Monday, October 24, 2005

Avian Bird Flu

October 24, 2005 -- A new website has been launched as a complete Bird Flu Survival Guide. The http://bird-flu-influenza.com website was developed out of a need to provide people with a comprehensive, easy to understand resource on Bird Flu.

The Guide contains the following information:
1.What is it
2.What could happen
3.What to do
4.What are the symptoms
5.How to care for infected persons
6.What to buy
7.How to survive
8.Folk medicines - scientifically researched
9.References and sources of information

The information was compiled by a biologist and is available for free from the site (http://bird-flu-influenza.com/bird-flu-information.htm). There is also a PDF version that can be downloaded for $3.50 (http://bird-flu-influenza.com/bird-flu-ebook.htm).

Below is an introduction to the Avian Influenza Bird Flu taken from the site:

Bird flu (avian influenza) is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. Bacteria are much larger than viruses. They grow and divide in two to reproduce. Treatments and medications used for bacterial infections often may not work for viral infections. Viruses are much smaller. To reproduce they enter inside cells and then reprogram the host cell to produce thousands of viruses that then burst out of the host cell to infect other cells. The H5N1 virus mainly reproduces in lung tissues. The H represents a type of protein found on the virus that helps it to enter cells. The N represents a type of protein that helps the virus escape the host cell.

The H5N1 virus is a new type of influenza, a virus that originated in birds. Most individuals in a target population will have very little immunity from this new virus. In the past, deadly pandemic bird flu viruses continued to evolve to a less deadly form which we experience every flu season. Some have just disappeared.

Initially, the H5N1 influenza virus only infected birds (often with 100% mortality for domestic poultry). Later, as the H5N1 virus evolved, mammals such as pigs, tigers, cats and humans became infected by eating infected birds and by poor hygiene procedures when handling infected birds. The H5N1 virus is steadily evolving to become even easier to be infected by birds and infected humans are now infecting other humans but with inefficient transmission.

This virus is potentially very dangerous because it is mutating at a very high rate into different new strains of H5N1 that eventually may spread between humans as easily as the common cold. This is what has occurred with other new but similar bird flu viruses in the past. At present, the mortality rate of the H5N1 virus in infected humans is 50% to 75%. If or when this new H5N1 virus evolves to a stage of efficiently transmitting between humans then infections between humans will rapidly spread and a worldwide epidemic or pandemic will occur with potentially disastrous consequences for everyone.

On July 23, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the world could at any time be faced with a massive flu outbreak like those of 1918 or 1968 that killed tens of millions of people. (Recent research is showing that the 1918 Spanish Flu alone may have killed 100 million people)

In a statement to the Courier Mail on July 30, 2005 the Australian Federal Health Minister, Mr Abbott said that, “The flu pandemic is more likely to occur in the next 12 months than in any time in the past decades. I hope it never happens but almost certainly it will happen.” Later, in another public statement about the potential bird flu pandemic on 31 August, 2005 Mr Abbott says, “Australians are unused to contemplating death on a large scale …since WW2.”

There have been many more dire warnings about the potential devastating effects of a H5N1 pandemic on the world from many other traditionally conservative scientific and political authorities. It would be expected that only the lower conservative estimates and scenarios are being given to the public to prevent mass panic. For example, the WHO often compares and uses the statistics of the 1968 Hong Kong Flu pandemic to predict the estimated death toll of this potential H5N1 influenza pandemic. The 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic had the lowest death rate of all the most recent pandemics and the predicted global death toll of 7 million people would not warrant such serious warnings presently being given by many other authorities. Recent research from the U.S. Institute of Pathology (Jeffrey Taubenberger et al 2005) indicates that the H5N1 virus is evolving similar to that of the deadly 1918 Spanish Flu virus and not like the less harmful Asian or Hong Kong Flu virus. The 1918 Spanish Flu virus did not combine with a human influenza virus. It simply evolved to become more efficient at human to human transmission, similar to what the H5N1 virus is doing now. The Spanish Flu had a worldwide infection rate of 50% and a mortality rate of 5% and killed approximately 100 million people.

This present H5N1 virus has a mortality rate of at least 50% (the infection rate is unknown). Some scientists expect this high mortality to drop if this virus becomes pandemic but this is only an assumption and may not occur. Even with a 5% mortality rate at least 160 million people will die directly from the pandemic and this does not include the possible subsequent deaths due to the likely breakdown of essential services, such as food, water, and medical supplies etc. The effects on the world from a higher mortality rate would be too horrendous to contemplate but still possible.

Most scientific authorities agree that it is not possible to predict when this pandemic will begin or how deadly it may become. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish new information that is alarmist and exaggerated from conservative, panic avoidance propaganda. Scientific data and research is not being openly shared between countries or between important scientific research organisations.

From the World Health Organisation convention in Geneva 2004, the conclusion was reached that the H5N1 virus would not be able to be contained once the virus mutated to a form involving efficient transmission from human to human. The pandemic will have to run its course. All countries are under prepared to cope with a large-scale deadly influenza outbreak that is expected from this H5N1 virus. There will not be enough staff, hospital beds, medical supplies, antiviral drugs or vaccines to help most of the people who will be affected by this virus. This is in developed countries. Medical help in under developed countries will be almost non existent.

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