Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Avian Flu Concerns

After learning about an disease called Q fever in microbiology this past weak, the topic of virulence and pathogenicity arose. Some people believe the two words are synonymous, but in fact they have two different meanings. Pathogenecity is how well the disease can be spread, while virulence is how much damage the the disease can cause.For example, the recent outbreak in swine flu. Swine flu was very pathogenic and spread between millions and millions of people, whereas the virulence of swine flu was very low. The avian flu on the other hand is just the opposite of the swine flu. The avian flu is very virulent when it infects humans, but the avian flu was not as widespread as the swine flu. The avian flu is a zoonotic disease that was first spotted in Hong Kong in 1997. The avian flu is gaining more attention because it is very potent and brings a high mortality rate to those who become infected.  Current outbreaks in Southeast China has led to widespread culling of birds. The avian flu also known as H5N1 is becoming more widespread and can be found throughout Europe and Africa. From 2003 to 2008 the highly pathogenic H5N1 has infected nearly 400 humans. Although the avian flu has not been spotted in domestic or wild poultry, the Center for Disease Control is worried a pandemic may be nearing. If the avian flu evolves and becomes more virulent, the  flu can become more widespread and more dangerous. Of the 400 people that have been infected with H5N1, nearly 60% of them have died. Those most at risk are poultry farmers, travelers, and people who may consume uncooked meat from infected birds. Some symptoms include a high fever,headaches, diarrhea and trouble breathing. A vaccine is being developed that can be deployed if the avian flu becomes more pathogenic and spreads from animals to humans more easily.

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