Influenza, Avian Influenza, and the Impacts of Past and Looming Pandemics

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Influenza, Avian Influenza, and the Impacts of Past and Looming Pandemics

Avian influenza is a disease that has been wreaking havoc on human populations since the 16th century. With the recent outbreak in 1997 of a new H5N1 avian flu subtype, the world has begun preparing for a pandemic by looking upon its past affects. In the 20th Century, the world witnessed three pandemics in the years of 1918, 1957, and 1968. In 1918 no vaccine, antibiotic, or clear recognition of the disease was known. Killing over 40 million in less than a year, the H1N1 strain ingrained a deep and lasting fear of the virus throughout the world. Though 1957 and 1968 brought on milder pandemics, they still killed an estimated 3 million people and presented a new
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As stated by the World Health Organization, “all fifteen HA subtypes and nine DNA subtypes have been detected in free flying birds”. (WHO, 2005, 12) They, in turn, provide a huge and highly mobile pool of genetic diversity.
Wild aquatic fowl, ducks in particular, serve as a reservoir for the Influenza virus to transmit into poultry and then to humans. Infected birds shed flu viruses in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces (CDC, 2004). The current virus seen in Asia is denoted as H5N1 and was first seen in terns in South Africa in 1961 (CDC, 2004). The first human seen infection of the avian H5N1 viruses was in 1997 in Hong Kong in a three- year old boy (Ruben, 2005). The outbreak involved 18 cases and killed 6, one third of the confirmed infected population (Rueben, 2005). In three days 1.5 million birds were killed in order to prevent further spread. A new pandemic is now on the horizon with recent outbreaks in poultry in the eight Asian countries of Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam since 2004 (CDC, 2005). As of July 5, 2005, there have been 108 reported human cases of the H5N1 virus with 54 deaths (CDC, 2004). In wake of a
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