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Should the World Be Terrified of Avian Flu?

Aug 17, 2007
The Avian Influenza: What is it? The avian influenza virus, also known as the bird flu, is often carried by wild birds. The virus does not kill its wild carriers, as their immune systems have been honed over thousands of years to get rid of it. On the other hand, it is deadly to domesticated birds such as chickens and turkeys.

The bird flu is a relative of the flu virii which move around the globe to infect humans on a yearly basis. Like these virus strains, the Avian flu also has its start in Asia. However, the Avian flu is significantly different, the human immune system does not know how to fight it immediately. The time lag is long enough that the avian flu can do serious damage to the body. Fortunately for humanity, the virus also does not yet have the ability to infect humans with ease. Although, the Avian flu is making strides in that direction.

The bird flu virus is primarily passed on through the secretion of infected animals. This includes the saliva, mucus, and feces of the birds. While the virus can transmit casually from bird to bird, it cannot easily transmit from bird to human or from human to human. Nevertheless, its ability to kill and cripple are nothing short of stunning.

The first indications of the avian flu's incredible effects were put on display when domesticated chickens contracted the virus and died. Health concerns forced governments to crack down on poultry farmers. Resulting in loss of millions of animals in nations where starvation and malnourishment are the norm. For the most part, humans are in not in direct danger from the bird flu. Most cases of bird flu have come from people who were in direct contact with infected bird secretions, as would be present in freshly-laid eggs.

Why the World Is Afraid

The avian flu virus is feared for two main reasons. First, like the flu that makes thousands of people sick each year, there is no cure to save what the immune system can do for itself. Historically, the influenzas we are all familiar with have, at one time or another, come in strains that our immune systems could not readily handle. This resulted in large numbers of human deaths. These flu seasons are referred to as pandemics, and they do occur on a periodic basis. Our best defense against a pandemic remains vaccination. The influenza group of virii is extremely contagious and mutate rapidly. Combined with the deadliness of the avian strain, the bird flu becomes a strain to be respectful of - in the watchfulness and combat sense.

Second, as with any other life form, viruses appear capable of evolving. It is possible, therefore, that the lethal strain of this virus may develop the mutations necessary to infect humans via casual contact. Furthermore, this mutant strain may multiply quickly enough to spread to many humans all over the world. It is possible, like other influenza strains that resulted in pandemics, the avian flu may spread too quickly for the world community to control.

Current levels of world trade require large numbers of people to move in and out of countries and continents. If a pandemic of avian flu occurs, it would be a byproduct of globalization. Overpopulated third world countries and impoverished areas in more developed nations may well get hit first and hardest. This will only serve to exacerbate the spread of the disease.

The real concern is not what the avian flu virus is right now; it is what it could become. Many scientists believe that the bird flu can someday mutate into a form that can be transmitted through the air. When that happens, and if we still do not have a cure for the bird flu, or an effective vaccination, human kind will be in big trouble. There is no way of knowing when, or if, the bird flu will make the evolutionary jump to infect humans casually. Nevertheless, scientists around the world are not sitting idle in the race to develop vaccines and cures. Today, many products are being sold that claim to work against the bird flu, but until an outbreak occurs, there is no real way to gauge their effectiveness.
About the Author
Scott Meyers is a staff writer for Its Entirely Natural, a resource for helping you achieve a naturally healthy body, mind, and spirit. You may contact our writers through the web site. Follow this link for more information on The Flu.
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