headlines proclaiming the spread, as of mid-April, of AH5N1 to
at least 48 countries from Eastern China to Western Africa, and
the appearance of the deadly strain in animals from cats to stone
martens, Americans have remained calm about the bird-flu threat.
That's because no human cases have yet hit U.S. shores, explains Robert
Blendon, professor of health policy and management at the
Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and project director of
the School's national poll on the subject. The survey--part of
the HSPH Project on the Public and Biological Security, funded
by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--was conducted
in late January with a nationally representative sample of 1,043
adults aged 18 and older. Blendon says Americans' responses regarding
actions they might take in the event of a bird or human outbreak
at home remain relevant today (see charts).
|On May 16, HSPH Dean
Barry Bloom presented a live web seminar "Bird Flu:
Public Health and Pandemics."
click here to view an archival recording.
"I don't think people's response
will change until there are actual cases in Canada or the United
States," says Blendon. "With SARS, for example, people
got very concerned when the disease appeared in Toronto; that's
when they started taking precautions.
"Americans look first at Western
Europe, then Canada, then the United States. So far, there have
been no human cases in Western Europe. As long as there are no
human cases, people are not going to alter their behavior. Now,
if bird flu in humans suddenly showed up in, say, Massachusetts
or California, people would go everywhere to find an antiviral
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Health Review articles regarding Avian Flu click