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October 10, 2005

Bird Flu on Similar Evolutionary Path as 1918 Killer Virus (Has human to human transmission ALREADY OCCURRED?) Updated

Topics: Health Issues

biotech4.jpegThe current H5N1 pandemic, which began in December, 2003 has generated at least 9 familial clusters of cases, resulting in 11 likely human to human transmissions, and 8 of the 11 have died (one was in critical condition Jan 22). Unfortunately, the efficiency of human to human transmission of fatal H5N1 influenza is much higher than transmission of H5N1 from birds to humans. - more in extended post!!

The H5N1 virus behind avian influenza (Bird Flu) is fast becoming a topic of hot discussion, and rightfully so - following the long-ignored coverage by most of the media. And if you need to be coaxed into taking H5N1 serious, in a paper to be published tomorow, researchers report that mice infected with the 1918 virus, which H5N1 appears to be approaching in very close similarity, died in just three days - unusually fast - and that unlike most flu viruses, the 1918 strain replicated deep in the lung, not just in the throat and bronchi. This fits recorded observation that many victims of Spanish flu died when blood or fluid flooded their lungs, often after only a day or two of illness.

It appears that the H5N1 virus might be acquiring the ability to adapt to humans, increasing their pandemic risk in what has been described as the deadliest epidemic since the "Black Death."

The strain of avian influenza virus that has led to the deaths of 140 million birds and 60 people in Asia in the past two years appears to be slowly acquiring genetic changes typical of the "Spanish flu" virus that killed 50 million people nearly a century ago, researchers said yesterday.

How far "bird flu" virus has traveled down the evolutionary path to becoming a pandemic virus is unknown. Nor is it certain that the much-feared strain, designated as influenza A/H5N1, will ever acquire all the genetic features necessary for rapid, worldwide spread.

Nevertheless, the similarities between the Spanish flu virus of 1918 and the H5N1 strain slowly spreading through Asia provide unusually concrete evidence of how dangerous the newer virus is. At least four of its eight genes now contain mutations seen in the deadly strain that circled the globe during and after World War I.

"These H5N1 viruses might be acquiring the ability to adapt to humans, increasing their pandemic risk ... there is a suggestion there may be some parallel evolution going on," said Jeffery K. Taubenberger, a molecular pathologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville.

As we've been saying for almost a year (some broken links in the post are corrected here - below), this stuff is as serious as a heart attack, and we aren't even close to being ready for it!

And it's important for you to know that the media is either not aware of it or is not reporting that researchers reported back in February, 2005, that HUMAN TO HUMAN TRANSMISSION OF THE H5N1 VIRUS HAS ALREADY OCCURED, and the efficiency of human to human transmission, 11 cases from less than 100 human cases, was over 1000 fold more efficient than bird to human.

Update - Some links to our 2004 posts referred to here have been broken. We were able to recover them and you will find these early posts on Avian influenza at the following links:

Bird Flu(Avian Influenza) Outbreak Fears Spark Action - Up To 100 Million People Could Die

Chickens in Vietnam's northern region die of bird flu

Man in Japan infected with avian influenza; 4 others likely infected

Updated coverage - Dan at Riehl World View posts on some serious statistics:

Officials are rewriting that plan to designate not just who cares for the sick but who will keep the country running amid the chaos, said an influenza specialist who is advising the government on those decisions.

In a best-case scenario, about 200,000 people might die.

But if the next pandemic resembles the birdlike 1918 Spanish flu, as many as 1.9 million could die, Osterholm said. Millions more would be ill, overwhelming hospitals.

Related: Bird flu may have reached Europe

Posted by Richard at October 10, 2005 7:02 AM

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