2BIRD FLU EXPECTATIONSFederal officials prediction that avian (bird) flu could reach the U.S sometime this year.What happens if/after the bird flu strikes in the U.S depends largely on the genetics of the virus.It could continue to infect mainly birds, orWith a few genetic changes, it could spread among humans and cause a devastating pandemic.
3Is Bird Flu as dangerous as it has been reported? The virus that causes Bird Flu (A)H5N1, is lethal.It has killed more than half of the people infested, including healthy adults.Most of the people infested so far are believed to have caught the virus directly from sick birds.If (A)H5N1 mutates so that it is transmissible human to human, the number of deaths could reach into the millions.
4HOW CLOSE ARE WE TO EXPERIENCING A PANDEMIC? The Bird Flu has six different phases according to the WHO.In the first two phases, scientist ID a new virus sub-type that may/not be present in humans.In phase three – where we are now with the Bird Flu – a new virus subtype begins infecting humans but doesn’t have the ability to spread from person to person.
5HOW CLOSE ARE WE TO EXPERIENCING A PANDEMIC? (CONT’D) In the last three phases, the virus increasingly adapts to infect more humans - and finally turns into a full-blown pandemic (an epidemic over a large region)
6WHY IS BIRD FLU POTENTIALLY SO DANGEROUS? The normal flu viruses that start circulating every autumn infect about 30% of unvaccinated patients who are exposed to them. Most patients recover w/o serious complications. Most deaths occur in the elderly or in people with other chronic health problems.
7WHY IS BIRD FLU POTENTIALLY SO DANGEROUS? (CONT’D) Bird Flu is different. As with “normal” flu viruses, it causes fever, fatigue, aches and pain – but it doesn’t stop there. It quickly progresses to more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, heart attack and encephalitis. It’s as likely to kill young, healthy people as it is the elderly. It is suspected that the virus may cause an overactive immune response that intensifies the effect of the viral strain.
8WHY IS BIRD FLU POTENTIALLY SO DANGEROUS? (CONT’D) So far, every case of Bird Flu is believed to have occurred in people who handled infected birds – and none of these cases have occurred in the U.S.Currently clinical trials are underway to develop a vaccine to prevent Bird Flu; however, no FDA-approved vaccine is available yet. It could take six months to make a vaccine one the virus is identified.
9WHAT’S THE BEST PROTECTION IF AN OUTBREAK OCCURS? HAND WASHING is one of the most effective ways to avoid contracting many infectious diseases … and to reduce the risk of spreading them.In the event of a pandemic, avoid crowds – malls, movie theaters, etc., ask employer about telecommuting and/or staggered work schedules. This may help reduce individual risk as well as the severity of community-wide outbreaks.
10WHAT’S THE BEST PROTECTION IF AN OUTBREAK OCCURS? (CONT’D) Try esp. hard to avoid those who are coughing/sneezing. Droplets from coughs and sneezes can travel several feet and are among the main causes of flu transmission.There’s no definitive evidence that wearing a mask protects against influenza. More research is underway to determine whether wearing a mask offers protection during a pandemic