Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Interesting facts about bird flu (avian influenza)

Avian influenza - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Virulent strains can kill within a few days, but the lower the mortality rate the worse overall, because people living longer infect more:
"In July 2005, a death in Jakarta was the first confirmed human fatality in Indonesia. The deaths of the man's two children, neither of whom were reported to have had close contact with poultry, further raised concerns of human-to-human transmission (although infection by eating undercooked poultry may be a more likely explanation). As of July 20, the outbreak had claimed at least 58 human lives — mostly in Vietnam. What concerns health researchers now is that the virus mortality rate in Vietnam has dropped significantly lately, from more than 65% to about 35% in a year. This might be a sign that the virus is able to infect a larger number of people (i.e., the virus is able to spread more easily) and possibly develop into a global pandemic with millions of deaths despite the lower reported percentage of deaths. For example, the mortality rate of 1918 Spanish flu (H1N1) pandemic was less than 5%."
Earlier this year, there was an avian genocide in Vietnam:
"An outbreak of avian influenza in January 2005 affected 33 out of 64 cities and provinces in Vietnam, leading to the forced killing of nearly 1.2 million poultry. Up to 140 million birds are believed to have died or were killed because of the outbreak."
An American has devoted a blog -- HN51, the name of the strain going around Vietnam and Indonesia -- to bird flu. This is an interesting angle:
"The Australian reports that western health authorities want an open approach to bird flu, not the coverups that have occurred in Asian countries with H5N1.

But it's awfully hard to get that kind of transparency, and not just in Asia. Over a century ago, Henrik Ibsen's play An Enemy of the People showed how a Norwegian town, reliant on its health spa for tourist revenues, could both cover up a contamination problem and persecute the lone physician who wanted to shut the hot springs down.

In 2000, the rural community of Walkerton, Ontario, suffered a serious contamination of its water supply, resulting in seven deaths and 2,000 cases of serious illness. The guys in charge of the water supply were incompetent dopes, and they didn't cut off the water or warn their residents. Incompetent people tend to make incompetent decisions. Then they deal incompetently with the crises they bring down on their communities."
Regrettably, he also advises of the death tonight of a 27 year old woman in Jakarta. There are about 20 people hospitalized in Jakarta confirmed as having the bird flu.

The Spanish flu killed between 20 and 100 million Europeans.

This is the first time a pandemic has been prepared for on this scale.

Cats are vectors as well as birds. And pigs are breaking out with it.

There is no evidence of transmission through well cooked meat.

Buying chickens live rather than slaughtered, and cock fighting, promote the spread of the disease. So does the orthodox sanitary measure of placing your hand over your mouth when sneezing (and then wiping it all over taps and doorknobs). The trick is, according to the experts, to sneeze into your elbow.

The photo, of a Balinese fighting cock painted pink, is from Dirk Yuricich's photography website.


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