Avian influenza

From ArticleWorld

Avian Flu (bird flu, influenzavirus A flu, avian flu, type A flu, or genus A flu) is the suspected possible cause of an international human influenza pandemic in 2005. Although the original virus was communicable only between birds, specifically fowl (asymptomatic carriers), the potential for virus mutation existed and eventually after the original discovery in the early 1900s, the virus began to be spotted in various mammal species.

The current fear in 2005 is that the virus causing the avian flu is capable of now mutating into a strain of the virus potentially deadly to humans. Vaccine studies are currently underway, investigating options in case a pandemic situation develops. The virus is said to be so contagious that there is a potential risk similar to that experienced during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu of 1918.

Seals and humans, whales and pigs and birds and horses are all potential victims of a migrated form of the virus.

The strain of the virus that is suspected of being able to cause such a huge pandemic situation is H5N1. The World Health Organization (WHO) suspects that an outbreak could start in Hong Kong.

There are six stages in the development of a medical epidemic. Currently, the WHO indicates that we are at the third stage. This means that humans have been diagnosed with the avian flu, however there does not appear to be a highly contagious situation at present.

On of the major reasons that the WHO believes immunizations could be ineffective against the H5N1 strain is that in the early 1990s, the influenza spread rampantly among chickens in China, and even those birds vaccinated against the disease were effected and even died.

Drugs like olestamivir, amantadine and even zanamivir could maybe offer resistance to or in treatment of infection. Many countries throughout the world have increased production of and started stockpiling olestamivir, but are now also including zanamivir because olestamivir resistant strains of avian flu have been discovered in Vietnam.