Step By Step Guide On How To Prevent Bird Flu

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Bird Flu is one of the greatest threats to our modern civilization and if at all a pandemic strikes our planet earth, we are not at all prepared to face it. Bird flu spreads and multiplies in unhygienic conditions. In fact the carriers of this deadly virus are the wild birds, which remain unaffected by the outcome of the virus infiltration.

Bird flu is just an influenza virus. Generally this virus does not infect the humans. But a single strain of this virus, known as H5N1 can show infection symptoms in humans, dogs and pigs. Many of the viruses of this deadly disease has a common route to enter. They are found in our finger nails and enter through the mucous membrane of our nose and eyes.

However, the bird flu virus can be easily prevented. Some of the preventive measures are:

Maintaining proper personal hygiene. For that it is advisable that you wash your hands frequently, particularly while taking meals. And if you are looking for more safety use gloves while stepping out of your homes.

Apart from personal hygiene, proper sanitation is also very important. Unhygienic sanitation places are the best breeding grounds for the flu virus.

As it has been said earlier that the virus spreads through the mucous membranes so it is advisable for you to take some extra precautions. While traveling out in crowded places, make sure that you cover your eyes with a pair of goggles. And also try to cover your mouth and nose with the clinical masks available.

This is an advise both for the doctors and the general family members. While addressing a patient suffering from the virus, you should always cover your nose and mouth with a mask or an handkerchief. Because the mucous dropping by the patients carries the bird flu virus that might infect you.

There is some special care to take if you are a worker in a poultry farm. You need to protect all your body parts. So for that reason wear clinical masks and gloves for a complete protection. Keep separate clothes for the workplace and for home.

And if you find any bird suffering from the symptoms of the flu, you should immediately seclude it from the others. Do not allow the nasal discharge, fecal matter and the blood droplets of the infected chicken to come in contact with the healthy chickens.

There are certain vaccines for the bird flu disorder. But these vaccines sometimes fail to show positive results. So it is better to look for prevention than the cure.

While disposing the things used, like the gloves and the masks used while monitoring a bird or a human suffering from the virus, you should take some extra care. Dispose them as indicated on their manufacturing boxes.

The other natural way to prevent encounter with a flu virus is by improving your immune system. A strong immune system helps you fight this deadly virus. More over if you try to keep your general health fine, there are less chances of you being infected.

Preventing bird flu virus from spreading is not a difficult task. All you need to do is to be a little more careful about your surroundings and your health. An efficient immune and health system can fight any disease. The same is true with the prevention of the bird flu virus. 

What are the Symptoms of Bird Flu?

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The incubation period of H5N1 Bird Flu virus varies from 2 to 10 days. That is, symptoms appear 2 to 10 days after the virus has first entered a body. A person can be contagious without showing symptoms. An adult is still contagious until 7 days after fever stops and must remain isolated. Children 12 and under are still very contagious for 21 days from the beginning of illness. Keep the patient quarantined during this time.


Symptoms of Bird Flu

Infected people may have some or all of the following symptoms:
  • Mild cold, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath.
  • Fever greater than 38 degrees Celsius
  • Diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
  • Mild to severe respiratory distress. needing ventilation within days.
  • In very severe cases large amounts of mucous accumulate in the lungs limiting breathing. Patients can ‘drown’ in their own mucous within 10 to 20 days. This may also involve secondary bacterial infection.
  • Laboratory tests have shown an early onset of lymphopenia, which is an abnormally low number of lymphocytes in the blood.
  • Complications also included renal failure and multi organ failure.
  • Other symptoms have also occurred through H5N1 bird flu infection leading to many incorrectly diagnosed patients including encephalitis, dengue, gastrointestinal disorders and cholera.
  • A very common symptom of the 1918 Spanish flu was the cytokine storm

Cytokine Storm

During the 1918 Spanish Flu a large number of deaths in very healthy young people (16 to 40 years) was attributed to a cytokine storm. This is when a very healthy immune system desperately over reacts to the invading virus. During other types of influenza the white blood cells produced by the immune system will release a variety of natural antivirals called cytokines that attack the invading viruses. The H5N1 Bird Flu virus is different to most other influenza viruses in that it is immune to at least two of these cytokines, named TNF-a and IL-6. The body’s immune system over reacts by increasing production of these two toxic and inflammatory cytokines until they begin damaging the body’s own tissues, the lung tissue in particular. The lung tissue expands and then collapses and the patient slowly suffocates to death in a few days. (Pubmed PMID 12195436)
In severe cases bleeding may occur. This is due to the inflammatory cytokines weakening and damaging the capillary walls allowing blood to leak out. Dark patches can appear under the skin. If too much blood is lost then the body may go into shock. It is important to prevent the patient from dehydrating as this could make the situation worse.

