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TX faces bird flu

Texas farm workers were being monitored for bird flu Monday as the U.S. faced its first severe form of the disease in two decades.

BY SUSAN KIM | SAN ANTONIO, Texas | February 23, 2004

Texas farm workers were being monitored for bird flu Monday as the U.S. faced its first severe form of the disease in two decades.

The flu strain was found in Gonzales County, Texas, about 50 miles east of San Antonio, and while officials said the health threat to humans was low, they could not rule out human infection.

"Past experience with H5N2 viruses has indicated there is a low threat to public health," Dr. Nancy Cox of the Centers for Disease Control, in a public statement.

Cox added that there were no known cases of the strain infecting humans, but said, "Nevertheless, as we move forward with this situation, we must keep an open mind and really monitor the situation as we go."

The infected chickens were found Friday, and by Monday workers who had helped destroy the flock of more than 6,000 chickens were being urged to monitor their own health.

Symptoms of bird flu in humans include fever, sore throat and pneumonia.

Bird flu can spread rapidly via farm equipment, feed delivery trucks, shoes, clothing and the wind.

The flu type, although different from the one blamed for killing 22 people in Asia, is extremely infectious and fatal to chickens.

The Texas virus is known as H5N2. A mild bird flu strain was found in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey earlier this month.

Economic fallout will also be a factor in this latest finding of bird flu. In 1984 the last time a severe strain was found in the U.S. more than 17 million birds were killed at a cost of nearly $65 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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