Monday 24 October 2005

Bird Flu: A Pandemic In The Making

For the past weeks the medical, political, and economic threats stemmed from the avian flu virus had grown on a global scale. Of particular concern is the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus that exhibits marked homology to the deadly H1N1 strain which caused the Spanish flu of 1918 and infected an estimated 20-40 percent of the world’s population. First reported in 1997, the reemergence (or more properly, redetection) of this virus in the wild in both Asia and Europe has now created panics among the public health officials around the world, fearing that human-to-human transition of this virus will create an unstoppable pandemic.

While human deaths have been reported from the avian flu, current mode of transmission is still restricted from only birds to human. Still, European Health Commission was quick to declare last week the spread of bird flu from Asia into Europe to be a “global threat” requiring immediate international action. A less specific declaration had also been made previously by the World Health Organization which warned of a substantial risk of an influenza pandemic in the near future, most probably from the H5N1 strain. In Ottawa, health ministers from around the world will convene this week with the intent to strengthen the global response to this potential influenza pandemic in the making. If this effort is successful, it will stand in history as a precedent of a unified global cooperative effort in the prevention rather than treatment of a global disease.

By Philip Jong • At 09:14 AM • Under Column • Under World
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