With the convenience of modern travel, planes flying off to distant countries in a few hours, the new scourge of flu more commonly referred to as the “Swine Flu” has reached full spread with cases reported in almost all corners of the world. Mexico is ground zero and from its famous beaches, whole flights have been infected taking the virus all over the globe. From New Zealand, Australia, China and many other continents the virus has spread with some deaths reported. The severity of the cases have been quite blown out of proportion, maybe a result of the H5N1 strain which scared the hell out of everyone but as with any flu strain simple precautions go along way to help protect people from the spread of the disease.
Influenza has become a common illness among humans that its occurrence is no longer a threat. However, viruses have the ability to mutate, some becoming more dangerous. Today’s population may not believe it, but looking at history, flu outbreaks have actually taken more lives than you could have imagined. Check this out:
1918 to 1919 Spanish flu pandemic, also remembered as the Black Death or the plague.
Exact numbers for this pandemic are hard to establish, and different sources offer different numbers, but in the same general range. Estimates suggest that between 20% and 50% of the entire world’s population was infected, and as many as 50 million people died.
It was noted that most at risk of the disease were the healthy group aged 15 to 40. Normally, that age group are more resistant to viral infections. Since the virus is air borne, human to human transfer happened fast and easy, that in some areas, people wore masks and even hand shaking was banned.
A human may have infected another human(s) during the last cluster of H5N1 bird flu infections in Pakistan, but only to a small degree, the World Health Organization (WHO) believes. Some of the international test results have not come back yet. The WHO believes that this could be an instance of close contact human-to-human transmission in a very restricted area and non-sustained, as was the case in Thailand and Indonesia. The good news is that it seems the bird flu outbreak has not spread – there have been no new reports of human infection or suspected human infection with bird flu since December 6th, when eight people had became ill. A veterinarian died, as did two of his brothers. Bird flu infection cannot be specified for one of the brothers because samples were never taken. The veterinarian had been involved in the culling of sick birds.
The virus that causes bird flu appears to be versatile and resilient. Scientists are working on a new vaccine that would be effective against the new strain of the virus that causes Bird flu. There are different subtypes and strains of the virus that causes bird flu, and some cause more severe disease than others. Results of the examinations for the H5N1 virus that causes bird flu are be announced later on Sunday, officials said.
Certainly the virus that causes bird flu could mutate so that it could be transmitted from human to human.
A new type of a virus that causes bird flu appeared in Japan, Reuters announced.
Do not assume that any form of bird flu killed the ducks or geese, because these birds can die from many other causes.
The poultry industry tests continuously to make sure the virus that causes Asian bird flu doesn’t get a foothold in commercial poultry flocks. At present, the virus that causes Asian bird flu does not easily infect humans. The H5N1 virus which causes bird flu struck a human being for the first time in 1997. It appears that the H5N1 bird-flu virus causes a massive immunological response against the virus in those with the strongest immune systems.
An influenza outbreak among birds occurs when the virus causes serious illness or death and is spread from bird to bird. Migratory water fowl, and ducks in particular, carry the virus that causes bird flu. This bird flu strain mutates rapidly, easily mixes with viruses from other species and causes severe disease in humans. The Bird Flu virus causes severe flu-like symptoms in people and may result in death.
Proper cooking kills the virus that causes bird flu. An 18-year-old man became the ninth person in Vietnam to die after contracting the H5N1 virus, which causes bird flu.
Turkish health ministry officials confirmed that in seven cases of ill individuals, the virus identified was the one that causes bird flu. For three reasons: 1.They don’t change because unlike humans birds don’t have immunity towards influenza which causes them no reason to mutate.
Infection with bird flu viruses in domestic poultry causes two main forms of disease that are distinguished by low and high extremes of virulence.
A recent report has confirmed that a father and son in China had been infected with bird flu, wherein the son caught the virus in a poultry market, and the father caught the flu from his son. The 24-year old son died while the 52-year old father survived after being treated and vaccinated in a H5N1 clinical trial. Other family members, colleagues and friends were also treated to make sure the virus does not spread. All the others tested negative for the H5N1 virus, which means the virus does not easily spread through casual contact. Samples of the virus from father and son showed almost identical genetic characteristics.
These days all one seems to hear in India is “Bird Flu”. The disease which has taken a major part of India in its grip, has not only severly affected the poultry industry of the nation but also it has sent panic bells ringing across the states – from Delhi in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South, to West Bengal in the East, the latter being worst affected. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the current outbreak of Bird Flu in India as the worst case reported till date.
In the affected areas, chickens are being culled at a rapid pace, but still the disease is spreading its wings from one district to the other, from one state to another. One primary reason for the rapid spread of Bird Flu is the lack of awareness about the virus which causes the disease. Almost everyone knows that the disease is lethal, but not many know what causes it, how it spreads, and how it can be prevented.
And now, for some good news – many people associate rats with filth, infection, and disease, but there’s one very special type of rat that just might turn their perceptions around.
In Africa, Gambian Pouched rats are trained to sniff out land mines in fields. There critters measure about two hand-spans high when standing up, and are quickly becoming the new heroes of residents in the area. APOPO, a Belgian non=government organization, trains these rats and educates people who show interest and promise in being rat handlers. The monicker for these trained critters is HeroRATS, and rightfully so.
HeroRATS not only sniff out landmines, but also can detect the presence of tuberculosis and bird flu in human saliva. They have managed to quickly identify 300 cases of bird flu, cases that were undetectable, even by a microscope. Could these helpful heroes become the new breakthrough in the fight against bird flu? No one knows for sure, but as long as there’s handlers and yummy green bananas for them, these rats will keep sniffing on to people’s safety.