Bird Flu Alarm

Understanding Avian Influenza

How pandemic influenza, avian influenza and normal seasonal influenza differ from each other

Bird Flu and Flu Pandemic are not the same:

Bird flu should not be confused with pandemic flu. Bird flu (Avian flu caused by H5N 1 virus) is largely in birds and spread by preparing diseased birds, handling fighting cocks, playing with poultry, consumption of duck's blood, and eating of undercook poultry.

The human cases that we are seeing are largely because of animal to human transmission as a result of above activities. So far, possibly only one H to H case in Thailand. The longer the outbreaks of bird flu and more global spread in various countries - the more likely that a new virus will emerge and pandemic potential increases.

Prerequisites for pandemic flu:

A novel influenza virus subtype emerge or an old subtype re-emerge. The new virus must be able to replicate in humans and cause serious illness. It must be efficiently transmitted from one human to another.

Pandemic Flu versus Season Flu - What are the differences?

Flu itself is generally not regarded as a serious illness (except those in the risk groups) and self limiting in effect.

Pandemic flu is different from "normal seasonal flu" in that:

We do not know specifically when it will happen, though signs suggest that this may happen soon.

There is currently no vaccine for pandemic flu. A specific vaccine can only be developed once a pandemic starts. This ensures that the vaccine matches the pandemic strain as closely as possible. This may take 6 months.

Normal flu vaccine will not protect against pandemic flu but people should still have their ordinary jabs as normal (to reduce severity) and acquire immunity to existing strains. For the new pandemic strain, we have currently no immunity.

Anti-viral drugs eg Tamil flu can help prevent and treat cases of influenza A infection and found to be effective against H5N1 strain. Effectiveness against new pandemic strain yet unknown.

Understanding Avian Influenza