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Thursday, 9 January 2014

Bird flu - what the cluck?

It finally happened, and those with perhaps less to do on their hands made a media field day out of it and got lots of face time in the media.  Bird flu crossed the Pacific, landed in Vancouver, went to somewhere in Alberta and one human died.  Every death is a tragedy and not to be taken lightly.  

Perhaps the good thing was it was distracting enough to take the attention off western provinces inundated with H1N1 and a body count that is at least 30 and just beginning to chip at the iceberg. 

The H5N1 avain influenza strain arose in southeast Asia back in 2003 and has insipidious spread across Asia and into Eastern Europe and Northern Africa.  Through the end of 2013, 650 cases of human illness had been identified with a mortality rate of nearly 60%. WHO cumulative tabulation    Almost all cases had direct contact with birds.  The slow steady spread of the virus has received considerable scrutiny and remains under the careful eye of the WHO.   

The virus has been subjected to considerable research including the infamous studies on what it would take to mutate the virus into a form that could readily transmit between humans.  Candidate vaccines are already in the works, and formed the basis for the adjuvanted pH1N1 vaccine formulation used in Canada and other countries during the 2009 pandemic event.

The main question that was answered in the recent event was only – when would it appear in North America?   We may still be interested in whether avian flyways will result in infected birds becoming established in North America as the H5N1 naturally continues to work its way easterward towards the Atlantic, a direction that is not normal for influenza strains in their annually west to east migration. 

Now that the hype is over.   Can we return to focusing attention on the immediate concerns caused by the resurgent wave of pH1N1 and its unique 2014 manifestations?  

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