H5N1 Bird Flu Virus Claims 19 Year Old In Beijing

H5N1 Avian Flu is simmering in parts of the World. Are inhabitants in the Western Hemisphere concerned? Should we be?

With the expected role of first responders in mind it is important to stay up to date on this potential pandemic.

Today from Reuters we read of a young and otherwise healthy woman that died from the bird flu on Christmas Eve in Beijing.

“Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection said the woman had had contact with poultry before falling ill.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency earlier reported that the woman from eastern Fujian province had bought nine ducks at a market in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, and then gutted the birds.

She gave three ducks to her father, uncle and a friend and kept the other six ducks, the agency reported.

It added that 116 people, including the patients 14 family members and neighbor and 102 medical workers, had been in close contact with the patient.”

It’s reassuring the victim’s 14 family members are in the clear so far but it has to be a concern to Chinese officials the H5N1 has visited the nations capital city.

In other H5N1 has news the Sunday edition of the L.A. Times reports;

“……..the virus appears to be entrenched in Indonesia, parts of China, Vietnam, Egypt and other countries where backyard flocks are more difficult to regulate than commercial chicken farms, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Though bird flu viruses are common, highly pathological ones such as the 1918 virus and H5N1 — which has been lethal to 100% of chickens infected and 63% of humans known to be infected — are rare.

Scientists have little experience with which to gauge how H5N1 will evolve.

But, Webster said, “We still have to treat this as a potentially very, very dangerous virus.”

In 2005 Hill & Associates issued a special report that discussed the pandemic potential as it relates to businesses with an International presence. The report singles out which affected countries are best prepared to deal with requisite quarantines, vaccination programs and an infrastructure capable of confronting a pandemic.

China, Pakistan, Thailand score low by H & A readiness standards. Japan, Australia and South Korea score higher and stand ready to confront a widespread outbreak. H & A did not address the readiness of the U.S. in their study.

The Times article points out that vaccination against H5N1 is tricky. Current vaccines for birds and humans is designed for many flu subtypes. Undisciplined or rampant vaccination programs as opposed to regionally administered programs invite the evolution of resistant strains. The effectiveness of these vaccines require a coordination between countries that does not exist at the moment.

The FDA has approved a bird flu vaccine but the vaccine is not being mass produced and there appears to be no huge stores being held.

Government operated AvianFlu.gov is an excellent resource for anyone seeking information on H5N1.

First responders are encouraged to review the IAFF Pandemic Flu resource pages. The IAFF has been proactive in providing information on H5N1 from the start.

The question remains, is H5N1, Avian flu, Bird flu something to worry about by North Americans? Absolutely. We should not be complacent just because the virus has not crossed our borders.

If it does we know very little of the vaccine is on hand. The vaccine on hand would likely go to hospital and first responders, this we expect. How fast could the vaccine manufacturer roll out product? Is there enough Vaccine on hand for first responder family members? How fast would anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza disappear from pharmacies?

The case of this young lady in Beijing serves as a reminder the subject is still very much alive. Pandemic is an ugly word no one likes to talk about. As long as the potential for one exists the discussion must be kept alive.

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