Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Bird Flu ?

In case you didn't know I also have a degree in Microbiology which is why I'm interested in topics like the current "bird flu" scare. Here are some need to know facts 1. It's not in the USA 2. It has not shown an ability to transmit from human to human 3. It can't infect your horse or you....yet. You can find more on this here and here.
What you see in the news is a discription of the virus as H & N numbers. This is related to surface makers H= hemagglutinin ( 16 subtypes) and N= neuraminidase(9 subtypes), this one is classified as H5N1. This flu infects birds and has spread to humans working with them in about 160 cases in asia. Of these cases about 40% were fatal, making it a serious world health risk. The buzz word is "pandemic", which is a new disease that spreads from person to person. There have been 3 pandemics in the last 100 years , the first being the flu outbreak at the turn of the last century(1918)and most recently in 1968. The concern is that this virus will spread as the birds migrate towards Africa where a significant number of people suffer from AIDS and have a weakened immune system. This provides an environment where the virus can come in contact with others and could mutate into a form that can spread by direct human contact.
The current thought is that should this happen it could be in the US within two months. Hmmmmmm, makes you think. The reason this would be so devastating is that the human immune system has never seen this virus before and has no antibodies directed against it.....
it would be like having AIDS or having had chemotherapy and getting the flu. There would be nothing in your body to stop it. So where do we go from here. Right now it is just wait and see as to what the virus does over the next few years ( you'll hear about it again). The stock piling of drugs such as Tamiflu isn't warranted at this point and the current flu shot won't help ( although it is still a good idea for other reasons). This has the potential to be real bad, but there have always been bugs like this out there and we never heard about them until the 24 hour news cycle, the difference now is the amount of global travel and how fast one can spread around the world. Keep your eyes open for changes and keep reading. I've always thought that it wouldn't be man's violence or stupidity that would do us in......it would be the BUGS.


Anonymous said...

question 4 u.

the letters H and N in the ''H5N1'' bird flu name
stand for hemagglutinin (of which there are 15 types) and
neuraminidase (of which there are 9 types)?

We once told readers what SARS
stood for, why don't we tell them what H5N1stands for?

dan , in bird flu country...

=============================but see the:

THE REBUTTAL: "We told readers what SARS stands for, and because each of the words is English, there's a chance they will remember them. Few people besides biologists are going to remember what the H and the N stand for, or care. I'd be surprised if any significant portion of the general public even remembers H5N1 after putting the paper down..................................................
.....How many reporters know what AM and FM radio stand for? VHS? USA culture is replete with acronyms that most people can't spell out. It is a waste of trees to try and "educate" them to the extent that they can rattle off terms used only by gene researchers.

Dr. Alan Weldon said...

Good point, but sad commentary on our educational level. Since they are all
"bird Flu's" this one needs a special moniker. They have been named over the years by place of origin, ie Hong Kong, Asian, Russian ect. Tough to say for this one since it's been around since 1998 and the hot spot is obscure.