After confirming a bird flu outbreak earlier this year, the South Korean government isn’t taking this lightly. Besides culling all poultry in the affected areas, they have secured enough drugs against the dreaded disease for 2.5 million people.There hasn’t been any human cases in the country but they’ve taken precaution by vaccinating all the staff involved in the culling of the mentioned poultries.
Although the drugs weren’t identified, one is confirmed: oseltamivir, also known as Tamiflu and is manufactured by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding Ltd. This may seem drastic on the part of the government, but at least they are preparing for the worst.
Research from the University of Melbourne has discovered that boosting T-cell immunity can bolster the immune system enough to counter infection by the deadly H5N1(bird flu) flu virus strain. This comes as a well needed boost to the growing problem with the said virus which is considered to be one of the new generation super-bugs for it has the ability to jumo the species barrier. The problem arises when wild fowl who carry many strains of the flu virus but have ample immunity comes into contact with domesticated poultry and other birds. Domesticated birds have no such immunity, being grown totally in farms without the actions of natural selection at play. Once infected, like humans, exhibit symptoms of the flu which, can get in contact with people who also have no built-in immunity to the virus. T-cells are the super assassins of the human immune system and boosting them may allow the body to react promptly enough to stem the effects of the virus. The results of their research is well timed due to fears by epidemiologists that another flu-pandemic is underway with the recurrent surfacing of the virus in many of Asia’s domesticated fowl population.
Avian flu or the H5N1 virus that causes it has been known for a long time and is one of the nastiest types of viruses around. They are a rare form of virus that exists in birds but have a nasty ability to jump species and mutating as needed to adapt to a new host. The disease has claimed hundreds of lives(not counting the ones that go undocumented) and total cure still has to be developed or some wonder vaccine that would eradicate it at its source, the birds. The fact that some species of birds migrate makes tracking and monitoring ever so difficult but vaccines are now available to battle the several variants of the disease, the problem is getting it in enough quantities to inoculate everybody and guess what the next question is, cost! Experts suggest a cheap alternative if the vaccine is out of reach, the lowly face mask!
The strain of bird flu that has infected people in Asia and the Middle East recently is called H5N1. H5N1 is one of the
strains that are dangerous to birds.
The people who became infected with the H5N1 strain of avian flu caught it directly from birds. H5N1 cannot be spread from
person to person. Experts are concerned that the H5N1 strain of bird flu could mutate (change) into a new form that can
spread from person to person. This has happened in past flu outbreaks and has caused what is known as a pandemic. The
symptoms of bird flu in people tend to be similar to the typical flu: fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches. But this flu
can also lead to eye infections, pneumonia, and severe coughing and breathing problems. Doctors hope that certain antiviral
medications will help keep the flu from spreading if it becomes contagious to humans. These medications can’t cure bird flu,
but they can make the symptoms less severe.
A new drug has joined the fight against bird flu, also known as the avian flu: Prepandix. The European Commission has granted pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKlein a marketing license for the pre-pandemic vaccine .
According to the World Health Organization, vaccines are important for preventing influenza and the reduction of health consequences during a pandemic.
A pre-pandemic vaccine is produced in advance of a pandemic, based on the currently circulating avian H5N1 influenza virus likely to cause a pandemic, and has the ability to raise immune protection against potential drift H5N1 strains.
Pandemic vaccines won’t be available four to six months after a pandemic.
According to Steven Gamblin and his co-workers at the National Institute for Medical Research in London and the University of St Andrews, going against the bird flu with Tamiflu may not be enough.
Mutations arising which have a selection advantage are very quickly exploited [by the virus],’ Gamblin says. ‘Our study suggests that stockpiling a single drug, oseltamivir, might not be sufficient if we are faced with a pandemic.
This was proven as molecular pictures of another drug, zanamivir, may be more effective than Tamiflu. Zanamivir can block the active site of the mutant enzyme.
The reason why nations are stock piling on Tamiflu is because it is cheaper.