H5N1 Avian Flu And You

Sunday, January 8, 2012
By Paul Martin


From the Centers for Disease Control, Like all influenza A viruses, HPAI H5N1 viruses continue to evolve and human infections with H5N1 virus, resulting from direct or close contact with infected sick or dead poultry, are expected to continue to occur.

The avian influenza subtype H5N1 viruses currently circulating in poultry in parts of Asia and northeast Africa, have caused human disease and deaths since 1997.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus – referred to as HPAI H5N1 and sometimes shortened to H5N1 – is a virus that occurs mainly in birds, is highly contagious among birds, and can be deadly to them, especially domestic poultry. Though relatively rare, sporadic human infections with this virus have occurred and caused serious illness and death.

When humans develop illness from H5N1 virus infection, severe respiratory illness (e.g. pneumonia and respiratory failure) and death may occur. Nearly 600 human H5N1 cases have been reported in 15 countries to the World Health Organization since November 2003, resulting in approximately 60% mortality.

How does the Avian Bird Flu spread?

In the Asia-Pacific region waterbirds generally migrate in a north-south orientation. For the long-distance migrants, especially shorebirds, three flyways are recognized:

Central Asian-Indian Flyway
East Asian-Australasian Flyway
West Pacific Flyway

The largest outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in wild birds occurred at Qinghai Lake, China in 2005, followed by an outbreak at Erkhel Lake, Mongolia which suggests a possible virus spread via a migratory linkage between these regions.

As humans come in contact with infected birds, the virus ‘may’ jump to the human. Historically this has been relatively rare, but viruses are constantly mutating and adapting, and ‘could’ one day make a serious jump to the human population. If it does, it will kill 60% of us, or those who contract it.

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