributor Dr. Manny Alvarez is the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J., and is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. He appears on FNC's daytime programs FOX & Friends and FOX News Live.