Tuesday, November 27, 2007

H5N1: Avian Bird Flu, are we prepared for a pandemic?

A few weeks ago on the BBC they showed a segment on a recent out break of the H5N1 strain of Avian Bird Flu, which had become recently prevalent in turkeys in the UK. It was noticed due to swelling of the turkeys heads' and a blue discoloration on the neck. A 3km danger zone and 10km surveillance zone was set up. The farmers and Food Standard Agency are not otherwise worried about this outbreak because it is not believed to be easily transferred to humans, unless one comes into close contact with the turkey itself. They are taking precaution by keeping the believed unaffected turkeys inside and kept a close watch on for symptoms. However, they may be over looking fecal matter and saliva of the turkeys, which can get into irrigation systems and fertilizers. Also, the virus is easily and quickly transferred from human to human. So, as soon as one person becomes infected it could mean the beginning of a pandemic. The situation could be prevented if it was immediately addressed and the person was put in isolation. The Food Standard Agency does not seem to be too concerned and are just telling people to “cook their meat well.” This could be in an attempt to protect the turkey farmers from plummeting sales as Christmas season approaches.

While Food Standard Agency is saying this Avian Flu outbreak is nothing to be worried about Britain is doubling their antiviral medicine in preparation for a pandemic, stalk piling their resources of Tamiflu. Tamiflu is a “key defence against pandemic flu in the weeks it would to take to develop a vaccine against the culprit virus (BBC Health, Mr. Johnson).” It is an antiviral drug which reduces the length and intensity of the illness. Some scientists believe that the possible flu pandemic could be caused by the bird flu, which has been prevalent in the past months in some regions of the UK. If only a few people do contract the virus it can spread quickly and also mutates at a very high rate, making it difficult to trigger the “culprit virus.” Unfortunately our current influenza vaccination does not protect against the H5N1 stain. It protects against H1N1, H3N2 and B influenza strains. However, each year the shot immunizes against different strains, which could give you a little extra boost in immunity against other strains which may become present. This is a bit of a shot in the dark but may help out when life threatening strains are introduced into the human population. A vaccination for H5N1 is being tested at the moment but is not ready to be available to the public. It is a scary to think that a flu pandemic could occur but thankfully there has not been many human cases thus far. Giving the science community time to develop vaccinations and other modes of protection and cures encase this pandemic does reach us. I think the UK has the right idea in stock piling their resources even if they are not sure the virus will affect their communities.



max said...

All the news updates and the numerous online sources are very much help full in educating people all about the bird flu treatment and prevention

Dominic B. said...

One thing that I really do not ge...why are people so reluctant to get vaccinated? It seems to me that a lot of people think vaccination is some kind of big conspiracy. IT IS NOT! When people know about the fact that influenza virus can recombine to produce viral types that are not recognized by our collective immune system and that no one is immune, they should rush to the clinic. not for their own sake...for the sake of everyone on this planet!