Hawaii officials on the lookout for killer strain of bird flu

Hawaii is on the lookout after a killer strain of bird flu that’s sickening humans showed up in China.

So far, there have been several cases there.

The state’s first line of defense is at the ready if the virus reaches our shores.

With so many international travelers arriving in Hawaii every day, Honolulu International Airport is considered a hub where disease can spread, but there is a system in place to keep that from happening.

Drake Sheldon is a paramedic at the Honolulu International Airport. He is at the ready for any medical emergency, and that means testing for any dangerous or deadly disease.

Right now, the state is watching for passengers arriving with flu-like symptoms.

“We explain to them this is to protect our State, they have to agree to it, then I do my swab and we take it from there”, said Sheldon.

The airport medical office can swab ill passengers or even a planeload of people, but they hope they won’t have to do that.

While flu season across the country is winding down, there’s a new influenza virus rearing its ugly head.

For the first time China is reporting a strain of bird flu that has crossed over into humans, and is a killer.

“Brand new virus, never seen before in humans, first 9 cases reported in China and 3 fatalities, something people in China and worldwide watching to see how this virus behaves”, said Dr. Jim Ireland.

So far, the World Health Organization is not calling for any travel restrictions related to the virus, but Hawaii is at the ready anyway. A recent study put Honolulu in the top 3 of airports that could play a major role in spreading a contagious disease.

“Hawaii is an international destination. Importance of program here that it’s set up for surveillance no matter where someone comes from”, said Ireland.

The Centers for Disease Control is also set up at the airport ready to quarantine ill passengers.

“The CDC is here to protect Hawaii from a big epidemic blowing out protecting our citizens from getting infected for someone that’s living in another country and bringing it here, and doing your best job to prevent it”, said Sheldon.

At this time there is no evidence this strain of bird flu is being passed person-to-person, but officials are closely monitoring for just that.

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