The world stopped being a safer place ever since H5N1 virus in birds affected humans in 1997 in Hong Kong. After this what followed we all know and have been reading about the havoc in newspapers or watching in panic on TV. The question is can we stop the pandemic from coming? Is the doomsday finally knocking on our doors in the form of avian flu?
What changes are needed for the pandemic to start off?
1. Emergence of a new influenza virus subtype.
2. Infect humans and cause serious illness.
3. Spread easily and continuously among humans.
In this context the H5N1 virus in Asia and Europe has already met the first two conditions and has infected more than 100 humans killing at least over half of them. The third condition that is human to human transmission is yet to take place but it is predicted that the day is not far when the strain of virus would mutate to a totally new strain and would make human to human transmission fully possible resulting in an outbreak of a pandemic.
What control measures are being taken currently to stop the infection from spreading?
The most important control measures that are being taken by the Government of each affected country are as follows:
1. Rapid destruction (culling or stamping out) of all infected or exposed birds, proper disposal of carcasses and quarantining and rigorous disinfection of farms are some of the pioneering work that has been done by most of the affected countries.
2. The virus is killed by heat (56 degrees C for 3 hours or 60 degrees C for 30 minutes) and common disinfectants such as fomalin and iodine compounds.
3. Restriction on movement of live poultry both within and in between countries is the other important control measure.
What are the drugs that are available lately to cure bird flu?
Two classes of drugs are presently available to treat bird flu in humans. These are known as:
These drugs have been licensed for prevention and treatment of avian influenza and thought to be effective regardless of the causative strain of the virus.
How far the Center for Disease Control (CDC in USA) has been proactive in working collaboratively with WHO to ensure a safer world from the deadly grip of the killer virus H5N1?
1. In February 2004 CDC issued recommendation for enhanced domestic surveillance of avian influenza after the deaths of humans in Vietnam due to this disease. CDC issued follow-up Health Alert Network notices on August 12 and February 4, 2005, reiterating criteria for domestic surveillance, diagnostic evaluation and infection control precautions for Influenza A (H5N1). The HAN notice also details laboratory testing procedures for H5N1.
2. The CDC has teamed up with the Association of Public Health Laboratories to conduct training workshops for state laboratories on the use of molecular techniques to rapidly identify H5 viruses.
3. CDC is working collaboratively with the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and other partners to assist states with pandemic planning efforts.
4. CDC is working with other agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, on antiviral stockpile issues.
5. International Activities
6. CDC is one of four WHO Collaborating Centers and in this capacity provides ongoing support for the global WHO surveillance network, laboratory testing, training, and other actions.
7. CDC has worked collaboratively with WHO to conduct investigations of human H5N1 infections in China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Turkey and to provide laboratory diagnostic and training assistance.
8. CDC has performed laboratory testing of H5N1 viruses from Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.
9. CDC is implementing a multi-million dollar initiative to improve influenza surveillance in Asia.
10. CDC has led or taken part in 9 training sessions to enhance local capacities in Asia to conduct surveillance for possible human cases of H5 and to detect avian influenza A H5 viruses using laboratory techniques.
11. CDC has developed and distributed a reagent kit for the detection of the currently circulating influenza A H5 viruses.
12. CDC has worked with other international and national agencies in Asia to develop a training course for rapid response teams that will be used to help .
13. prepare the region to respond to outbreaks when they occur.
14. CDC is monitoring the situation closely, along with WHO and other international partners. In addition, CDC continues to work collaboratively with WHO and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the development and testing of vaccine seed candidates for influenza A (H5N1).
In the end to sum it up there is nothing to panic at the onset of the virus. With medical intervention for the right approach and following the right precautionary measures can prevent the spread of the killer virus. Let’s face it- there are other deadly diseases as well to deal with like cancer and AIDS which kill far greater number of people than bird flu. So just keep yourself informed and up to date by following the news and latest updates on bird flu prevention and treatment. We certainly can make this world a safer place to live in if we stop panicking.
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