nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Friday, December 3, 2010

Remember Avian Flu? Probably Still Around

The media is reporting this as confirmed, but the tests aren't complete yet.

If you read the Wall Street Journal article (Health Blog, Dec 3) it sounds like avian flu cases in chickens have been confirmed.

Recall that flu virus strains are categorized by two elements.  Therefore, last year's worrisome new strain was H1N1.  Avian flu is caused by an H5N1.   Preliminary tests at a chicken farm in Japan have tested positive initially for the H5 sub-type.  More testing is underway.

I expect the findings to be confirmed, but we're not there yet.  The chickens from this farm are being destroyed as a precaution.

Avian flu in humans is highly pathogenic (dangerous).  The World Health Organization reported 115 cases back in 2006, 79 of which resulted in death.  It's possible that this high mortality wouldn't be seen in a pandemic.  The cases in '06 resulted from close exposure to poultry.  Few of the cases were human-to-human.

There is a vaccine.  The FDA approved the first avian flu vaccine back in 2007.  If we needed it in the future it would take a while to gear up production.

But it's impossible to tell for sure how bad it would be if the virus escaped into the general population.

The bigger lesson is that new diseases never really go away for good; they just hide out for a while before re-surfacing.

Doc D

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