Tuesday, October 25, 2005

H5N1: The end of us all?

There was a little bird and his name was Enza
I opened the window and in-flew-Enza.

The H5N1 or bird flu virus has gained increasing news coverage and drawn concern from the scientific community. The press has jumped on the latest outbreaks in countries such as, Romania, Turkey, and Greece as well as a case of the deadly virus in Britain. Germany also has recently reported two geese for testing positive for bird flu. So much news coverage has occurred that it even made this weeks cover of Newsweek magazine and reports are published daily in a variety of news sources. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3422839.stm (this is a good site to answer questions concerning the avian flu)
The avian flu is already creating large concern among the scientific world. As of yesterday 121 cases of human infection have been confirmed leading to 62 deaths. The virus, which can be passed from bird to human through close contact with the infected bird has raised the alarm for a potential strain of the virus which could be passed from human to human. Evidence suggests that this is already happening in small isolated instances. Although nearly spread easily enough at this point to cause a pandemic the fear that the virus will mutate is very real. The 1918 avian flu epidemic was started in much the same way, and scientists predict that the such a pandemic may be inevitable. This epidemic would be carried by birds and therefore spread quickly over the globe due to migratory patterns of birds.
The H5N1 strain of virus may not yet be deadly to many people but its crippling economic effects are already being seen. The EU voted today to ban the import of exotic birds from other countries in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus. While this may help, Romania has recently reported the virus in swans along the Ukrainian border. These cases in wild birds are perhaps the most frightening because there is no way to prevent the travel of these diseased birds and governments fear their countries live stock could be infected by the wild flu ridden birds. Once in livestock the risk to humans increases greatly and preventing that may be the key to slowing the effects of the flu. I expect countries and organizations such as the EU to begin banning imports of poultry in all geographic regions affected by the flu.

While the news about the bird flu may exaggerate the imminence of a widespread pandemic I belief that the scientists are right to worry. The case is much like the scenario of a hurricane hitting New Orleans; whether it happens today, this year, or 5 years from now the fact is it is inevitable. A widespread virus will sweep the world off its feet and we need to prepare now. Precautions and plans of actions must be laid out to minimize the potentially catastrophic effects of such a epidemic in our already over populated world which is getting smaller every day.


Blogger The Ravenous Pedestrian said...

YES! I have found the elusive Yeti!



Thu Oct 27, 11:01:00 PM  
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Sat Dec 31, 05:40:00 PM  

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