Thursday, April 06, 2006

How Far Bird Flu Has Spread

How The US Is Preparing For A Pandemic

By Darryl Mason

The WHO Map above clearly shows the spread of the avian influenza virus in poultry and wild birds is far greater than the confirmed human cases of infection, which are relatively small and confined in comparison.

Below is a WHO chart tracking the human infections and deaths related to avian influenza since the start of 2003.

You can see that while Vietnam was suffering near record cases of human infections and deaths, the strict quarantine measures around poultry farms, the mass culls of infected birds and the isolation and fast treatment of the human infections worked remarkably well.

Although you don't hear much about it, Vietnam is heralded within the WHO as being the poster child for how a country can fight avian influenza outbreaks and win.

In Vietnam, after a death toll of 19 in the early part of 2005, there were no officially reported cases of bird flu infection in humans for the last half of 2005 and the first quarter of 2006.

Indonesia, meanwhile, is currently the country causing most concern for the WHO and the 'flu watchers'.

For 2005, in total, there were 17 cases of human infection and 11 deaths resulting.

In the first quarter of 2006, there were 13 confirmed cases of human infections with 12 deaths resulting.

The major cause for concern with Indonesia is that the infection and death tolls for Jan-April 5 this year are almost evenly matched, meaning those who were officially diagnosed with the virus almost certainly died in the weeks following.

The sameness of these comparative figures has led the WHO and many other agencies to believe that not all human infections are being reported in Indonesia.
















Azerbaijan 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 5 7 5
Cambodia 0 0 0 0 4 4 1 1 5 5
China 0 0 0 0 8 5 8 6 16 11
Egypt 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 2 4 2
Indonesia 0 0 0 0 17 11 13 12 30 23
Iraq 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 2 2
Thailand 0 0 17 12 5 2 0 0 22 14
Turkey 0 0 0 0 0 0 12 4 12 4
Viet Nam 3 3 29 20 61 19 0 0 93 42
Total 3 3 46 32 95 41 47 32 191 108

Overall, the WHO chart clearly shows that the mortality rate for human infections is above 50% overall, but it has risen to more than 70% for the first quarter of 2006.

Again, officials expect there to be many more cases of human infection than are actually reported and confirmed, and the same might be said for the resulting deaths as well.

It is impossible for every country and every region to closely monitor all of its people, and WHO has stated before there may be many more cases that simply go unreported, and thereby unconfirmed, due to the isolation of so many towns and cities across the Rusisan states, South East Asia and territories within Europe.

Go here to reach the United States government's site, which links through to the WHO map and charts.

You will also notice on that dozens of state conferences focusing around Pandemic Preparedness have been held across the US in the last eight weeks.

Through these conferences such key decisions as to how cities and towns will continue to function during a 6 to 8 week pandemic flu outbreak have been reached, or at least discussed in depth. Some states have decided that schools will be transformed into hospitals for the millions of infections expected, as most hospitals in the US are already full or near capacity.

Methods to distribute food, water and medicine to people quarantined or isolated within their homes has also been decided on, and Americans will be encouraged in the coming weeks and months to build food, water and medicine stockpiles in their homes, as during the course of a pandemic delivery systems will break down and people will need to fend for themselves for one to two months until the main pandemic 'storm' has passed.

While the US President is yet to say "You're On Your Own", there has been a growing stream of health department officials and state senators giving interviews where they are clearly getting Americans used to the idea that they cannot rely on their government for help if, or when, pandemic flu breaks out.

This is how the site defines the three main categories of Flu Infection :

Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.

Avian (or bird) flu is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. The H5N1 variant is deadly to domestic fowl and can be transmitted from birds to humans. There is no human immunity and no vaccine is available.

Pandemic flu is virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person. Currently, there is no pandemic flu.


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