Monday, November 28, 2005

The Bird Flu Watch Goes On

And the news isn't very good.

Beijing - The H5N1 strain of bird flu seen in human cases in China has mutated as compared with strains found in human cases in Vietnam, state press said on Monday, citing a health ministry spokesperson.

This little bit of bad news was not unexpected, but is surely not welcome. The World Health Organization is trying to develop a plan to mount an effective resistance to any outbreak of a transmittable flu, but they know they face a hard battle.

The current threat is influenza A/H5N1, a strain of avian influenza that emerged in Hong Kong in 1997, was extinguished and emerged again. Since late 2003, it has killed 150 million birds and, by WHO's official count, has infected 125 people and killed 64.


No flu pandemic has ever been stopped or even controlled. GOARN's attempt would be the first.


When fully adapted to humans, by contrast, influenza is easily passed by breathing and coughing, and the virus can survive for hours on surfaces such as doorknobs and subway poles. Its victims tend to be up and around -- and infecting others during their peak infectiousness early in the illness. The virus thrives in cool, dry environments of the sort found indoors in winter.

H5N1 does not have those traits now. If it acquires them, they may not come rapidly or suddenly. Instead, H5N1 may stagger toward human transmissibility in steps

If it does fully mutate, we can hope that it's mortality numbers do decline. At currently over 50% it is terrifying.


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