Avian Influenza: An Emerging Problem?
While the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is fairly confident it has a handle on this year’s flu season, it is keeping a wary eye on avian flu activities in Asia. Avian flu is worrisome because it can cross into the human population, and the infection has proven to have a high mortality rate.
Earlier this year, an outbreak of influenza A (H5N1) occurred in Asia, with 100 million birds dying of the disease or being culled to contain its spread. Between January and March, there were 34 individuals in Thailand and Vietnam with confirmed cases of H5N1 influenza, with 23 dying. The outbreak subsided, but in June it reemerged in China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The first human cases from this renewed outbreak were reported August 12, with 3 individuals in Vietnam dying; a Thai man died on September 8.
Adding to the concern are reports from China of pigs becoming infected with avian flu. Because avian viruses rarely infect individuals, any jump to humans, through either birds or pigs, is a major concern because there is little or no immune protection against it. In addition, because pigs are susceptible to both avian and human influenza, health officials are worried that the pigs will serve as a “mixing vessel” where the 2 viruses can exchange genetic material and create a new influenza strain that infects humans more readily and acquires the ability to spread from person to person—setting the stage for a pandemic.
The World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are monitoring the situation.—M.M.
For More Information
Online information is available from several organizations involved in polio eradication efforts.
Global Polio Eradication Initiative: http://www.polioeradication.org
Rotary International (Polio Plus program): http://www.rotary.org/foundation/polioplus/
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov (using the page’s search function for “polio eradication” elicits links to more than 700 reports and other materials on the subject)
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund): http://www.unicef.org/immunization/index_polio.html
Example B3 Sidebar of sources for further reading.