Bird strikes and swine flu

April 24, 2009 1:54:20 PM PDT
Where to begin? With bird strikes or swine flu?

Both have the scent of an epidemic.

But because the swine flu has killed people, we'll start with that.

It started in Mexico - and it's unclear exactly how many have died from this flu strain: 16 for sure, but maybe as many as 60. The World Health Organization is now so worried, it raised its internal alert system today - getting ready to spend more money and commit more workers to dealing with the outbreak.

More than 900 people are sick, so far; and now Mexico City officials, under orders from that country's President, are cracking down -- closing schools, museums, libraries and state-run theaters in the capital.

Mexicans are also being urged to avoid traditional salutations like shaking hands and kissing cheeks.

Especially troublesome is the real fear that the swine flu is already spreading; scientists are now trying to determine if the deaths in Mexico are connected to the flu strain that has sickened seven people in Texas and California. With air travel keeping us just a couple of hours from any spot in the world, this could spread quickly.

Scientists say this outbreak combines pig, bird and human viruses in a way they haven't seen before.

Biochemical or viral outbreaks have long worried medical experts and anti-terrorism experts. Tonight at 11, we'll have the latest on the nature of this swine flu outbreak, including a response late today from Pres. Obama.

Speaking of Mr. Obama, his administration played no small role in getting the FAA to release the first-ever bird-strike report. Turns out there have been 89,000 "incidents" between wildlife and planes in the U.S. since 1990 - including 28 cases this decade where the damage to the plane was so severe, the aircraft was considered destroyed.

Leading the pack of airports where planes have been damaged or destroyed is JFK, with 30 this decade.

The FAA, you'll recall, did not want to release this report, supposedly because it would make airlines gun-shy about reporting bird strikes. There are many FAA critics, however, who believe protecting the industry was the real factor. (Click to access the FAA Strike Website)

All that is now moot.

We'll have the report, tonight at 11.

And our Tappy Phillips has the disturbing story of a company that advertises "affordable" computers for sale. Turns out, the computers end up costing people more than they could buy them for at their local electronics store. And, adding insult to injury, the company doesn't deliver the computers. Tonight, Tappy and 7 On Your Side come to the rescue.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's sizzling weekend AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.

BILL RITTER


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