So it appears that a little problem has appeared back on the global radar: bird flu.
Avian Influenza A(H5N1) is a Type A Influenza virus. Type A viruses are most commonly found in animals: pigs, birds, whales, heffalumps, etc. When Type A viruses are in humans, they are deadly pandemics such as the 1918 flu (A(H1N1)), which had a mortality rate 2.5% and killed more people than WWI. It might have been the deciding factor that lead to the untimely death of President Woodrow Wilson. He was a pretty good guy.
UPDATE: We recieved a comment that needed moderation for this entry. When we attempted to approve the comment, it disappeared, and we can’t seem to get it back, so we’re just cut and pasting it below. Thanks to the commenter, as all the feedback and information we’re recieving is appreciated. We’re just trying to learn, we don’t pretend to be experts, and we’re always grateful for clarification and correction. Here’s the comment, in full:
Author : starlight (IP: 184.108.40.206 , 220.127.116.11.res-cmts.sth.ptd.net)
E-mail : email@example.com
Not all type A influenza viruses cause pandemics. Most of the seasonal flu that we are plagued with each year is caused by influenza A.
Influenza A viruses can spread from birds to pigs to humans, but they can also spread directly from birds to humans. This is what we are seeing right now in H5N1. Many of the patients who have contracted H5N1 had contact with infected birds.
It can also spread from person to person.
There have been clusters where the H5N1 virus has been spread from person to person. So far it appears that this hasn’t happened on a widespread basis. Once that does happen on a widespread basis, there will be a pandemic.
One of the main reasons to be very, concerned about H5N1 in particular, is that the current fatality rate is 76%. Over the past six months 76% of the patients who contracted the disease died in spite of hospital care, ventilators, anti-viral drugs, etc.
Most of the patients who have been infected with H5n1 and who have died have been healthy children, teens and young adults.
Our supply of anti-viral drugs is very small – we have enough for less than 5% of our population.
We cannot begin to make a vaccine until the virus mutates to pass easily from person to person. Scientists need the actual virus before they can begin to manufactor the vaccine. It will take at least 6-9 months after a pandemic begins before vaccine will be produced. At that point there will be only small quantities that will be used for healthcare workers, firemen, police, public health, etc.
There are things that people can do to protect themselves and their families.
Officials have said that we will be asked to stay in our homes to reduce the spread of the disease. We should have non-perishable food, water, baby food, pet food, medicine, cleaning products, etc.
Schools will be closed so it will be a good idea to have activities to keep children busy.
There are websites that have information about preparation for pandemic flu:
BEWARE, SCIENCE: T
he H5N1 refers to a the 5:1 ratio of influenza antigen types of hemagglutinin (which binds the virus to cells) to neuraminidase (which replicates the virus in your body). CORRECTION: The H5N1 refers to two protein which constitute the virus, the hemagglutinin (which binds the virus to cells) and the neuraminidase (which replicates the virus in your body). H5N1 possesses the 5th of several known hemagglutinin proteins, and the first of several known neuraminidase proteins.* Basically, this means that bird flu can infect with vengeance but bumbles like an old man after a scotch when it tries to replicate. This is good news for the world at the moment, but the Curious Mechanism doesn’t know how long this will last. Let alone the World Health Organization (WHO).
Influenza is a virus that has been around for millions of years. The flu is originally endemic to birds. From them, it spreads into ducks–chickens–pigs–finally humans. It’s already killing millions of chickens, has started killing pigs on a large scale in Indonesia and South China and has infect 277 people and killed 167.
So in 1997, avian influenza began to wreck havoc on South East Asia-especially Hong Kong. Millions of birds have been culled across the world since this crisis began, and progress for a vaccine has been slow at best. Diplomatic consensus in overcoming this potential crisis has slowed considerably since Indonesia has stopped providing blood samples for the creation of a vaccine (Indonesia has one of the highest totals of verified cases of bird flu and refuses to provide samples as long as the government believes they will only be used in states such as the United States and Great Britain).
Mr.Thursday applauds diplomacy but hates to see governments quibbling over details. A vaccine could prevent a deadly outbreak of bird flu, and mass production of the vaccine may not even be necessary if it is controlled early during an infection.
Recently, more outbreaks have occurred in the world such as in Egypt. However, the Curious Mechanism does not think this is an insurmountable problem. In fact, the world has overcome worse obstacles: Nazism, Robespierre, the New York Yankee Dynasty. At this moment, however, the global community is at a cross roads. Either they can fight this virus, fists in the air, or they can quietly let a dangerous disease thrive.
Mr.Thursday finds that avian influenza must be eliminated…before irrational and paranoid panic takes over…
*Big thanks to Dr. Alan Cann, whose comment pointed out our error. We are not biologists, and admit our information comes from the internet. We’ll do more fact checking next time. Also thanks to Wikipedia, which told us the truth, once we got around to looking for it.