Bird Flu: Should I Be Worried?..
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Bird Flu: Should I Be Worried?.

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by: David Altfeder
In recent weeks, the alarm over Avian Flu, also know as Bird Flu has increased dramatically. It is important to understand the facts about this disease in order to interpret the news accurately and to avoid panic and irrational behavior.

Influenza, also known as ?the flu? is a general term for the disease caused by any of a number of viruses. There are three main type of human influenza, and there are many more types of influenza in birds. All people are exposed to viruses- we encounter them every day. About 30,000 people die of influenza virus in the United States annually.

To date, Avian flu has killed about 60 people in Asia over the last two years. So why the great concern? The fact is the virus is being transmitted from bird to bird at an alarming rate. Cases have appeared throughout the world. Millions of birds have been slaughtered in an attempt to contain the disease. The 60 people who have died from the disease were people who handled birds. To date, it appears every case was a case of viral transmission from bird to human. If this continues to be the case- that is, the virus can only be transmitted from bird to human, the bird flu problem will be serious, but far from catastrophic. What worries world health officials is the chance that the virus may mutate and become a virus which can be transmitted from human to human.

In 1918, there was an outbreak of Spanish Flu which killed 40 million people. Researchers have determined this virus originated in birds, then mutated to a form which was transmitted from human to human. The Spanish Flu had a mortality rate of 2%. The Avian flu has a mortality rate of 50%. If the virus mutates, continues to be as dangerous, and becomes a from which can be transmitted from human to human, the consequences could be an unprecedented global disaster. That?s a big IF though.

The virus has been around for several years and has not yet mutated in this harmful direction. Researchers are racing to develop a vaccine, and human trials should begin next year. Many countries have begun to stockpile antiviral drugs to prepare for the worst case.

So, should you be worried? You should be concerned, but it?s hardly time to panic. Some people have purchased Tamiflu or other antiviral drugs and surgical masks to wear in public in case of an outbreak, but this may be premature. We recommend you keep abreast of the news and follow the advice of health officials if an outbreak occurs.

About the author:
David Altfeder is President of He has written a series of articles on pharmacy, health and human physiology.

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