Bird flu threatens country

By Daina Havens
November 11, 2005

Shane Evans

The spread of the dreaded bird flu was acknowledged as a “global threat” by European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday, Oct. 18. Dr. Marc Siegel, author of “False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear,” said it is likely that such a pandemic could occur “over the next 50 years and maybe even over the next 10 or 20,” according to the Associated Press.

Picture standing beside a 15-month old baby girl as her tears drench the examination table. This little girl is suspected of having the bird flu and is being treated in Hanoi, Vietnam. Hope diminishes as time passes and there is still no cure or vaccination to appease her steady whimpering.

Seasonal flu vaccination fails to safeguard the human species from a potential bird flu pandemic. The recent media coverage of a bird flu, also referred to as avian influenza, outbreak has caused great distress and misunderstanding among the general population. The human flu virus and the avian bird flu virus are both caused by the influenza virus, but are composed of two very different flu strains, making it impossible to vaccinate against both with only one flu shot.

Although vaccinations have been researched and are in the developmental process, there is no avian flu shot currently commercially available.

“From what I hear, it sounds dangerous, but nothing really can be done until there is a vaccine so I wouldn’t worry about it right now,” junior exercise science major Elizabeth Wackerle said.

Although the current cases have originated around the Asian continent, the possibility of a human outbreak reaching America’s protected soil has become a possible reality.

“The world is woefully unprepared,” Mike Leavitt, the U.S. secretary of health and human services, said.

Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of the influenza virus, according to the Associated Press. Because the human species has not yet developed a strong immunity to the particular strain of Avian Flu, the necessity of preventing an outbreak is heightened.

This winter season, many people may get the seasonal Flu. Common Flu symptoms include high fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches, and in severe cases, acute respiratory distress, and other life-threatening complications. Avian Flu symptoms are very similar, including fever, sore throat, cough and in some fatal cases, severe respiratory distress along with to viral pneumonia. Everyone could be at risk if an outbreak occurred, even healthy adults who have been affected by past complications of the virus.

For a bird flu outbreak to occur in humans, the virus must first learn how to mutate into a state that will affect the species. It is rare that this particular virus spreads from person to person, and substantial precautions have been taken already. Medicine is now more sophisticated than it was during the 1997 bird flu outbreak in Hong Kong, and the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, in which 50 million people died, and there are currently anti-viral treatments, primarily the drug Tamiflu.

Experts say there is currently no cause for panic due to the precautions that have been taken along with the steady attention that has been issued to this topic. With the proper preparation and awareness of this preventable tragedy, the bird flu can be beaten this winter season. The Bush administration is taking the issue seriously, and experts say to cook your chicken thoroughly this year. Also, focus on avoiding the seasonal flu while the bird flu threat continues to be studied and vaccines continue to be improved.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments . The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Daina Havens

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