The Bird Flu
IS THE FLU FROM VENUS OR MARS? That's the question some scientists
were investigating in 1944. Researchers have learned a lot about the flu virus in the last sixty years but influenza remains a perplexing disease. This flu season the focus is on the possible mutation of an avian virus from Asia. Here are some articles from TIME to help you know why we should all worry (at least a little) about the threat of a bird-flu pandemic:
The fear is that if bird flu manages to combine with a strain of human influenza and form a superstrain that easily spreads from person to person, it could threaten the lives of millions. Preventing a pandemic thus depends on tracking and controlling infected poultry, and nowhere is that challenge more daunting than in Indonesia.
From Living Cheek by Beak in Indonesia
By Bryan Walsh
Jun. 14, 2007
That process continued with avian flu until late last year, when IndonesiaÑthe country that has suffered the most bird-flu deathsÑsuddenly stopped sharing virus samples and instead signed an agreement with the U.S. drug company Baxter to provide virus strains in exchange for help in eventually producing its own vaccine. Jakarta health officials argued that it was unfair for them to give away viruses that might be used to make a pandemic vaccine IndonesiaÑand other developing countriesÑwould never be able to afford.
From The Battle for an Avian Flu Vaccine
By Bryan Walsh
Mar. 29, 2007
According to the Japanese Health Ministry, 54 people have died after taking Tamiflu Ñ the drug governments around the world have stockpiled for use against avian flu Ñ since the drug was approved for use in Japan in 2000. Most suspiciously, in multiple cases people, including those cases above, acted erratically after taking Tamiflu.
From Danger from the Bird-Flu Drug?
By Bryan Walsh
Mar. 20, 2007
Winter in the Northern Hemisphere means one chilling prospect for global health officials: it's bird-flu season. Nine countries have announced outbreaks in recent weeks, and a replay of 2006--when H5N1 killed 80 people and spread to the Middle East and Africa--could well be on the way.
From Bird Flu Takes Flight
By Tim Kindseth
Jan. 18, 2007
Don't count on just vaccines, or only the feds. A White House report establishing a national response to a global disease outbreak, including bird flu, warns that state and local law enforcement may have to enforce isolation or even quarantine procedures in certain cases to try to contain the pandemic.
From Inside the White House Plan for the Pandemic
By Mike Allen
May. 03, 2006
Most experts think it's just a matter of time before avian flu finds its way to the Americas. Dr. David Nabarro, U.N. coordinator for avian and human influenza, told reporters last week he believed that H5N1 would jump to the New World 'within the next six to 12 months.' The U.S. government appears to agree.
From Guarding the Henhouse
By Christine Gorman
Mar. 20, 2006
Influenza regularly kills 1 million people a year--36,000 of them in the U.S.--yet most of us don't get vaccinated. The new threat requires a different response--a healthy respect for the toll that even a moderate pandemic may take on our society and just enough genuine fear to figure out some smart steps to take to minimize the damage.
From How Scared Should We Be?
By Christine Gorman
Oct. 17, 2005
The 1918 bug was different in one crucial way from the viruses responsible for the flu pandemics of 1957 and 1968, better known as the Asian and the Hong Kong pandemics. (A pandemic is a worldwide epidemic.) Those were human influenza viruses that had incorporated a few bird flu genes, but the 1918 virus was a bird flu that changed to permit more efficient human-to-human transmission.
From Catastrophic 1918 Pandemic Was Also A Bird Flu
By Michael Lemonick
Oct. 07, 2005
Health officials have long been worried that the next deadly global epidemic a slate wiper, as epidemiologists call it would be a new kind of deadly flu to which humans have no resistance.
From The Revenge of the Birds
By Anthony Spaeth
Feb. 9, 2004
A far more dangerous threat exists: the possibility that this particularly deadly strain of the avian-flu virus—often described using a shorthand for its genetic makeup, H5N1—could mutate and mix with human-flu viruses, and suddenly start spreading as swiftly and devastatingly among people as it has among chickens.
From Is A Human Pandemic Next?
By Simon Elegant
Feb. 02, 2004
Photos & Graphics
What allowed this avian virus to cross the species barrier and set up killing infections in man? Why did it strike the young and hardy with the most ferocity just as the 1918 virus had? And, most important, … is it circulating more quietly, primed for a 'reassortment event' that will set off the next global disaster?
