Only half of Americans are confident their government will deal effectively with the bird flu if it reaches the U.S., and they want strong steps including quarantine and closed schools if there’s an outbreak among people, according to a poll.
The AP-Ipsos survey, out Friday, found widespread expectation that birds will become infected in this country in the next year, as the government predicts. One third worry someone in their family will get it.
The virulent strain of bird flu spreading through Asia, Europe and Africa has killed 110 people, and more than 200 million birds have died from the disease or been slaughtered in efforts to contain it. Scientists fear it could mutate into a form that spreads more easily among people.
The U.S. government is stepping up inspection of migratory wild birds and poultry companies are testing nearly every flock for the first signs the virus has come. Federal officials have expressed confidence that they can keep the virus out of the human food chain if domestic flocks become infected.
Americans aren’t so sure. In the poll, 52 percent said they were not confident the government would handle an outbreak properly; 48 percent were confident. Almost two-thirds expect U.S. birds to become infected.
“I’m afraid they wouldn’t have enough vaccine,” said Stephen Barbas, a 61-year-old food distributor in Rochester, N.Y. “I’m not very confident in the government right now because of Katrina and Iraq.”
Fear is likely to spread if the virus is detected in the United States: Half of the people questioned said they thought the bird flu would kill them if they got it.
The survey found strong majorities in favor of these steps to contain any outbreak among humans: quarantining those who have been exposed to the bird flu, closing the borders to visitors from countries that have experienced the flu, closing schools, offering experimental vaccines or drugs, and encouraging people to work from home.
The poll of 1,001 adults was conducted Tuesday to Thursday with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.