Today, China informed the world that it had found its first two human cases of bird flu, including at least one fatality. The Chinese government is racing to vaccinate billions of chickens, ducks and other poultry in a massive effort to stop the spread of the virus. The government suspected a third case of bird flu in a 12-year-old girl who died, but her body was cremated before it could be tested.
Governments and businesses worldwide are gearing up for a potential deadly outbreak of the avian flu. U.S. President George Bush has already committed $7 Billion toward fighting the bird flu, while the world’s largest bank, Citigroup, has set up a bird flu taskforce to study prevention methods as well as the economic impact of an outbreak among humans. Some experts have estimated that the avian flu could have a negative economic impact of nearly $1 Trillion.
How is the threat affecting us currently? How will it affect society? Well, people in the non-European part of the world seem generally unconcerned so far. However, some companies, especially banks, seem to have adopted a proactive approach. U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers has held an off-site training session to prepare for bird flu, according to an undisclosed source familiar with the matter.
If a large-scale outbreak occurs, it would almost certainly affect the way the average person thinks about work, school, and social gatherings of any kind. Workplaces would be largely emtpy, as workers found ways to stay at home. Classrooms would also be non-existent, with children probably being considered ‘high-risk’ candidates to contract the flu. Sports leagues, which depend on ticket sales would be hit very hard. Even the trips to the supermarket would disappear as people find ways to lessen contact with each other.
In my experience, the more prepared we are for a catastrophe, the less likely it will occur. Thus, I believe that the bird flu will not amount to much (remember SARS?) and life will find a way to go on as normal. But, perhaps we should all be thinking now about how such an epidemic might change our lives, and even how we might look beyond what we see today, and try to envision what the world might look like years from now.
With so much concern being shown regarding the Bird Flu situation we are all asking if modern medicine can save us from what could become a human pandemic. Unfortunately it would appear that this is most unlikely, as the World Health Organization has explained that although modern day medicine has improved tremendously over the last decades a pandemic, such as bird flu, presently could result in 2 million to 7.4 million deaths globally.
It was expressed on their website, that huge demands would be made on local hospitals for many millions of outpatient visits and possibly 1.5 to 5.2 million hospital admissions in the high income countries alone which account for 15% of the worlds population.
It has been recorded that the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 to 1919 killed an estimated total of 40 million people from around the world and we are ever present of what possible tragedies can happen as highlighted by the 2002 to 2003 SARS scare which killed an astonishing 10% of those infected and was only barely prevented from becoming a global pandemic.
Unfortunately with the world becoming a smaller and more easily travelled place the possibilities of a world pandemic such as bird flu is becoming more than a possibility to occur in the coming years.
Unfortunately today the world has progressed to a situation that is ready to foster a global outbreak, such as a bird flu pandemic, and is quickly becoming virtually defenceless against such a tragedy becoming a real life situation.
The world seems to be ill prepared for such a tragedy, as bird flu, with no vaccines apparently available and no distribution network system in place for such an event.
It would appear that it would be in each person’s own interest to prepare individually to prevent their own weakness to catching such a virus, as bird flu, and an obvious solution would be to investigate natural anti-viral foods, nutritional supplements and herbs that may offer a powerful medicine to overcome these ever looming threats.
I am often asked, “where did Bird flu come from.” There really isn’t a definitive answer, a variation of bird flu has probably been around since the dawn of humankind in one form or another. The first known avian influenza virus was identified in Italy in 1878 as a “serious disease of chickens”.
In Hong Kong 1997, the H5N1 strain of avian influenza virus was first documented, when it caused severe respiratory problems in 18 humans, of whom six died. A total culling of all chickens and removal of chicken meat from all markets in the area was supposed to put a stop to the virus, however less then 6 years later in February of 2003 another outbreak of H5N1 killed 1 person and sickened another in Hong Kong.
Recent research suggests that the Spanish flu of 1918 was a mutated form of the H1N1 virus, the name associated with the then current Bird Flu mutation. Two teams of scientists conducted this research.
One led by Sir John Skehel, director of the National Institute for Medical Research in London and another by Professor Ian Wilson of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.
They used a sample of lung tissue collected from the remains of an Inuit woman, in Alaska, who died during the 1918 Spanish flu and DNA samples from the remains of solders who died during world war two of the disease.
The two teams analyzed the structure of the gene and discovered how subtle alterations to the shape of a protein molecule had allowed it to move from birds to humans with such devastating effects.
Since the Hong Kong strain of the bird flu in 1997 was reported, tens of millions of birds have died of H5N1 influenza and hundreds of millions of birds were culled (slaughtered and disposed of).
All evidence suggests that if in fact the H5N1 virus were to mutate into a human transmittable disease, somewhere around 150,000,000 human deaths directly due to H5N1 infection (or two to three percent of the world’s human population) would occur.
