Influenza and it’s various deadly strains has affected the lives of a lot of people, particularly in this century. The most notable one’s have been: The Spanish Flu (1918), The Asian Flu (1957) and the Hong Kong Flu (1968), have all combined to have killed at least 20 million people around the world.
The Bird/Swine flu in particular can spread quickly as the bird flu virus is usually found in the intestines of migrant birds, being able to travel great distances. The bird flu will spread when other birds, such as chickens or geese come in contact with the infected bird’s saliva, it’s nasal secretions or feces. These birds will fall ill and die within 72 hours of contracting the virus. Humans who interact with these infected birds without protective gear are also at risk.
There are 4 reasons scientists believe that these flu’s (Bird or Swine Flu’s) can become a pandemic
1. A lot of countries, specifically most third world countries, don’t have the proper facilities in place to treat and take care of the flu problem. Without these medical facilities, there’s a high possibility of these flu viruses spreading quickly.
2. No vaccine that works long term has been fully developed or tested to fight the swine or bird flu virus. Using drugs such as amantadine and rimantadine, which are used to treat the human influenza virus, tested on those infected with the swine or bird virus, has not been successful. Even though medical research is currently underway, there’s still no real known cure for these flu’s in humans. Should a worldwide pandemic happen, it will take at least three to four months to produce the exact vaccines that can be distributed to those suffering from the strains.
3. The avian influenza virus affects both swine (pigs) and birds. However, since the virus has different strains and are also easily mutated, most scientists fear that the virus strain could evolve into something worse, affecting humans directly. The virus could easily become airborne and then be transmitted from one human to another.
4. For those people that work in farms or are in the poultry and livestock industry, usually do not have the proper equipment or adequate protection against the disease.
Humans who may be possibly infected with the bird or swine flu could show symptoms similar to the common human influenza. These infected persons with the bird or swine flu will experience fever, sore throats and muscle pain. Since these symptoms are similar between the bird/swine flu and the human flu, someone with the bird flu could be easily mistakenly diagnosed with the human flu strain. However, some advanced symptoms of the bird or swine flu may also include: eye infections and/or respiratory problems, which can become life threatening.
In the late 1990’s, an outbreak of the bird flu occurred in Hong Kong, 118 people were infected and sixty died. There was fortunately a quick response as Hong Kong’s entire poultry population, which was around 1.5 million chickens, were killed. Many believe that this quick response to this particular bird flu outbreak, was the best possible solution and it helped avert it from becoming pandemic.
Generally, there’s little risk for most people getting infected with the bird or swine flu, since it requires direct interaction with the infected birds/swine and their feces. As the number of people that has been infected with the swine flu is still low, there’s no real serious cause of alarm yet. However, for those constantly in contact with poultry or livestock, the risk becomes higher.
As there are constant rapid advances in medical technology today, as well as lessons learned from past major pandemics, there’s hope that the swine and bird flu will be prevented from becoming another worldwide pandemic.