‘Bird flu’ fears hit close to home

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Think of living in a world where every time a person left their bedroom they would have to wear a mask over their mouth to protect them. The children could not attend school because they are too dangerous. Every time a person woke up in the morning they would thank god that they could still breathe. Water is not clean and food, especially chicken, is frightening to eat. The world is plagued with something that many say is unstoppable. No matter where a person is in the world there is not a place they can hide.

The world that has been described above is not real…or at least not yet. This is what the world could become if the super-flu, more commonly know as the avian or bird flu, figures out a way to mutate itself, so that it may transfer from human to human. “Animals spread diseases across species very easily” said SRJC Director of Student Health Services Susan Quinn.

But what is the Avian-flu? It is being looked at as the next killer flu. But when did research begin? The flu has been on the global radar screen since 2003 and is classified as the number one threat to the world’s health. Scientists working on possible solutions have found that it is very similar to the Spanish flu of 1918, which attacked the lungs, filling them with liquid. Upwards of 20 million people died in that pandemic, more than all the casualties of World War I.

The flu right now, however, can only transfer from either chicken to chicken, or chicken to human. But how much longer will the world have to prepare itself for something like this? The first thing that would happen would be to isolate, or quarantine the outbreak to prevent it from spreading faster, and hopefully killing the disease before it’s too late.

In Southeast Asia more than 50 deaths over the last two years have raised alarms all over the world. One of the deaths that was mentioned in the National Geographic was a ten-year-old girl that was killed by the killer flu. She died about a month ago and was buried behind her parent’s home. At the end of her tomb her parents placed her most cherished possessions: a doll’s chair, a collection of shells, and plastic sandals.

From the Washington News Center, Dr. Sue Bailey, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs said the United States is ill prepared for a bird flu epidemic. With only enough vaccines for a mere seven percent of the population, the U.S. might need a bit of a push. A few companies that were chosen to make the vaccine are going as fast as possible. The U.S. is on the list for more of the vaccine but is behind several other nations for the flu medication. “Scientists have rallied to find defenses very quickly,” says Quinn. What if it reached the United States? The Bush Administration will quarantine the virus including closing schools, limiting travel and other strategies to limit the incidences of the virus. As of now, if the virus was to get over to the U.S. and mutate in such a way that it could pass human to human, America would be looking at a death toll of around 1.9 million.

The last flu that was a bird and human mixed virus was the Hong Kong flu back in 1968. The flu killed upwards of around 750,000. Since 1997 outbreaks of the bird flu have alarmed experts. The flu in Asia is killing poultry and people, and could cause the next global pandemic, if the flu figures out a way to spread from human to human, its speed of infection will only increase. No one wants the nightmare of the world that was described at the top. Yet we don’t know if that nightmare will come true. Some believe that the virus will never be able to mutate enough to transfer from human to human. But no one is a 100 percent sure.

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