The World Health Organization (WHO) makes reports and updates regarding new human cases of infection with bird flu. The only subtype that can cause severe illness to people is Influenza A /H5N1 virus, initially it affects chickens, ducks and other birds by the process of mutation they can become highly pathogenic. Because highly pathogenic viruses can survive for long periods in tissue, water and in the environment, especially when temperatures are low is transmitted very easily in chickens and other birds through direct contact with feces and secretions from infected birds, eggs, feed, water, cages equipment, vehicles and clothing. Public health authorities monitor human illnesses associated with avian influenza. In Hong-Kong occured for the first time infection both in humans and poultry and were killed about 1.5 million chickens.
In China and Hong-Kong avian influenza A (H9N2) virus infection affected two children who recovered. The source was unknown, but suspected the poultry.
In Virginia, 2002 an outbreak of H7N2 among poultry was descovered but,with no human victims. Canada, 2004: human infections among poultry workers with H7N3.
Thailand and Vietnam human infections with H5N1. Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey, 2006: Human infections with H5N1 occurred as a result of contact with infected poultry and with infected death swangs. Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, 2005 two persons have been infected with H5N1 as result of consuming uncooked duck blood. China two cases of patogenic infections with avian influenza A (H5N1) have been confirmed in a family travelling through China. Netherlands, 2003 were reported outbreaks of influenza A (H7N7) in several farms, after which in pigs and people, 90 people were confrmed with bird flu virus H7N7 in association with cases of eye conjunctivitis, one death occured at a veterinarian with acute respiratory distress syndrome and other complications after having direct contact with infected poultry. In New York, 2003 there has been registered one case a patient with respiratory symptoms which recovered in few weeks and tests confirmed it had been avian influenza A (H7N2) virus. Signs and symptoms of bird flu in humans are similar to other influenza viruses: sore throat and cough, fever, muscle weakness and/or pain, eye infections, with life-threatening complications such as: severe viral pneumonia, respiratory distress syndrome, multi- organ failure.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests the following antiviral agents supposed to prevent and treat avian influenza: amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir, and zanamivir. They may be not always effective it has been demonstrated that viruses are resistent to amantadine and rimantadine. In the United States they are not in use any more for the treatment or prevention (prophylaxis) of influenza A. Specialists are monitoring the resistence of avian influenza A viruses to influenza antiviral medications.
Bulletin on Bird Flu (Avian Influenza)
Bill Gates announced that he would add an additional $250 million to the $4 billion he has already given to tackle the world’s most deadly diseases. What are these deadly diseases and how might they affect you?
One that is on the rise and has infections disease experts concerned and fearing a worldwide pandemic with potentially disastrous results is the “bird flu.” Unlike an epidemic—which is localized and affects a defined geographic area—pandemics are worldwide epidemics and as such, are far more serious and difficult to contain, especially in today’s modern age, with literally millions of individuals traveling internationally each year.
What is the Bird Flu?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “bird flu” is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among birds. While wild birds usually do not get sick from them, it is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds—including chickens, ducks, and turkeys—very sick and kill them.
History of similar flu strains
The bird flu is related to the Spanish flu, which broke out as a worldwide pandemic in 1918. While estimates of the death toll and number of individuals stricken vary, most experts estimate that more than 20 million Americans became sick and of these, about 500,000 died—about ten times more than were killed in battle during World War I. Experts place the worldwide death toll from the Spanish flu at between 30 and 50 million. Many people died within the first few days after infection, and others died later of other complications. Nearly half of those who died were young, healthy adults—something that is a-typical for most common virus strains today, which tend to affect the most vulnerable among us—the young, the old, and the infirmed.
Potential to infect humans
Bird flu viruses do not usually infect humans, but several cases of human infection with bird flu viruses have occurred since 1997. As of July 5, 2005, there have been 116 confirmed human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, resulting in 54 deaths, and at least two have died in the Netherlands. Most cases occurred among poultry workers and are believed to have been transmitted through human contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. However, there is at least one documented human-to-human transmission, and there may be others.
Risks to humans today
The potential risk of a pandemic breaking out today could be significant for the following reasons:
Potential for mutation. Influenza viruses are constantly changing, and while person-to-person transmission of the bird flu is rare, experts fear that strains will adapt over time to infect and spread among humans.
No vaccines. There is no vaccine and while efforts are underway, developing one will be difficult and take many years, since this modern strain has been so rare among humans.
No immunity. There is little preexisting natural immunity to infection in the human population.
Mortality (death) rate. While the Spanish flu had an estimated 5% mortality rate, the early outbreaks of the bird flu had an estimated 70% mortality rate. However, according to recent information from officials, mortality rates have declined to about 30%. This should be good news but it is not, because if that trend continues, it is more likely that greater longevity of infected humans will make them more difficult to identify early on. This lack of early detection could result in more people contracting the bird flu as it silently spreads—thus increasing the chances it will become a global pandemic.
Symptoms of bird flu
Symptoms of bird flu in humans have ranged from typical flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches) to eye infections, pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases and distress, and other serious and life-threatening complications. The symptoms of bird flu may depend on which strain of the virus caused the infection.
Medications for combating symptoms if you become infected
Several medications have been in common use for combating viral symptoms for a number of years, and while it is unknown just how effective they will be to help with bird flu, it seems appropriate to have something to do if it gets started in you or your family. As with all medications, be sure to read the package inserts for possible warnings regarding contraindications, drug interactions, and possible side effects prior to taking them.
