The Bird is the Word
After a number of peaceful years with little to no mention of it in the popular media, it now appears that the avian (bird) flu is back… with a vengeance!
According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, two men have contracted and died from a rare form of the bird flu known as H7N9—the first time this particular influenza strain has affected human beings. Another patient—this time a woman—has also contracted it, but she is still holding on for dear life.
At this time, it isn’t known how these people contracted this rare disease—most likely through the ingestion of tainted poultry—but an investigation to trace the source is currently underway. The good news is that no one who had close contact with these patients has been symptomatic, so the virus likely isn’t very contagious. In fact, it often takes tens of thousands of sick birds to trickle down and affect just one human.
I like those odds, but we all know they can change dramatically in just a short period of time.
The bad news about H7N9—aside from the infections and deaths of the people in China I mentioned—is that “it is very likely that there is a widespread outbreak happening” among bird populations, according to Malik Peiris from the School of Public Health at Hong Kong University. And even though medicines like Tamiflu would probably be successful in treating the virus’ symptoms, the danger is serious enough for the World Health Organization (WHO) to identify H7N9 as a potential threat, especially since there is no real vaccine for it.
In other words, this thing could get worse and could eventually be deadlier than H5N1, the strain of avian flu that affected more than 600 people in 2007 and eventually killed more than half of them.
And there have even been new outbreaks of H5N1 in China, the last having been reported in February. Cambodia has also seen an increase in some of their children.
I suppose the lesson to be learned from all of this—aside from the fact that viruses are getting worse and more resistant to treatment with each passing year—is to consider picking up some beef the next time you visit the grocery store rather than chicken or turkey.
Of course then you have to worry about Mad Cow Disease, so perhaps an investigation of vegetarianism might be in order. Otherwise, the only solution will be the most taboo of them all: to start eating each other.
And I’m pretty sure that idea is “off the table,” so to speak. But you never know…
Posted on April 2, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged Avian influenza, bird flu, China, commentary, current-events, health, Infectious disease, news, perspectives, Public health, World Health Organization. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.