Saturday, January 14, 2006

Avain Flu: Dilemma and Vaccine Limitations

Over the holidays I was reading a surprising Toronto Star article that said the avain flu virus will kill strongest first. Whaaaa?!
Basically, what happens is that younger, healthy people have a stronger immune response to avian flu that can end up being fatal. More specifically, "when infected with avian flu, proteins called cykotines alert our immune system to the presence of the virus. Scientists think healthy immune system overreact to the information, causing what is called a 'cykotine storm. The victim's immune system subsequently floods the lungs with T-cells, which attack infected tissue and cause hemorrhagic symptoms, suffocating the victim in [their] own immune response. The same phenomenon was seen in SARS cases."
In case you are wondering what you should do, keeping a healthy, balanced immune system is still the best option, but do not try to boost it unnecessarily.

Experts believe that the avian flu would be similar to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 in which (according to the CDC) "nearly half of those who died were young, healthy adults." As for numbers, a Discover article (describing two reports) said the Spanish Flu killed 675,000 Americans and 20 million people worldwide. (For your comparison: US pop in 1918 ~ 100 million, now it is almost 300 million. World pop in 1918 ~ 1 billion, now it is over 6 billion). This could be a big problem.

Vaccine concern are occuring because the manufacturing process would take about 8 months because they are using technology from 1940. (This part may just be US relevant) The three companies that make flu shots are capable of only producing 150 million doses a year and the it is possible the avian flu could evolve to bypass the new vaccine or one in production.

I am definitely not one for fear-mongering, but I thought this information important because it corrected a mistaken assumption I had and made me see the validity of much of the concern.

2 Comments:

Blogger Cosd said...

Confused?... I recently modified my lifestyle to a more 'healthy' one because was healthier, not because I was worried about the bird flu. But you're saying it's more likely kill healthy people, but then:
"In case you are wondering what you should do, keeping a healthy, balanced immune system is still the best option, but do not try to boost it unnecessarily."

So, which is it? Should I stay healthy or put those extra 10 pounds back on, stop taking multi-vitamins, and reduce my recently increased exercise schedule?

... My father expects massive death from the bird flu in the next couple years... If it kills the right people, it could be really good for the natural environment and world (I'm thinking certain American politicians).

11:06 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

Josh :P I put that sentence in so you wouldn't have to ask. If you recently gained 10 pounds that you want to lose, lose them. Regular exercise is part of a good, healthy lifestyle. Multi-vitamins are good, too. What I meant by 'unnecessarily' was taking an excessive amount of vitamins, taking immune boosting things, buying 'flu fighter' or other crap that would 'cleanse' your system but hurt you overall.
I guess the best thing for you do to would be to tell your MP about your concerns.

11:16 AM  

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