The deadly Asian bird flu virus is now being found in migratory birds.
...There is a web of migratory flyways around the globe. The ones taken by the species congregating at Qinghai Lake intersect with others that lead to Europe. That theoretically provides a way for the H5N1 virus to reach that continent.
H5N1 influenza virus was first detected in southern China in 1996. In 1997, it caused a major outbreak in Hong Kong, which led to the death of 1.5 million poultry and six people.
The virus most recently emerged in South Korea in late 2003. Since then, it has led to the death of 100 million to 200 million chickens in China and Southeast Asia. It has also infected 108 people (most of them in Vietnam), of whom 54 -- exactly half -- have died. Most human victims had direct contact with dead or dying chickens, but in a few cases it appears the virus was acquired directly from an infected person.
While person-to-person spread of H5N1 influenza is rare and occurs with difficulty, the more the virus circulates the greater its chance of acquiring genetic changes that permit easy human transmission.
If that occurs, the virus would have "pandemic potential"; it could travel quickly and infect much of the world's population, which has no immunity to it. ...
This virus is in a position to threaten the lives of millions around the globe, and to wreak havoc on the security of our food supply. Even if it doesn't mutate into a human-compatible strain anytime soon, how well does anyone think our factory-farmed chickens, cramped into their own filth like so many boxes of frozen chicken nuggets in storage, will survive a bird disease pandemic?
The World Health Organization is concerned that it's about time for a flu pandemic, and that they likely will be able to do nothing to stop it. But they believe they can significantly slow the spread if they can get $100 million to improve their antiviral distribution network. In terms of government spending, it's a pathetic sum. Though they'll probably have to beg for it anyway.
In other disease epidemic news, coming soon to an area near you ...
Attendees at a recent AIDS conference are concerned that the opportunity to prevent a full-blown AIDS epidemic in Asia is rapidly slipping through their fingers. Three of the conditions they say are helping spread the disease, lack of condom use, injection drug use and gender inequality, are three common pre-conditions for bad public health that fundamentalist wackos the world over have no plan to stop and every sign of either neglecting or encouraging.
Efforts to eradicate polio suffered a setback when misinformation seeded in an atmosphere of distrust for the US generated an outbreak in Nigeria that's now spreading across the Muslim world. It isn't that a great many people have been affected, it's that eight months of non-cooperation in a backwater area of Africa, it's spread as far as Indonesia and Yemen, along with 13 other previously polio-free countries. The UK has offered £60m for the polio eradication effort, with another £40m on the way in a couple years.
Caring for public health and preventing transmissible disease epidemics is one of the best known ways to save lives. In a world of mass global travel and trade, the lives we save may even be our own.Posted by natasha at July 6, 2005 10:09 PM | Health/Medicine/Health Care | TrackBack(2) | Technorati links |