From The Flu Hunters
By Erik Larson
Feb. 23, 1998
As far as health officials can tell, every patient with H5N1 flu was infected directly by a chicken or some other feathered creature.... Rather than wait to see what the H5N1 virus does next, U.S. scientists are racing to develop an effective vaccine, working in conjunction with doctors in Hong Kong and the pharmaceutical industry. It is not going to be easy. Influenza vaccines are usually grown in a chicken-egg medium, and H5N1 virus kills chicken eggs.
From The New Hong Kong Flu
By Christine Gorman
Dec. 29, 1997
The fight against infectious disease is neither a leisurely war of attrition nor a desperate retreat. Instead, it looms as a protracted guerrilla conflict in which reliable intelligence and rapid reaction are the keys to survival.
From Guerrilla Warfare
By Michael D. Lemonick
Sep. 18, 1996
Inside the body, a trillion highly specialized cells, regulated by dozens of remarkable proteins and honed by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, launch an unending battle against the alien organisms.
From Stop That Germ!
By Leon Jaroff
May 23, 1988
While some of the properties of viruses were becoming evident in the 1920s, no one had yet seen one; on the average, scientists now know, viruses are ten to 100 times as small as the typical bacterium, and in fact far smaller than the wavelength of visible light.
From Aids Research Spurs New Interest in Some Ancient
Nov. 3, 1986
The massive swine flu vaccine program proved to be more of a threat than the disease: it has been implicated in nearly 400 cases of a little-understood, usually temporary paralysis called Guillain-Barré syndrome.
From Off-Again, On-Again Flu Shots
Feb. 21, 1977
The most savage of all epidemics in the world since the Black Death, and by far the most lethal in the history of the Americas, was the 1918-19 worldwide pandemic of influenza. Often called the Spanish flu because some of the earliest cases reported were in Spain, it actually erupted simultaneously in places as far apart as southern Russia and Greenland.
From Plague of the Past
Aug. 16, 1976
Why does one man get off lightly, while another is hit so hard? The explanation may lie in both the nature of the virus and the patient's previous bouts with flu. The first A2 Asian virus appeared in 1957 and laid low millions around the world. Thanks to antibody formation, these people developed substantial immunity against further illness from this virus or its kin.
From Clean Sweep for HK-68
Jan. 31, 1969
It was almost certain that most of the symptoms resulted from the epidemic spread of influenza viruses. Of these, there are two main types, A and B. The B type appears to be stable and causes outbreaks of moderate severity every two to four years. On the other hand the A types are highly unstable and mutate unpredictably.
From A2-Hong Kong-68, or Whatever
Dec. 13, 1968
The mutant Asian strain of flu virus has already caused 'the most widespread influenza epidemic in 40 years,' said Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney of the U.S. Public Health Service.
Dec. 23, 1957
A determined counterattack against an influenza epidemic has only lately become possible—or been considered worthwhile. For centuries, while far deadlier pestilences were commonplace, the influence seemed unimportant, usually killed only the aged and already infirm. ... But as the ancient scourges were being brought under control, influenza occasionally became more lethal.
From The War on Mutant A
Jun. 24, 1957
An influenza vaccine that really works would be a medical Something—interesting but improbable. This week the improbability became cold medical fact.
From Influenza Vaccine
Apr. 3, 1944
Professor Louis Backman of Uppsala University, Stockholm, a pharmacologist and medical writer well known throughout Europe, had suggested that it was entirely possible that organisms causing recent flu epidemics had come from Venus, Jupiter or Mars.
From Flu from Venus?
Feb. 21, 1944
Despite the wildfire contagion, symptoms everywhere were mild. Most of the victims had only slight fever, sniffles, headache, sore limbs, backache, a tight feeling in the chest.... But in many communities, daily life was completely disrupted.
From Flu Epidemic
Dec. 16, 1940
In the past weeks nationwide sniffling, coughing and dull fevers have heralded the spread of influenza. Unlike the famed epidemic of 1918, the disease spread from west to east.
From Flu Fear
Dec. 31, 1928
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