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More "Bird Flu" Info ~ [Issue 0306-3]  Wellness Weekly
 Mar 23, 2006 08:11 PST 


Government health agencies all over the world are desperately
scrambling to develop a working vaccine for avian flu. All the while,
they are warning us about the potential global epidemic they fear is
just around the corner. And the "numbers guys" have come up with some
pretty frightening figures: Nearly 1/3 of the world's population
could be infected and death tolls could range from a few million to a
few billion, possibly killing a whopping 10 percent of the global

The key to remaining calm is to keep in mind that, right now, this is
all just speculation. Could it happen that way? It could, but there
are countless other possibilities as well. So here are some facts to
focus on:

- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), since January
2004 about 140 have become infected with avian flu, also known as the
H5N1 virus.
- The overwhelming majority of those cases came from direct human to
poultry contact.
- In the extremely rare cases where it did spread from person to
person, it did not spread beyond one person.
- Currently, the human version of the illness has only been spotted
in Europe and Asia, usually in small rural areas where it is common
for households to keep small flocks of poultry birds.
- No one has gotten ill from eating fully cooked poultry or eggs,
since the virus cannot survive the high heat of standard cooking
temperatures. (Fully cooked means no runny egg yolks in your
breakfast sandwich.)

Another aspect to focus on is that there are ways to protect
yourself, even if there has not been a vaccine developed specifically
for avian flu yet. Inoculations against the current version of the
avian flu, the H5N1 strain, could offer some protection.

But, so far, the flu drug Tamiflu appears to be leading the pack when
it comes to lifesaving measures. Tamiflu's main weapon against flu is
that it actually slows reproduction of virus cells, which gives your
immune system a fighting chance. Tamiflu is already a hot commodity
and will probably get even harder to come by as demand increases. If
you do decide to get some, make sure you know and trust the source -
counterfeit versions are already on the loose. And make sure to get
enough for two rounds of dosing for everyone in your family.

Another possible preventive measure to consider: Ask your doctor
about a vaccine against pneumonia. Many victims of previous flu
pandemics died from serious secondary infections, especially
pneumonia. That is because many versions of the flu virus attack and
weaken your lungs, making you more susceptible to bacterial pneumonia.


Scientists around the world are in a mad race to develop a vaccine to
prevent a bird flu epidemic, and it looks like some United States
researchers may get there first. Two independent groups of
researchers have come up with a way to use the common cold to
inoculate mice against a variety of strains of avian flu.

One common cause of the common cold is the adenovirus. Scientists
(working in two completely separate groups) disabled the virus so it
could not replicate, then used it as a carrier for the primary
protein of H5N1 (also known as avian or bird flu). That combo
provoked a powerful immune response in animals that may just
translate into solid protection for humans.

In both trials (one in Pittsburgh, one in Indiana), the vaccines
provided 100 percent protection to mice exposed to the virus. Even
more amazing, the shots gave the rodents cross-protection against the
other versions of the virus - which is unheard of with standard flu
virus vaccines.

Critics claim the vaccine will not work on people who have gained
immunity to the adenovirus because of previous colds. But a team of
scientists tried the adenovirus vaccine idea with regular human flu
back in 2004, and it worked even if the patient had existing antibodies.

This new brand of inoculation could be a lifesaver if human trials
work as well as expected. In addition to the fact that it seems to be
working very well even at very low doses, it is much easier to mass
produce. That means that more vaccines could be created in less time,
with the opportunity to protect a lot more people.
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