When many people think about the flu, they think about a passing sickness. For the most part, those thoughts are correct. Many different seasonal influenza viruses come and go over the years, but sometimes, particularly deadly strains may pop up. When certain influenza strains mutate, they can quickly become a global threat. As of recently, scientists have been quite concerned with a strain of influenza known as H5N1. In this article, well cover some of the basic questions that many people have about the deadly strain.
Whats Avian Influenza?
The H5N1 form of avian influenza is a problem that principally is harmful to birds. Birds have been passing the strain around the world as of late, and it has even come to cross the species barrier, affecting livestock such as pigs. The H5N1 strain is particularly deadly, and it has a very high mortality rate amongst birds, with almost a full one hundred percent of infected birds dying within forty eight hours.
H5N1 attacks the body viciously, attacking many organs at once. Scientists are quite fearful of the threat that is presented should the flu mutate and become transmissible to humans, as the crowded living spaces that we now face in cities could play host to a pandemic of the avian flu variety.
Which countries have been affected by the avian flu?
The list continues to grow, as migratory birds may be spreading the disease to far parts of the world. In the winter of 2003, many H5N1 cases started to appear in Asian countries such as Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. Indonesia, Thailand, and China were also host to the virus. Other countries soon were affected by H5N1, as Malaysia, Turkey, and Romania would report cases of the disease as recently as October of 2005.
How likely is the disease to cross the species barrier?
Unfortunately, the threat of the disease jumping the species barrier is one that looms. There have been confirmed scientific diagnoses of bird flu related illnesses occurring in humans in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. If the disease is not carefully contained, scientists fear that it will spread very quickly, causing a global problem of epic proportions. Most believe that it is only a matter of time before the world is in the hands of the H5N1 strain of influenza.
Over 100 cases have been reported thus far of bird-flu related illnesses in humans, and while that seems like a large number, it is in fact relatively low considering how many people had the chance to get exposed. Unfortunately, of the cases that have been experienced so far, a mortality rate of roughly fifty percent has been recorded.
We can only hope that this seriously threatening disease does not find a way to make the leap when it comes to spreading amongst humans. Every time that the disease infects another human victim, it is given the chance to mutate into a form that can spread. Despite our best preparations, we are very much at the mercy of this deadly disease.