More fearmongering from US – even as Americas yet to record a single case of H5N1, even in a chicken.

Police will be guarding hospitals, and shipments of medicine, food and fuel if the deadly avian flu pandemic sweeps the province, experts planning for a possible outbreak are saying. Dr. Michael Mills and OPP Sgt. Andy Taylor painted a frightening picture of the pandemic’s potential effects for delegates at a police services board conference on the weekend. They warned of civil disorder, and the likely suspension of school, entertainment and sporting events if the illness were to strike here.

To cope with the coming global threat, Taylor told the Burlington conference that people need to stock up on supplies such as food, water, medicine and batteries so families can be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours, keep washing their hands and stay at least a metre away from others to avoid contact with infected water droplets from coughing and sneezing. Mills suggested people should also buy life ins for their survivors before premiums are jacked up and get a seasonal flu shot to avoid being sick when or if the bird flu hits during the annual influenza season. "The intent is not to scare people but it is the reality," said Taylor, a key member of the OPP’s pandemic planning team. It is preparing for how police would deal with civil unrest as a result of food and fuel shortages and protect hospitals from a surge of sick people demanding treatment.

Although medical experts have no idea when the avian strain might reach Canada, latest Ontario estimates suggest 7,000 to 20,000 people will die, Taylor said. As well, 4 million people in Ontario will become ill, about 2.3 million will need medical treatment and 18,000 to 65,000 will be hospitalized. Many will die, Mills said, within 24 to 48 hours from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as the virus causes lungs of seriously infected victims to fill with blood and fluid. Other critically ill could last for more than a week before dying of secondary infections. The province has a "death surge plan" to deal with bird flu casualties, Taylor said. With a pandemic expected to disrupt transportation of food and borders likely to be closed to shipments, it won’t take long for grocery store shelves to become bare. "If trucks aren’t flowing, there will be nothing on the shelves and food shortages could create civil disorder," Taylor said.

Mills said "panic and chaos" inevitably would lead to criminal activity. With police expecting a 20 to 40 per cent manpower shortage from sickness and absenteeism, minor property crimes likely would be ignored and R.I.D.E. and seat belt campaigns halted. "We are expecting a significant number of requests for security for both shipments of vaccines and shipment of viral medicine as well as protecting vaccine distribution and food and fuel," Taylor said. Human-to-human infection from the deadly virus known as H5N1 has yet to occur although as of this week, 113 of 205 people infected in 13 countries have died from contacting the illness from virus-carrying poultry and wild birds. [try reading that again: 113 human deaths, worldwide; that’s in nigh-on ten years. None from a wild bird]

Mills, who heads the pandemic planning for Burlington’s Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital, said once the virus mutates to where humans begin infecting humans, widespread transmission "will be unstoppable" with many people unknowingly infecting each other. "People will pass this on before they even know they’re infected because the onset of symptoms don’t appear until a day after you’re infected," Mills said. "This is not a tsunami. This won’t be over in five hours. It’s going to be around for a long time." Mills said the virus wouldn’t be contained easily, indicating an infected person, showing no signs, could easily infect others in an airplane. Passengers would then transmit the illness to others on the ground when they land. Unlike the Spanish Flu of 1918, which circled the globe in five months, killing 40 million to 100 million, this avian strain will spread much faster, Mills said.

Brace for bird flu, urge experts Local pandemic scary spectre Food shortage, chaos predicted