US President George W. Bush on Tuesday said his administration was concerned about a possible global avian flu epidemic and was studying various scenarios for dealing with an outbreak.
"I'm concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the US and the world," Bush told reporters at a White House press conference.
"I take this issue very seriously. The people of the country ought to rest assured that we're doing everything we can. We're watching it, we're careful, we're in communication with the world," he said. "I'm not predicting an outbreak. I'm just suggesting to you that we'd better be thinking about it, and we are."
He said his administration was considering various plans for dealing with a possible outbreak, including boosting vaccine stockpiles, imposing quarantines and using the military to enforce such an option.
Bush added that he had discussed the issue with various leaders during the recent UN General Assembly in New York and urged nations to quickly report an outbreak to the World Health Organization.
His comments came amid concerns that the US was ill-prepared for an outbreak of avian flu.
Since 2003, avian flu has killed 63 people in Asia who had contact with infected birds. If the H5N1 virus mutates and becomes transmissible among humans, it could spark a worldwide epidemic.