Avian Flu: Frequently Asked Questions

October 16 11:09 2005 Print This Article

Is the much-touted pandemic inevitable?

Not really, there have been no known cases of transfer between humans, only from bird to human. However the nature of viruses is to find a suitable host and spread therefore a new strain consisting of the very deadly H5N1 virus and the human influenza is likely.

So why is everyone getting their panties in a twist about it?

First of all the poultry industry will take a gigantic hit whether it stays at the current strain or evolves. The virus is potentially dangerous for humans so every infected or possibly exposed bird is killed to prevent widespread infections. Turkey and Romania have been recently hit by the deadly virus so it is likely that other European countries will experience the virus as well in the near future. The possibility of this becoming a killer influenza is high, history has taught us that a deadly influenza strain hits society every decade or so.

Are there any risks to humans already?

Yes actually, for example is Asia there have been over 120 cases reported to date of which a steady 50% died. Bird to man infection is very easy through contact with infected birds.

What would happen if the killer virus evolves?

Well if we are faced with a human strain of the H5N1 virus it is almost sure that a global pandemic will occur. Modern traveling is the biggest issue, someone can fly across the globe in a few days and thus an infected person could spread it throughout several countries. Death tolls of anywhere between five million and 150 million have been named, which would be devastating. Public life would be disrupted and the health care demand would be unmanageable.

Is it likely to happen this winter?

No it’s not likely to happen this winter. We would first need an epidemic among birds before the virus will be ready to evolve into an human strain. Things can go fast though, as soon as there is an human strain the pandemic could spread as fast as a several weeks.

Are the governments doing anything?

Most governments are stocking up on the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, this drug is the only anti-viral drug that has been proven to work in a majority of the cases. Survival rates are about 70% when the symptoms are discovered early and the treatment is followed strictly. It has been reported that in some cases a double dose was needed to treat the disease. However there is no “real” cure for the avian flu yet.

Will everyone receive such a treatment?

Sadly no, the stocks are not high enough to provide everyone with a treatment. Infected people and high-risk persons will be treated first. Most governments have about 25% of their countries’ population covered included standing orders for this drug. The manufacturer is not able to produce enough to cover all orders quickly though, for example the United States will not receive their recent order until mid next year.

Is there a cure available?

No, quite simply there is no way to develop a successful vaccine without the actual disease. The strain first has to evolve into a human version before there can be any research done on a cure.

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