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Bird Flu Reaches Britain in Infected Parrot
Mutated avian influenza could be more lethal than SARS: experts
Bhuwan Thapaliya (Bhuwan)     Print Article 
Published 2005-10-24 14:40 (KST)   
Britain's first case of avian flu was detected on Friday in a parrot that died in quarantine at an undisclosed location. But because the death was in quarantine, the United Kingdom's disease-free status is unchanged. It is the first confirmed case of bird flu in Britain since 1992.

Tests are being carried out on the parrot by U.K. scientists that died of the H5 strain of the virus. Scientists are trying to confirm whether it was the dreaded H5N1 strain, which has infected over 100 people, killing 60 in Asia.

"The parrot was part of a mixed consignment of 148 birds that arrived from Suriname, South America on Sept. 16. They were being held with 216 birds from Taiwan," according a British media report.

There are further reports of bird flu outbreaks in Romania, Turkey, Greece, Russia and most recently, Croatia, where it is thought to be carrying wild birds migrating from Asia.

Reports from Croatia said that further tests were needed to determine if the virus detected in the dead swans was the deadly H5N1 strain.

Nonetheless, The discovery of the six dead swans prompted the European Union authorities in Brussels to take preventive measures and announce they were just a step away from banning the imports of live poultry and poultry products from the Balkan country.

Bird flu panic has also hit France, where a national federation of supermarket chains said sales of poultry had dropped 20 percent in last five days.

Elsewhere, in Romania, after the new case of bird flu had been detected in the northeast of the country, there are reports of massive fear and panic amongst the people, and the Romanian government is finding it difficult to calm their citizens in the midst of the bird flu crisis.

To stay in the safe side, the European Commission has formally banned imports of pet birds from Russian territories after the discovery of the disease in south of Moscow this week.

China said it will close its borders if it discovers a single case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has warned that bird flu could be more serious than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. They believe if the virus mutated into a more lethal strain or one that could be passed from human to human, the effect could be catastrophic as the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1919.

At that time a completely new influenza virus subtype emerged and spread around the globe in around four to six months, killing an estimated 40 million to 50 million people.

Veterinary scientists first noted bird flu or avian influenza in the early-1900s but since December 2003, a growing number of south East Asian countries have reported outbreaks of bird flu in chickens and ducks.

"Bird flu is an extremely contagious viral disease, which affects poultry, pigeons and other birds and varies in severity, from causing no deaths to killing entire flocks in hours. It is most easily spread through bird secretions, particularly feces, but can also be passed via objects contaminated by an infected bird," latest bird flu reports say.

According to an interview in The Associated Press, the virus is more severe because "humans can catch bird flu directly through close contact with live infected birds and scientists fear the virus may genetically mutate into a form that is easily spread between humans. The virus is excreted, and people may inhale these germs as dust when the droppings dry out."

The H5N1 strain is the most deadly type of bird flu virus with 50 percent of its victims dying.

To make the matter worse, the usual annual flu vaccination will not provide any protection against avian flu. Nevertheless, it will reduce the chance of human and avian flu swapping DNA and developing into a deadly disease.

A new vaccine would need to be produced for this new strain of flu. However, it cannot be produced until the pandemic begins as scientists need to work with the actual mutated virus.

Currently the antiviral drug Tamiflu, made by Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Roche, stands the best chance of curbing pandemic bird flu.
Is an avian flu pandemic an imminent threat?  (2005-10-26 ~ 2005-11-29)
Yes, we're on the brink.
No. It is inevitable, but not anytime soon.
I don't know.
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Bhuwan Thapaliya

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