Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bird Flu Pandemic Facts From The CDC (New York) by Conor Kelly

Viruses, like all living organisms are adaptive by nature.  However, they rely upon other organisms, or hosts, to survive and thrive.  The adaptive properties of viruses include the ability to change basic genetic structure to survive within their host.  Despite very rare cases of H5N1 viruses in humans, medical experts are becoming increasing concerned that the H5N1 virus could mutate, or adapt to human hosts and become more transmittable between humans.  In the case of the H5N1, or bird-flu the virus is most virulent in avian animals.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) these include: 
·         Avian influenza A viruses have been isolated from more than 100 different species of wild birds from around the world. Most of these viruses were low pathogenic avian influenza A viruses.
·         The majority of these wild birds have been aquatic birds, including gulls, terns, and shorebirds, or waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans. These wild birds are considered reservoirs (hosts) for avian influenza A viruses.
  • Around the world, avian influenza A outbreaks occur among poultry from time to time.
  • Currently, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1) virus is considered endemic among poultry in six countries (Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam). This means the virus is commonly found in poultry in those countries. Sporadic outbreaks have occurred among poultry in other countries.
Bird flu in humans is very rare.  Since 2003, approximately 606 cases of bird flu have been reported world-wide.  However, those known infections carried a 60% mortality rate, mostly in adolescents between the ages of 11-18 and the elderly.  Although rare the CDC says that Avian influenza A viruses may be transmitted from animals to humans in two main ways:
·         Directly from birds or from avian influenza A virus-contaminated environments to people.
·         Through an intermediate host, such as a pig.

HPAI H5N1 viruses circulating among birds have evolved and are continuing to evolve into different subgroups of viruses, called ‘clades.’ Notably, there are geographic differences in the circulation of some HPAI H5N1 viruses. Because HPAI H5N1 viruses are evolving in unpredictable ways, it is critical to monitor the spread and circulation of these viruses among poultry and other birds, in order to understand the risk of spread to humans.
Now, scientists have engineered versions of the H5N1 bird flu that spread easily among mammals through droplets in sneezes and have concluded that the deadly virus could trigger a global pandemic in humans.

Vaccination and Treatment for HPAI H5N1 in Humans
HPAI H5N1 vaccine is being stockpiled for pandemic preparedness by the United States government. It is not currently available for use. It could be used if an HPAI H5N1 virus begins transmitting easily and efficiently from person to person.
Oseltamivir remains the primary recommended antiviral drug for treatment and chemoprophylaxis for HPAI H5N1.

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