THE probability of an outbreak of bird flu hitting the Balearics “exists,” although it is “remote,” as is the probability of the virus affecting humans, according to Antoni Pareja, head of the epidemics department at Son Llatzer national health hospital.< This opinion was backed by Antoni Bassa, a specialist in infectious diseases at the same hospital, who said that in order for humans to beome infected, there would have to be “intense and very direct” contact with sick birds, as occurred in the cases detected in South East Asia. In order for the virus to give rise to “a more dangerous situation, it would have to mutate, and this scenario does not yet exist,” Bassa said, adding that there was no vaccine to prevent bird flu in humans. He also said that the common flu vaccine does not provide protection against bird flu, so it should be restricted to groups at risk, including the elderly, children, adults with chronic illnesses and pregnant women. It would be “unpardonable”, he said, if groups at risk were left without the flu jab because the entire population had decided to have it “on the theory” that a single person could contract the common flu and bird flu viruses at the same time. Bassa also said that the scientific community did not know if the “virus would mutate or when it will mutate.” He recommended maximum control on bird flu to prevent it spreading in South East Asia as the best precaution.

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