U.S. bird flu pandemic plans: disease must be contained abroad

The health official said Thursday that "no one in the world is ready" for a potentially catastrophic outbreak of Avian flu.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt also said that U.S. officials and their counterparts around the globe recognize that a pandemic is possible and are working hard on ways to protect people from it.

Outlining the pandemic plan in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Leavitt said U.S. health officials would rush overseas to wherever a bird flu outbreak occurred and work with local officials to try to contain it.

Leavitt is traveling to Asia to shore up international cooperation should bird flu mutate to easily infect people.

To further that goal, more than 65 countries and international organizations were to participate in discussions Thursday at the State Department about preparations for the possibility of worsening bird flu.

Next week, Leavitt plans to meet with leaders of the Southeast Asia countries that are the epicenter of the virus. AM

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