Monday, January 30, 2006


I had forgotten one of the disadvantages of having kids in school. They bring home annoying illnesses at an alarming rate.

I usually go five or more years without having a cold. Now I’ve had three in the past year. This last one has hung on like a junkyard dog on a burglar. It’s been more than two weeks and I’m still not over it.

It’s worth it though. The kids are a joy to be around. Even though we still don’t have five words in common.

My current illness has got me thinking about bird flu. It could evolve but right now it is not nearly as serious as it is made out to be.

There is no evidence that it has been transmitted person to person. Some in the same family have caught it but all in those families had come into contact with dead or sick birds. In fact, the evidence is that only people who have come in contact with dead of sick birds have contracted the disease. (One little girl was reported to have kissed a chicken and thereby contracted the illness!) The flu deaths in Turkey were children who had played with dead chickens.

In Ha Tay province, west of Hanoi, where bird flu is rampant, 80% lived in households that kept poultry. Almost all of the cases so far have been from primitive agricultural settings, in which people are likely to live with their poultry and children might play with dead birds.

That brings up another point. The death rate is reported to be over 50%. I would guess it to be under 5%. Why? Because the people most likely to contract it would never seek medical help until they are very, very sick. There are probably are many thousands who have caught it and recovered, perhaps quickly. That is the way people go about their lives in those settings.

This is not to say that it is not a serious problem. There is no way to stop bird migration and, therefore, no way to stop the spread of this disease. And also, I don’t see a way to put an end to it.

And also the key phrase is “it could evolve.” If it evolves so humans can transmit it, we will be in deep do-do. The people who caught it first and recovered will be the only ones safe, until someone invents a vaccine. In the meantime, don’t kiss a chicken no matter how strong the urge.


Bird Flu Update: Is bird flu in people more common than we think?A survey of Vietnamese residents shows that people who handled or cared for sick chickens were more likely to report some sort of flulike illness in 2004. Although the study cannot prove these people were infected with bird flu, it suggests that infections may be going undetected, said Dr. Anna Thorson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who led the study.The study took place in a region in Vietnam known to have bird flu in its poultry and consisted of just asking people if they had flu-like symptoms and what their exposure to birds was like. It didn't test people for exposure to the avian flu virus. We have no way of knowing, based on this study, whether or not the avian flu is responsible for those "flu-like symptoms." And "flu-like symptoms" are very common, even in the absence of flu, let alone avian flu. It would be interesting, but costly, to test people in these regions for antibodies to the virus to see if it is indeed more widespread. If it were, it would mean that it isn't as deadly as we think, that we're just hearing about the severe cases that end up in the hospital. However, the way it has behaved within families suggests that it is, in fact, a rather lethal virus. The multiple deaths within families isn't encouraging.
posted by sydney on 1/10/2006 08:27:00 AM 0 comments

UPDATE: Living here in Thailand I am conscience of the threat of bird flu. We went to a restaurant where I was careful not to order chicken. I ordered duck instead.


Post a Comment

<< Home