What could be deadlier than both nuclear bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima and all of the conventional bombs dropped on Europe, Africa, Russia, and the rest of Japan during World War I and II all put together? So have you heard about H5N1? No, how about Avian Flu? OK, bird flu maybe?
Since the beginning of October, those three terms have popped up more than occasionally in the international news as many western countries’ health authorities take notice of what’s happening in southern Asia and the Asia archipelagos. The western and now European Public Health authorities are concerned and rightly so. They are struggling to plan how to deal with the outbreak of an influenza epidemic that could be deadlier than anything the world has ever known!
Avian Flu (or bird flu) is not new to the world. It has been seen almost globally in years past. Like all influenzas, it is a virus and new strains appear virtually every year. Even though these flu strains are fatal, most only affect birds. So if you aren’t a Thai chicken or partridge rancher why should you care?
Because as I mentioned, every year a new strain “mutates” from the flu viruses that survived the previous year ”“ many of which were exposed to none lethal doses of antibodies in the systems of those birds that didn’t die. The fact that the new strain has been exposed to the host defense system makes the new strain more “virulent”, i.e. stronger and more resistant to those host defenses!
The concern is that it is a “flu” or influenza virus. As such, it is an infection that is generally transmitted very easily ”“ either by airborne exposure (via a cough or sneeze) or by direct contact with another infected host (chickens, ducks, or a partridge in a pear tree?). No big deal, right? After all, there is an antibiotic for everything! The bad news is that antibiotics cannot be used to treat viral infections. Viruses live inside the cells of the hosting organism (birds or humans) and the only way to kill a virus there is to kill the cell it is living in. Oops, that means you can’t kill all the infected cells without killing the HOST too!
Viruses are treated by treating their symptoms, not by treating the infectious virus itself. The only safeguard against such a predator is to pre-expose the bird to small amounts of the live virus. This method of pre-exposure is more commonly known as immunization or a vaccine. Every year, millions of Americans (particularly the elderly) and other people around the world receive “flu shots”. These immunizations actually give you a small case of the disease you are being immunized against to stimulate the body to produce the appropriate antibodies so that if you are ever again exposed to the virus, your body will both know how to and actively produce the antibodies to kill the invading virus.
It’s still not a problem because avian flu only infects birds, right?
The GOOD news is that of the thousands of known strains of avian flu viruses, most do only infect birds and not other animals. The BAD news is that the strain designated H5N1 is a MUTANT strain that DOES cross the species boundary and infect humans as well as birds! The WORSE news is that this particular strain may also be transmitted from human to human. The WORST news is that as of this date, there is NO immunization for humans against the deadly H5N1 virus!
So now you ask with a nervous twitch rather than the previously confident air, “If you’re in the western hemisphere, there is still not a problem because the H5N1 virus has only been detected in southern Asia, right?” Sorry, I have more bad news.
Avian flu, H5N1 in particular, is on the spread. In the past 2 weeks alone, the virus has been confirmed in fowls in both Romania and Turkey (in Europe!), and today chickens were tested in Venezuela (South America) and it has been diagnosed in 5 humans in Indonesia! So to answer your question, the problem has already arrived in the western hemisphere. The avian flu pandemic (fancy word for a world-wide epidemic) may well become a reality sooner than any government health authorities are capable of providing any effective vaccines against it.
U.S. researchers now believe that the deadliest epidemic in the history of mankind (the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 which killed about 50 million people worldwide) was, in fact, an avian flu virus. Confirmation of this has reportedly come through a “resurrection” of the virus by researchers to microscopically compare it with currently known avian flu strains.
What concerns me more is that by tracing the spread of this virus back to it origins, the media has focused on Thailand and Southeast Asia. This ignores the fact that 3600 ducks DIED in IRAN before the first article was printed on the subject that contained the word “Thailand”. So what, you ask? So, Iran has created and funded every major terrorist group in the world ”“ probably including AL-Qaeda in spite of the world’s willingness to accept Bin-Laden as the father of that organization. Trace the roots of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Egyptian Jihad movement, the Malaysian and Philippine terror groups’ histories and you will find with very little effort that all of them were funded and created by Iranian intelligence operatives.
If that isn’t enough to open your eyes, couple that with known activities in the “Triborder Region” of South America. The Triborder Region is basically a lawless region located at the borders of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. Terrorist training camps are believed to operate in this area by groups including Al-Qaeda. Take a look at a map and see where Venezuela is relative to this area.
Perhaps our worries of Nuclear Terrorism and dirty bombs should be replaced with an even greater fear of Biological Terrorism in the form of a global and unpreventable epidemic ”“ a pandemic of avian flu launched as a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD).
Let’s hope that we all survive so that you can read the next article I write!