Bird ’flu, or avian ’flu, has again broken out in Hong Kong, three years after the disease first migrated to humans, killing two people and infecting 12.
Thousands of birds have died in the latest outbreak and to stop the disease spreading, hundreds of workers clothed in protective suits have begun the cull of around 100,000 chickens in battery farms.
The virus, called H5N1, would pose a very severe threat if it managed to break out into a pandemic, because humans have no resistance to it. Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the Atlanta Centre for Disease Control stated “Viruses change a lot and that is something that worries us”.
It is not yet clear whether this virus is passed directly to humans by the birds, or whether it passes first to pigs who come into contact with the droppings and then to humans through contact with the pigs or through eating infected meat. If so, the virus could be showing the first signs of crossing the species barrier, which is particularly worrying.
What is clear is the alarming discovery that H5N1 is of the same family as Spanish ’flu, which willed 20,000,000 people around the world in 1918/19, the Asian ’flu pandemic of 1957, which also killed millions and the Hong Kong ’flu of 1968, which killed fewer but infected large proportions of the population around the world.
The 1918/19 pandemic curiously affected healthy young adults rather than the classic target groups (the elderly and babies), the victims dying in a most unusual manner with a very fast accumulation of fluid on their lungs.
Timofei BYELO PRAVDA.Ru