How to stop SARS viruses from reproducing

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The bright spot surrounded by a corona looks harmless, but it is a deadly pathogen: A corona virus causing SARS. The virus was first identified by the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg. Picture by Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine.



In times of the “bird flu” SARS seems to be no threat anymore. This notion is deceptive. Experts assume that viruses causing the severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS, or other related corona viruses, could re-emerge at any time and might pose a global public-health threat.

From November 2002 to June 2003, 8,500 patients were infected with an at that time unknown pathogen originating in southern China; 800 humans died. Then, the epidemic was controlled and it’s cause detected. The pathogen was a novel corona virus. Such viruses are extremely alterable.

Now, researchers of the “Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie” (FMP) in Berlin have synthesized substances that target a vital enzyme of the SARS virus, namely it’s main protease. “We were systematically looking for molecules to prevent the corona virus from reproducing itself”, says Prof. Jörg Rademann. He heads the group “Medical Chemistry” at the FMP. Rademann adds: “We hope that our research can help to produce suitable drugs against such viruses in a short time, especially in the case of a new epidemic.”

The main protease proved to be a good starting-point for the researchers: The group of Prof. Rolf Hilgenfeld at the University of Lübeck provided the protein and solved its structure. The viral enzyme cuts long protein molecules manufactured by the virus in the host cell into small pieces. The main protease is essential for the reproduction of all corona viruses and it has an almost identical structure in all of these pathogens. Thus, once a substance that attacks the main protease is found, scientists would have a wide range of possibilities to fight different corona viruses.

Rademann and his team, together with colleagues, have synthesized for the first time molecules that attach themselves to the main protease without being chemically reactive. Most importantly, this process is reversible, thus minimizing side-effects of potential drugs. The researchers presented a collection of substances that resemble the natural substrate of the main protease.

Even if it is still a long way from such a collection to suitable drugs, the newly synthesized peptide aldehydes mark an important step towards a therapy for SARS. The next goal is to identify the most effective peptide aldehydes out of the collection and then to further optimize the substance. “If we are successful, the next outbreak of SARS will pose a much smaller threat to public-health and we will not be helpless”, says Rademann.

Mutated Bird Flu Virus Might Not Spread Easily

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Although many scientists have been concerned that the H5N1 bird flu virus may mutate one day and become easily human transmissible, a recent study seems to indicate that it might not spread easily among humans. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA, tried to combine a common human flu virus with H5N1 and found it does not spread easily.



This could mean that the mutated virus may not be such a giant threat to global human health. You can read about this study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2.
Scientists infected ferrets with genetically engineered H5N1 viruses and found that the infected animals did not spread their illness to other healthy ferrets - all the animals were very close to each other. They also found that the ‘mutated’ virus was not as virulent as the original H5N1.

(Virulent = Potent, powerful)

The H5N1 bird flu virus strain may one day mutate by exchanging genetic information with a normal human flu virus. It could infect a human who also had the normal human flu and mutate. Dr. Jackie Katz, one of the researchers, said the study was carried out to see what would happen when H5N1 acquired the genetic changes needed for better transmission.

The researchers mixed H5N1 genetic material with other viruses. Ferrets and humans catch and transmit flu in a very similar way, hence, ferrets were used in this study. Ferrets infected with ‘mutated’ H5N1 viruses did not pass on the virus to healthy ferrets in the same cage.

This does not mean that a mutated H5N1 will never be dangerous to humans. It just means that the chances of a mutated virus being a serious threat to global public health are smaller than feared. There are 50 possible combinations of the viruses.

The current H5N1 virus can only infect a human deep down in the lungs, not the upper respiratory tract. This has advantages and disadvantages:

Advantage:

– It is more difficult to make someone ill because the virus has to go a long way down. A human has to be exposed to a large cluster of the virus for longer to get ill.
– An infected human who coughs and sneezes will not emit many viruses, because they are deep down in the lungs - that is one of the reasons humans cannot infect other humans easily.

Disadvantage

– A human who has an infection deep down in the lung(s) will not know about it until it has progressed further than a person who has an upper-respiratory infection. This is one of the reasons the human death rate is so high.

For the H5N1 to become more human transmissible will most likely need to mutate so that it infects the upper-respiratory tract. If it manages to do this, the theory goes, it will spread more easily, but will probably not be so deadly.

