It's bird flu for sweeps

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ABC has announced they will rip a panic-inducing storyline from the headlines just in time for sweeps. Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America will highlight the dangers of network executives hearing about hot-button topics.

Fatal Contact stars lantern-jawed former Mike Hammer Stacy Keach and Nip/Tuck's Joely Richardson in a story about what happens if the US became infected with a virulent strain of bid flu. Although details of the plot haven't been released, if it follows typical disaster-movie conventions Keach will be the only one who can do something about it while the authorities ignore him.

The movie airs May 9, during sweeps period, and ABC is hoping that viewers' natural inability to look away from anything awful will help the ratings.

"We did that because of its topicality," coproducer Diana Kerew said.

Avian bird flu, also called H5N1, is a powerful flu strain that leapt from birds to humans but so far has not crossed the human-to-human boundary. There have been 196 confirmed cases and 110 deaths worldwide since 1997. For more information, see the Center for Disease Control and The World Health Organization Web sites.

So far, avian bird flu has not appeared in the US, but the CDC recently released a report saying that employers should prepare to temporarily lose about 40 percent of their workforce in the event of a major viral pandemic such as bird flu. Since bosses are prepared, employees might want to take an extra sick day now, before they are actually too sick to enjoy it.

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