Bird flu is inevitably going to arrive in the UK, the president of the British Veterinary Association said yesterday - and there is a small but real danger that migrating wild birds could bring us a highly dangerous strain of the virus.
As the government sought to play down the risk, saying that there was no need at the present time to bring all poultry flocks indoors, Bob McCracken of the BVA said that it was vital that we remained on the alert.
"I don't believe there is any large risk at this moment in time," he said. "But we have to prepare for the fact that the virus will eventually come here."
The best hope at the moment - and for now it appears to be reinforced by the evidence - is that H5N1, the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu that is raising the spectre of a potential flu pandemic if it should spread to humans, kills all birds it infects and therefore that wild birds cannot spread it across continents when they migrate.
"If the virus is sufficiently virulent and it kills 100% of the birds, then the virus will not spread," he said. "Indeed, the virus will die out because there are no birds left to kill, reports Guardian.
Professor Hugh Pennington said he had heard some senior public health figures saying "this is the one thing that really keeps them awake at night".
"I don't know if we should be scared but I think we should be putting pressure on for the resources to be made available to do the things we know are at least going to make the problem less if it arrives," he said.
"In 1918, we lost quarter of a million people in the UK and 40 million people worldwide, this virus that we're talking about now could be even nastier than that."
He added: "This is a very nasty virus. It's doing enormous damage in the Far East at the moment, it's got into Russia.
"If it got here, it would be economically disastrous, never mind the human impact, so we do need to be spending more than we have been spending."
Experts have previously warned that future pandemics, or worldwide outbreaks, could kill up to 50 million people, including an estimated 50,000 in the UK, informs Scotsman.