Bird flu – pandemic or histeria?

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Courtesy of Atlantic Environmental, Inc.

Bird flu, Avian Influenza or Influenza A virus, subtype H5N1 is a virus that is adapted to infect birds, especially in Southeast Asia. There is no evidence of efficient human-to-human transmission or of airborne transmission to humans. In almost every recorded human case, the affected persons had extensive physical contact with infected birds. About half of those who contracted the virus died from the infection. Worldwide, there have been 228 recorded cases of Bird Flu in humans, of which, 130 cases resulted in death. Of these, 39 deaths occurred in Indonesia, 42 in Vietnam, 14 in Thailand and 12 in mainland China. All of the others also occurred in 3rd World countries.

What does that mean for us, living in a country with the world’s most advanced medical technology? Unless and until this virus mutates in such a way as to allow humans to infect one another by direct contact or to become infectious if inhaled, it doesn’t mean much. However, viruses are notorious for their ability to mutate, so there is a real possibility that this could become a problem.

How can we protect ourselves? Probably the best protection is to continue living in the or where there is a good health system. We can’t rely on vaccines because it takes 6 to 9 months to produce once the virus develops the ability to infect humans. Vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies to make you immune, but there is no antibiotic that will kill viruses that have already infected you. If you do contract Bird Flu, the level of medical care available to people in the U.S. makes survival much more likely. Frequently, washing your hands, refusing to shake hands, frequent disinfecting of surfaces like doorknobs and handles and other means of avoiding physical contacts that could directly transfer germs, are good ways to limit possible contamination. Keeping a good state of nutrition and getting enough sleep are also important steps that can keep a healthy immune system.

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