Don’t look now, but there are a couple more cases of human to human bird flu transmission…this time in Pakistan.
There have been several hundred cases of people who developed Bird Flu, and an estimated 200 of them have died (60% mortality). But most of the victims had contact with sick birds or bird feces.

Human to human transmission is called Stage Three transmission.
There are various ways for doctors who do infectious disease planning to estimate risks to the public…one widely used one for Bird Flu goes like this:
Bird to bird, stage one. Low risk of human transmission.
Bird to humans, but only isolated cases: stage two. Higher risk of Human tranmission.
Human to human transmission suspected (isolated cases) stage three.

Local outbreaks in humans, human to human transmission, stage four.

World wide Pandemic, stage five.

Only a few of the 300 plus cases of bird flu involved human human transmission. Other suspected “jumps” of the virus in Indonesia..and China…….

But it is only time until the next step: local epidemics. Then we will see isolation of communities to stop those in contact with the disease from traveling. But could the virus evolve into a world wide Pandemic?…tick tick tick. It’s probably only a matter of time.

Scientists warnings in the past have been wrong: For example, the “Swine Flu” epidemic that never occured in the 1970’s. And SARS was stopped by aggressive isolation of the sick, even though it managed to spread to several countries before it was stopped.
But the 1917-1919 flu epidemic of “Spanish flu” that killed 40 million people was probably a variation of Birdflu. And unlike “traditional flu”, the Spanish Flu, like Avian Influenza, can kill young healthy people in the prime of life.

The WHO estimates a hundred million could die if Birdflu reached stage five: Epidemic spread person to person.

But there is more bad news.

Ordinary Human influenza is often a variation of pig influenza…And now they have found the Birdflu genes in Swine influenza genome. Since pigs are mammals, most human influenza evolves because it jumps from pigs to humans…

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers have identified a new strain of swine influenza — H2N3 — that belongs to the group of H2 influenza viruses that last infected humans during the 1957 pandemic. This new strain has a molecular twist: It is composed of avian and swine influenza genes.

Bird flu is also bad news for poutry farms in Asia…Poultry is about 1% of the economy, but farmers who have to cull their poultry can end up bankrupt…not to mention the anguish in being forced to kill one’s favorite fighting cock….and in the UK, turkey culls to prevent spread have made the traditional Turkey dinner expensive..

There’s a lot of preparations going on in devising vaccines and anti viral drugs to treat an outbreak, but right now, scientists are racing against time, since one of these days the disease, which is widespread in both wild birds and poutry, makes the jump to humans and starts spreading easily to other humans.

Think you’re safe? That Pakistani family’s cousin visited them last month…he lives in NewYork.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she writes about medicine at HeyDoc Xanga Blog

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