Test Tamiflu, A Tamiflu Review

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Bird Flu Studies Urgently Needed to Test Tamiflu, WHO Says
More studies are urgently’ needed to determine how bird flu patients can be best treated with oseltamivir, the antiviral drug marketed by Roche Holding AG as Tamiflu, the World Health Organization said.

Tamiflu is approved to treat seasonal flu. No direct clinical trial evidence shows the medicine is effective in treating people infected with the lethal H5N1 avian influenza virus because no such studies have been conducted, the Geneva- based United Nations health agency said yesterday.

“Because the optimal dosage has not been resolved by clinical trials, and because H5N1 infections continue to have a high mortality rate, prospective studies are needed urgently to determine optimal dosing and duration of treatment,'’ the WHO said in a statement on its Web site.
The WHO and governments around the world are stockpiling Tamiflu for use as a prophylactic against any potential influenza pandemic. The medicine is also one of several drugs being used to treat patients with H5N1, which health officials worry may mutate into a form that’s more contagious to humans.

Since 2003, H5N1 has killed at least 98 of 177 people infected, the WHO said on March 13.
There is limited evidence suggesting that some oseltamivir can reduce the duration of viral replication and improve prospects of survival, provided it is given within 48 hours following symptom onset, according to the WHO’s fact sheet on avian flu, published on the Internet. Prior to an H5N1 outbreak in Turkey earlier this year, most patients were detected and treated late in the course of illness, it said.

Turkish Data
Roche said last week it has data from 21 patients in Turkey who took the drug after being infected with H5N1. Four of the patients were given the drug “very, very late'’ and died, David Reddy, head of Roche’s pandemic task force, said. The remaining patients recovered and were discharged from the hospital.

“The evidence for effectiveness of oseltamivir in human H5N1 disease is based on virological data from in vitro, animal models, and limited human studies and extrapolation from the results of trials in patients with ordinary human influenza, ‘’ the WHO said.
Optimal treatment of H5N1 cases using oseltamivir may be different than recommended for seasonal flu, the WHO said in the statement yesterday. For seasonal flu, it is recommended that adults take 75 milligrams of oseltamivir twice a day for five days.

In H5N1 cases, it is possible that severely ill patients might benefit from taking the medicine for seven to 10 days or given as much as 300 milligrams a day, the WHO said, adding that “prospective studies are required.'’

Higher Doses
Gastrointestinal side effects in particular may increase with higher doses, particularly above 300 milligrams a day, the WHO said. There is no adequate data on the use of oseltamivir in pregnant women, it said.

“Animal toxicology studies do not indicate direct or indirect harmful effects with respect to pregnancy or fetal development,'’ the WHO said. “Decisions to use oseltamivir in pregnant women should be made on a case by case basis where the potential benefit to the mother justifies the potential risk to the fetus.'’

Basel, Switzerland-based Roche said on March 16 it will use 15 partners, including Sanofi-Aventis SA and Clariant AG, to increase production of Tamiflu by 33 percent by year’s end.
Based on the current manufacturing capacity, it will take a decade to produce enough oseltamivir to treat a fifth of the world’s population, according to the WHO.

Bird Flu Vaccine Makes Big Strides

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A vaccine for avian influenza has been developed by the Bhopal-based High Security Animal Disease Laboratory. This discovery brings India on par with China, Pakistan, Indonesia and Thailand. The vaccine used killed H5N1 virus and can be used during a H5N1 bird flu outbreak.
The immune response is good and the vaccine offers protection of above 90 percent. The lab is now in the process of looking into the duration of protection.



Dr. H.K. Pradhan, Joint Director of the laboratory told the Hindu, “According to the literature, the immunity [protection] can last up to six months.” The question of increasing the duration with a booster dose is under investigation.

The vaccine has been tested for safety, dosage, and route of inoculation. Dr. Pradhan said, “We found the intra-muscular [route] to be better.”
On the whole, there is little chance of the avian flu occurring following vaccination since the vaccine uses a killed virus to bring on a good immune response.

The vaccine was developed over a short period of time since the lab had been working on bird flu for the last six years. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research had requested research on a vaccine following the first outbreak in India in February 2006 and it was completed in early July.
Dr. Pradhan revealed, “We had the viruses collected during this year’s outbreak and the cell lines taken five years ago.”

The vaccine may be used right after an outbreak to control the spread of the virus as well as for vaccination prior to an outbreak. However, vaccination before an outbreak is not advisable since the vaccine has its limitations.

In a process referred to as “ring vaccination” poultry in a 5 km (3 miles) radius of the location of outbreak has to be killed followed by vaccination on birds in a 5-10 km (3-6 miles) radius or more. The cost and the licensing of the technology for commercial use remains to be worked out.