The number of cases of the deadly bird flu virus is increasing around the world as scientists struggle to combat the disease that is now threatening to jump species and infect humans. The news comes as Britain confirmed its first ever case of H5N1 in a farm in Suffolk. More than 160,000 birds will now be slaughtered as the country's farming industry goes on high alert for more outbreaks.
WASHINGTON - The world should expect more bird flu outbreaks in the coming months, the U.N. official coordinating the global fight against the virus warned Sunday after Britain recorded its first case of the H5N1 strain on a commercial farm.
Dr. David Nabarro said, however, that he did not expect the virus to spread in Britain to neighboring farms because of the quick containment measures put in place by the government.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt spoke out as experts were continuing to cull 159,000 turkeys at a farm in Suffolk where the potentially deadly H5N1 strain, which can be transmitted to humans, was found.
Ms Hewitt said: “We are preparing very, very seriously and thoroughly for the possibility of a pandemic flu.
Scientists warn that Tamiflu use could devastate wildlife and trigger a second, deadlier pandemic.
Britain faces an ecological catastrophe that could wreak havoc on wildlife populations when the first outbreak of Asian flu hits the country.
Scientists say they fear that tons of the anti-viral agent Tamiflu - taken by Britons trying to combat the disease - would be flushed down sewers into rivers and lakes.
Vaccines are a critical intervention for preventing influenza and reducing its health consequences during a pandemic. Since 2004, WHO has been working with various partners to find ways to improve and promote the development and production of pandemic vaccines in order to make such vaccines available rapidly and in as large a quantity as possible.
Avian influenza is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These influenza viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them.
The avian influenza A (H5N1) epizootic (animal outbreak) in Asia and parts of Europe, the Near East, and Africa is not expected to diminish significantly in the short term. It is likely that H5N1 infection among birds has become endemic in certain areas and that human infections resulting from direct contact with infected poultry and/or wild birds will continue to occur. So far, the spread of H5N1 virus from person-to-person has been rare , limited and unsustained. No evidence for genetic reassortment between human and avian influenza A virus genes has been found; however, this epizootic continues to pose an important public health threat.
The victims of the deadliest flu pandemic in history were killed when their bodies unleashed an uncontrolled immune reaction as a protective mechanism, say scientists. Patients' lungs rapidly became inflamed and filled with blood and other fluids which eventually drowned them.
The discovery could help emergency authorities prepare for flu pandemics caused by the H5N1 avian flu virus, which appears to kill in a similar way. It may also give scientists ideas for making flu vaccines.
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Liz Di Bernardo