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The truth about Avian Influenza

afrol News, 22 August - At least 234 people have died of Avain influenza (Bird Flu) in the past 11 years and are said to be part of 385 confirmed cases of the pandemic, which according World Health Organisation (WHO), is a rising concern among those in health and science industries.

By Sharon Steed Ms Sharon Steed is a media correspondent with Bird-X, Inc., the leader in environmentally friendly, cruelty free bird control since 1964.

Bird flu occurs naturally among wild birds; which they carry in their intestines but do not get sick from it.

The disease is spread through saliva, nasal secretions and feces. Transmission to poultry happens when their breeding grounds overlap with those of wild birds. Influenza subtypes and genetic information mix causing it to mutate to another subtype.

According to WHO, its strain has caused the largest and most severe outbreaks in poultry on record since mid-2003.

A report by Bird-X, Inc., the leader in environmentally friendly, cruelty free bird control, since December 2003, over 100 human cases have been confirmed in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam with death resulting more than half the time.

"Human infection occurs when people come into direct contact with infected poultry and surfaces or objects contaminated by their feces. This is a growing problem recognised by governments all over East Africa," the report says.

It further indicates that migration pattern of many different types of birds in region makes risk of human infection high, adding that when infection occurs, it is deadly.

"In December 2007, a 52-year-old Chinese man became ill with the virus after caring for his 24-year-old son. The son, who died on December 2, may have contracted the disease at a live animal market a few days before he became ill. In a recent article by The Lancet, a British journal, Chinese doctors reported that the virus taken from the father was fully avian," it says.

Strain according to Bird-X, Inc, was virtually identical genetically to that of son's with one small mutation on one of internal genes.

The body says that although change is not thought to be one that gives virus greater ability to jump from human to human, concern is possibility of this kind of transmission continuing and forming more disruptive mutations.

"With discoveries such as these taking place, genuine concern about level of destruction is warranted. The effect a pandemic could have globally would change demographics of planet. And that change would be nothing less than devastating," is notes.

According to Sydney, Australia-based Lowry Institute think tank, worst-case scenario would be 142 million deaths worldwide and $4.4 trillion in economic losses.

A mild pandemic would not be much better with 1.4 million deaths and $330 billion in economic losses, the institute further shows.

Collective opinion is that most countries are grossly unprepared for what could possibly cut work force by 50 percent.

"Government in Gombe State is being proactive, embarking on a ward to ward, house to house campaign to get word out about dangerous disease," report indicates.

Desk Officer, Kassim Toro, believes avian flu is more dangerous than HIV/AIDS because it kills people almost immediately after onset of infection.

Much of Africa is at a high risk, with a new strain recently discovered in Nigeria, other countries are taking notice, according to report.

"Ghana, Togo and Benin are coming together in an attempt to keep damage at a minimum. Nigeria is moving in right direction with committees devoted to avian flu, but continent as a whole should take responsibility in stopping spread," it concludes.

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