Saturday
   November 18, 2017

An Apple A Day
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"An Apple A Day"


Orcas Family
Health Center

A Washington State and IRS 501 (c) (3) charitable non -profit corporation


"Apple A Day Articles"

ADULT “CHECK-UPS”

AN APPLE A DAY...FOR WOMEN

COMMUNICATION BASICS

FDA LICENSES NEWVACCINE FOR PREVENTION OF CERVICAL CANCER

GETTING THERE FROM HERE

LEMONS AND LYMES

NO MERCY FROM MRSA

ONE FLU OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST

PROSTATE CANCER SCREENING

TO ERR IS HUMAN

ONE FLU OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST

Two years ago it was SARS, last year West Nile virus, this year it’s bird (avian) flu that screams from our daily paper, evening news and even National Geographic. The media would have us believe that the next great flu pandemic is on our doorstep. President Bush recently committed $7 billion in an effort to find a prevention and treatment for this latest non-epidemic. What would it take for this current fear to become a reality?

First, what is avian flu? Exactly as the name implies, it is a flu virus that infects birds. There are many strains of avian flu but the current one responsible for the concern being raised throughout our country is Influenza A H5N1. There are widespread reports of this virus infecting their natural host in numerous countries. As the virus spreads among migratory bird populations, it begins to travel the globe. (You may have even seen a recent report of an infected duck in Canada.) However, there have been relatively few (less than 100) human deaths from this avian flu virus since it was first reported to infect humans in 1997. And those deaths have occurred in only four countries, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam. All this is to say it is very rare for the avian flu virus to spread from birds to humans.

Now we come to the next event needed to start a global bird flu pandemic—human to human transmission. Thus far there is controversy as to whether there has been a single case of human to human transmission. There are one or t

wo suspect cases that did not cause re-infection after exposure. Currently it is virtually impossible for the bird flu virus to be transmitted easily from human to human. The fear, of course, is that the virus will somehow mutate into one that is easily transmissible.

As with other forms of influenza, the real success in reducing morbidity lies with prevention through vaccination. Several countries are in the process of trying to come up with a human vaccine against bird flu. There is some promise, but we are a long way from any success.

Lastly there are the antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, that have proved to reduce the severity of an influenza infection if treatment is begun early in the illness. For weeks our practice has been inundated with requests for these medications in the hope they will be effective against the bird flu. There have been trials in animals with some indication they may work against the bird flu but no evidence they will work in humans. Currently these medications are unavailable due to the previous demand. According to Robin Becker of Ray’s Pharmacy, manufacturers are reserving release of stores of these medications so they may be used in any outbreaks of human (not bird) influenza.

We hope this has been helpful and strive to put the real risk of pandemic bird flu in perspective. It is our opinion that efforts to encourage people to wear seat belts and stop smoking would be a far more valuable expenditure of resources.


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