Singular. This medication was developed years ago as an anti-cytokine agent for asthma, sinusitis, inflammatory lung disease or allergies. Cytokines are released when viruses enter cells to call for white blood cells and immunologic proteins to come to fight off the virus. Sometimes cytokines become present in excess and cause a “cytokine storm” that kills its victims within hours.
Tamiflu. This antiviral agent has been on the market for several years and has been singled out by the World Health Organization as the drug of choice against the bird flu, due to is proven effectiveness in treating those infected with H5N1, the strain most likely to be involved in the event of a worldwide outbreak. Tamiflu must be used as soon as possible (within1 – 3 days within the onset of symptoms) to be useful. All major governments are currently stockpiling it, to protect their employees in the case of a pandemic and allow them to continue to provide necessary services to their citizens.
Physicians and other prescribers should be aware that patients with severe influenza-like illness—especially those with chronic medical conditions or complicated manifestations of acute illness—might have significant bacterial infections instead of, or in addition to, viral illness and should be evaluated accordingly.
What to do if you decide to buy the prescriptions
We suggest the following as a reasonable approach, given all available information to date:
Don’t take the medications until the flu has spread to humans in your town.
Realize that Tamiflu may be on backorder at some pharmacies. In this case, put your name on the list at your local pharmacy and ask them to notify you when it comes in.
Store them both in the refrigerator or freezer. Doing so will make them last years after the expiration date. Be sure to remember where you put them, as you may not be able to remember if you are feeling sick. Also inform family members.
When the media alerts you to the presence of bird flu in your community consider beginning the regimen shown below:
Start taking Singulair once a day to ward off the first of the cytokine problems.
When you think you may have contracted the flu, increase the Singulair to twice a day and begin taking the Tamiflu twice a day.
Begin all the usual supportive measures you have found useful for the flu in the past, and be sure to stay well hydrated by drinking lots of liquid.
Call your physician to alert them and consider making an appointment for an evaluation to prevent unnecessary and potentially serious complications from secondary infections.
Experts believe that the bird flu pandemic will hit the human population and that it is only a matter of time. No one knows for sure, but most agree it will be in the next 50 years, and many expect that the outbreak will occur in next few months. An estimated 350 million or more people could die in the bird flu pandemic. For now, the medications noted above are not scheduled to go into increased production and thus severe shortages could result—with a large gap between those who need them and those who are able to get them.
If you would like to be prepared, get your prescriptions soon.
Other sources for information
About the bird flu and to obtain the latest CDC updates:
Avian bird flu, often referred to as Avian influenza, is an infectious disease found usually in birds which is caused by A strains of the influenza virus. This influenza virus occurs naturally in the intestines of wild birds and usually does not cause them sickness.
Avian influenza, or influenza A, is chiefly found in animals, but a virus infection of this type could occur in humans. Although cases of human infection have been on the rise since 1997, risk from this virus to humans is considered mild. In most cases, humans have caught this disease by coming in contact with contaminated surfaces like water bowls and cages, and with infected birds.
Cases of transmission of this virus from an infected human to another human have not been recorded officially. Some human influenza viruses are known to be subtypes of the avian bird flu influenza. Influenza A is continuously changing and it is possible that subtypes may adapt over time to infect and spread among humans.
Migratory waterfowl, most notably wild ducks, are the natural reservoir of avian influenza viruses, which is very contagious among them. When passed on to domestic birds like chicken, ducks and turkeys, the virus can make them very sick and even result in their death.
Infected birds transmit the influenza virus through their saliva, nasal secretion and feces. Domestic birds can contract the sickness when they come in contact with food containers, cage bars, water bowls, floors or with material such as feed and water that has become contaminated with this virus.
There is an extensive number of influenza viruses potentially circulating in bird populations, due to the fact that there are over a dozen subtypes of the influenza virus that infect birds. To date, all outbreaks of avian influenza have been caused by influenza A viruses of subtypes H5 and H7.
The sickness caused by this virus often take two stages. The first is a mild stage which often goes undetected. Symptoms for this stage are ruffled feathers and a drop in egg production. The second stage is where the internal organs of infected birds stop functioning and ultimately results in the death of the bird within 48 hours.
Humans who become infected with influenza A show symptoms similar to human influenza virus, and they may suffer from fever, muscle aches, sore throat, cough and eye infections.
In severe cases, they may have pneumonia and other life-threatening diseases. Death is a possible outcome of the infection.
What can we do to try to prevent a world-wide pandemic? While the efficacy of vaccines is no sure protection, many are trying to get their hands on these, since there is a chance that vaccines might help. The Australian government, not unlike many other governments, have stockpiled vaccines such as Tamiflu to prepare themselves for a possible outbreak of avian influenza, even though the exact virus that causes influenza A in humans has not yet been identified.
Another point to remember is that these viruses often become resistant to vaccines so by the time they are used, the particular influenza strain might not react to the present vaccines.
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