Afghan Bird Flu Discovery Poses No Danger to U.S. Troops
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2006 The discovery that avian, or bird, flu has come to Afghanistan poses no danger to American troops conducting operations there, a U.S. general told Pentagon reporters today.
"There's not really much implication on U.S. force protection at all," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, said from Afghanistan during a satellite teleconference.
First, American forces don't conduct operations in the areas from where positive samples of bird flu virus were taken, Freakley pointed out. And, "we buy all of our food products from outside vendors exterior to Afghanistan," the general said.
Freakley, who wears another hat as commander of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., said his soldiers were briefed on the danger of bird flu and how to protect themselves against the virus before they deployed to Afghanistan. For example, soldiers in Afghanistan realize that maintaining good personal hygiene is a useful strategy in avoiding the bird flu, the general said.
"I don't really see that this (bird flu) poses a threat to us at all," Freakley said.
A joint U.N.-Afghan government communiqué released today confirmed that bird flu has come to Afghanistan. The virus strain, known as H5N1, has been found in India, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe. The virus has killed hundreds of thousands of birds around the globe, as well as 98 people.
Currently people only get the virus from close contact with infected birds. Scientists fear the spread of the virus could evolve into a worldwide pandemic if it mutates and spreads from human to human.