Microsoft word - avian_flu_worries_the_experts_10-25-2005.doc

Avian flu worries the experts -- but vaccines are
Here's a basic guide to what is known about deadly virus originating with
birds in Asia.
By Lauralee Ortiz / Special to The Detroit News
Can a deadly flu virus that naturally occurs among wild Related reports
birds be spread to humans? Medical experts say yes. In fact, in CDC:Avian Influenza:
recent years, the avian flu, or bird flu, has been confirmed in Information on recent
outbreaks, the viruses, and
the risk to human health.

What is avian flu?
Worl Health Organization
Fact Sheet
The World Organization (WHO) for Animal Health says Guidance for protecting
workers against avian flu
the avian flu, also called bird flu, is a highly contagious viral What we need to know
disease affecting mainly chickens, turkeys, ducks and other Wikipedia: Avian
birds. Avian flu was first identified in birds (terns) in South influenza
Africa in 1961. In 1997, the first case that spread from bird to Multimedia
The dangers of bird flu
human occurred during an outbreak of bird flu in poultry in Fighting the flu
Hong Kong. Since then, there have been several outbreaks in Comment on this story
humans in eight Asian countries, including Cambodia, China, Send this story to a friend
Japan and Vietnam. Scientists thought they had it under Get Home Delivery
control by March 2004 until the first of several more outbreaks occurred in June of last year, say WHO experts. Most recently, the flu has
spread to birds in Britain and other parts of Europe.
How do humans get it?
Those infected are believed to have come in direct contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. Scientists at the World Health Organization and the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDS) say these domesticated animals contracted the
deadly virus from wild birds that naturally carry it without getting sick. Domesticated
animals that get it, however, become deathly ill. Apparently, so do most humans. More
than half of those diagnosed with avian flu have died.
Is it contagious among humans?
So far, the virus has not spread from human to human, says Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Diseases at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. But like human influenza viruses, this strain could become powerful enough to spread easily from one person to another, according to the CDC. "The big concern is if it develops the ability to spread between people -- which, so far, it hasn't -- it could create a pandemic," Zervos says. "We don't have immunity against that strain." The good news is that, according to the CDC, vaccines to provide protection against the bird flu, also known as H5N1, and another bird flu subvirus called H9N2, are being produced. "By next flu season, this won't be an issue," Zervos says. The federal government is working on a preparedness plan to handle an outbreak, although some have suggested the government is behind in its planning. (In the Oct. 31
issue of Newsweek, currently available on the magazine's Web site, Health and Human
Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says there were many who urged the country to begin
preparations sooner, and "it would have been better if we had done so.")
Are there prevention and treatment drugs?
The common flu vaccine offers no protection against avian flu. There are two classes of drugs available to combat it -- M2 inhibitors such as amantadine (brand name
Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine) and neuraminidase inhibitors like oseltamivir
(Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). However, WHO experts say, there is evidence that
the virus is resistant to the M2 inhibitors, and it is conducting further tests to determine
the effectiveness of the neuraminidase inhibitors.
Should U.S. citizens be on alert?
There has been no evidence that avian flu has crossed into the United States. And despite the media flurry about an outbreak's potential, not everyone is worked up about it. "I'm not too worried about the avian flu," says Pete Risberg, 45, of Royal Oak. "There are so many illnesses out there that if you worried about each one, you'd be too freaked to go outside." However, the CDC advises that any patient with flu symptoms who has traveled abroad recently should be tested. Isolation precautions identical to those issued during the SARS outbreaks should be implemented for caregivers. Among them: • Pay careful attention to hand hygiene. • Use gloves and gowns for all patient contact. • Wear eye protection within 3 feet of patient.



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