Jarris stresses difference in avian flu and pandemic virus

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(Host) Vermont Health commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris says he won’t be surprised if evidence of the avian flu is discovered in the state by the end of the year.

But Dr. Jarris says it’s very important to realize that doesn’t mean that Vermont will be exposed to the human pandemic flu virus.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Dr. Jarris says he believes it’s only a matter of time before the avian flu outbreak that has traveled through Asia, Europe and Africa arrives in Vermont.

(Jarris) “It is reasonable to suspect and in fact we’re making a prudent assumption that there will be influenza in birds in this state likely within the next 6 to 8 months we’re making that assumption because we’ve got to be prepared.”

(Host) Dr. Jarris says it’s critical for Vermonters to understand that there’s a big difference between the avian flu virus and the human pandemic virus.

He says the avian flu will primarily affect birds and he says it’s by no means certain that avian flu virus will mutate into a virus that can be transmitted by humans:

(Jarris) “We want to say very distinctly and as clearly as possible the illness in birds is not a human pandemic. It is not. And we want people to recognize that the first time they hear of a bird in North America or the first time in America or the first time in Vermont that is not a human pandemic those conditions do not exist at this time.”

(Host) Dr. Jarris says the state has developed specific protocols to deal with an avian flu outbreak and he says his department is working with local officials to implement a plan to contain an outbreak if it occurs.

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