Bird Flu Alarm

Understanding Avian Influenza

What if I can't get medications or vaccine?

While there is still time, it may be helpful to take steps to boost your immune system, particularly your natural killer (NK) cells which specifically target and kill viruses.  While there is no "magic bullet," stopping viruses before they enter cells effectively kills them.  To date medications start to work only after cells have already been infected.    

Your immune system works in several phases.  

Phase One:  When a virus enters your system through the nose or mouth, immune cells contained in the mucus membrane lining of your mouth and your digestive tract get to work attacking the virus.  These are your body's "security guards."  When successful, a virus never gets into the cells of your tissues.  You want these "security guards" to be plentiful and very strong so they can do their job well.  When they are overpowered by a virus and the virus then gets into your blood,  tissues and organs serious problems occur.

Phase Two: Viruses can travel in the blood to get to the rest of the cells of your tissues and organs.  Once again there is opportunity to have your NK cells and macrophages knock them out.

Phase Three:  Once the H5N1 virus gets into the cells of tissues and organs, especially the lungs, it heads for the nucleus of the cell.  It goes straight into the part of the nucleus known as the mitochondria.  At this point the immune system becomes overactive.  What is supposed to occur at this stage is for the immune system to make a final push to knock out the virus.  When the job is done, the attacking immune cells "go back to the barracks."  With H5N1 the signal system that tells your cytokines, your immune system attackers, to back off does not work.  Instead, the cytokines keep attacking.  They end up not only killing the virus but attacking all the surrounding areas, causing internal bleeding and organ failure.  This is called a "cytokine storm."

Understanding Avian Influenza