Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Are We Truly Prepared?

As most people know, tens of millions of people around the world died in 1918 of the Avian Flu. It has become part of our structure of viral infections and appears under certain conditions. Every baby who is inoculated and has that vaccine boosted owes the list of infectious, fatal diseases to the time when, in our ancient past, humans started to domesticate and live in close proximity with animals. Over many millennium, the virus made its "species leap" to humans, and eventually it became a human to human airborne pandemic. Many remember the influenza of the early 20th century which took millions from the world, especially the inner cities like New York where people lived in filthy, cramped cubicles and, of course, their chickens, who'd been infected by wild birds. Diphtheria, whopping cough, tuberculosis, even poliomyelitis, the paralytic virus - they all owe their origins to wild birds. Their droppings fall upon other birds, ducks, geese, and infect them. When killed and eaten, they sicken a human, almost always fatally. The DNA of the disease would presently make this very difficult, however. There have been rare cases in Asia and China, which found an occasion of the virus in a small porcine population, which is highly important since pigs are mammals, still avian flu has yet to once again become a pandemic. But it will, of course. This is fact, say virologists, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, any and everyone who knows about flu and its ancient origins in humans.

This virus can break out into the population anywhere from one month to ten years from now, there is no accurate predictor of time, since it is still confined to one species.

When we discovered the only virus to cause AIDS, the HI-1 virus, or HIV as it's commonly called, we used a pharmaceutical maintenance program to bring it under some control. HIV-1 is still the pandemic it always was, but it's managed. My exasperation comes from the H5N1 avian virus to come. When it hits our shores we will not be prepared. As of now, there is no real vaccine for H5N1 except a drug called tamivir or tamiflu. In an investigation into our reserves of this medicine, we presently have enough for every man, woman and child in the country - for one month. That's all. I heard rumors about 3 months ago about how the CDC was contracting with a large pharmaceutical firm to start immediate, high priority, mass manufacturing of tamivir, this coming from Washington, and I believe it's true. It was brought home to the Secretary of Health, head virologists and pandemic experts at about the same time in 2003-2005 when Indonesia started experiencing these viral deaths in humans who had very direct contact with, or had eaten, infected ducks and chicken.

The cause of all influenza has its origin with the avian virus. H5N1 is an offshoot of this strain, and highly pathogenic. I do believe that, without fanfare, the world is preparing the only vaccine known to date, while continuing research into other workable vaccines.

There exists only one known case of a human dying of avian flu after exposure to an infected animal. It is highly rare. It must be "leaped" into the human population and spread human to human. But it is inevitable, according to experts, and though ordered to kill all domestic fowl, many small villages in places like Vietnam and Cambodia have hidden their only source of survival, not understanding the dangers. So it will come.

I have to believe we'll be prepared.

5 comments:

pharmolo said...

Cathy,
This was a scare early in 2006, particularly here in Scotland. A dead swan was found in the village of Cellardyke, East Scotland. The official advice from the Ministry of Agriculture ran as follows (not quoting verbatim): "This swan will have been flying across the North Sea, when it began to feel crap (unquote). As it neared the Scottish coast, it was feeling worse and worse, and when it alighted at Cellardyke, it was dying." Someone suggested that everybody who begins to feel crap should see a physician. End of joke.

There is continual surveillance for a new strain of flu, H5N1 is very suspect. When it does become pathogenic to people, it will spread like wildfire. Little you can do, vaccines take 6 months to make. It'll be everyone to themselves. I cracked the joke to defuse any unnecessary panic and concern.

luddie343 said...

Cathy 2 Pharm:  Thanks for the giggle.  And yer right, it'll be almost impossible to contain.  So while the WHO works tirelessly and plans are drawn, I'll live for now.    

halliday0957 said...

Would coping with flu help me fly or flying with flu make me worse. Do flies or fleas get flu or flyers just flutter feebly. why do dying flies always flip on their backs   A curious Jim.

luddie343 said...

Cath 2 Curious:  Having flown I suppose it fetters one till you flop, or FLUctuate in floudering futility till you're ready to fly again, if you've not fluen already lol.    

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