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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
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Human to Human Transmission has Occurred: Avian Flu Update

August 29th, 2007 by Morgan J. Locke

I just came across this news article. A 2006 outbreak of avian flu in Sumatra has now been confirmed as involving human-to-human transmission.

H5N1 virusAs folks are aware, the flu virus H5N1 is widely regarded by public health experts as a serious threat. It originated in birds (hence the “avian,” though in fact, most flus are avian flus), and bird populations in many locations around the world have it. Humans are susceptible and it is extremely deadly, although fortunately, current forms are not easily transmitted from human to human. Yet. H2H, as they call it, is one of the main mutations the virus has to make, in order for a pandemic to occur.

Many companies and organizations are racing to understand how the virus works, and develop a vaccine. There is no guarantee that H5N1 will become the pandemic that so many public health officials fear. But there is a real risk. The flu has a greater than 50% mortality rate. Of the eight people who were infected in the Sumatran outbreak in 2006, seven have died.

This is a very dangerous flu. If a pandemic comes, it hits a lot of places and people at once, and could take down local infrastructure. Think about Katrina. How would your community deal with 30% or more of its population sick, many hospitals overwhelmed with large numbers of severe cases and deaths?  Preparations at the personal level could mean the difference between life and death for you and your family.

Get educated, be prepared, and stay up-to-date.

Posted in Dammit!, Health and Safety, Medicine, Morgan | 9 Comments »

9 Responses

  1. Maureen McQ Says:

    I admit that this makes me more nervous than it used to. My immune system is mildly compromised and will be for the rest of my life. I’m lucky, I work at home, but Bob doesn’t. (Bob, you’re a vector in my life!) I think I’ll go get my flu kit together. Thanks for the links.

  2. Caroline Spector Says:

    You know, I’m as fascinated by epidemics as the next gal, but kids, we’ve been in the middle of a pandemic for the last 20+ years. It’s called AIDS.

    Yeah, avian flu is scary as shit. But I hate that Africa is being decimated while we worry about something that hasn’t happened yet. (And while I agree the threat of a new pandemic is certainly out there, my guess is that it will blindside us as so many epidemics have in the past.)

  3. Morgan J. Locke Says:

    I agree with you that AIDS is a huge issue. But I firmly believe that as a society, we can handle more than one problem at a time. In fact, we must.

  4. Caroline Spector Says:

    I agree, but I worry about getting too crazy with pandemic fears. In fact, I was one of those who was very concerned a few years ago about weaponized smallpox. And then there was the outbreak of a variety of hemorrhagic fevers. (Imagine the vectoring on those bad boys.) There is also concern about weaponizing those diseases. This seems a little slippery slope to me, but I tend to be a fretter.

  5. Jayme Lynn Blaschke Says:

    Coincidentally, we had a tabletop exercise at the university this week regarding bird flu, and this case came up.

    One thing not mentioned in this article is that the family, weirdly enough, shared a genetic trait that made them particularly susceptible to this strain of bird flu (paraphrased there–I believe the original info came from CDC). Talk about wrong place at the wrong time. This family doesn’t necessarily serve as a barometer for the impact of flu on the population at large, but they (or others like them with this unfortunate set of genes) could certainly act as a bridge between the species.

  6. Rory Harper Says:

    Yeah, I’ve been back and forth on this subject myself for the past few years.

    I think the place that I’ve settled upon is that we got really lucky with HIV and, so far, with H5N1. HIV is incredibly hard to contract, and so is H5N1.

    The terrifying one in our future is the one that is airborne, highly infectious, and with the kill rate of bird flu, or even the 1918 Spanish Flu, in these days of modern transportation.

    All we need is something with a day or so between infection and onset of obvious symptoms, and it’ll be in every country on the planet within a week or so.

    Kinda like the fast zombie plague….

  7. Eat Our Brains » Blog Archive » Quickie Update on Bird Flu Says:

    [...] Human to Human Transmission has Occurred: Avian Flu Update  6 Rory Harper, Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Caroline Spector, Morgan J. Locke, Caroline Spector, Maureen McQ [...]

  8. rb Says:

    Late to the party but here’s the original article in Emerging Infectious Diseases

    Yang Y, Halloran ME, Sugimoto J, Longini, Jr IM. Detecting human-to-human transmission of avian influenza A (H5N1). Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2007 Sep [date cited]. Available from http://www.cdc.gov/EID/content/13/9/1348.htm

  9. Morgan J. Locke Says:

    Thanks, rb.

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