H5N1 Avian Flu Has Mutated

Avian Flu has started to show signs of resurgence and a new strain, a mutation has appeared in China and Vietnam at roughly the same time. Scientists are working around the clock to find out what the risk to humans may be. At this point the World Heath Organisation are saying they cannot predict its effects on human populations.

Avian flu, H5N1 is carried by wild bird populations around the globe and infects domestic free range poultry who come into contact with infected birds.

Over the last 20 months H5N1 has appeared in wild birds and poultry who had been virus free for several years, These include Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Bulgaria, Romania Nepal and Mongolia. These regions are well spread geographically and at this point it is unknown how it has resurged in such far flung locations within a short space of time.

The new strain is  appearing in most parts of Vietnam and could pose a risk to Japan and Korea said Juan Lubroth The chief Veterinary Office to The United Nations. He is calling on all countries to adopt “heightened readiness and surveillance” towards the resurgence of the disease.

Its unclear whether the fresh calls for the authors who have published their research on H5N1 which shows it can transmit easily between ferrets, are the result of the new outbreak and the mutation that has occurred. Ferrets are used in flu virus research as they suffer from and pass on flu viruses in a very similar way to humans.

The scientists have refused to agree to the redactions until they have assurances and a system in place that will allow other scientists working on the virus, access to their papers.

Albert Osterhaus told Science (journal) that he and his team “completely disagreed” with the recommendation of the National Science Advisory Board for Bio-security that the research could allow terrorists to use the research in the manufacture of bio-weapons.  Even so his team and those from the University of Wisconsin have very reluctantly agreed to submit revised papers once a system is in place to ensure they are available to the scientific community.

There is no doubt that avian flu is deadly but thus far it has not spread easily between humans, however the study altered the virus allowing it to be easily passed between the ferrets used in the experiments. Those mutations would have “greater potential” to allow the passage of the disease between humans the panel said. The board warned that the lab created version  posed an “extremely serious global public health threat.”

The NSABB recommended that the general conclusions could be published but that the public version should not include the details that would allow potential bio-terrorists to replicate the work.

The editors at Science and Nature (journal) have said they want a clear plan put into place that would ensure bona fide scientists researching flu viruses would have access to the data before fully redacting the information. This system is at this point still being put into place and the data is currently still widely available.

No comment has yet been made regarding if the mutant strain in the Far East is similar or the same as the mutant strain developed in the lab.

Avian Flu is shed in bird droppings. When those droppings dry, the dust from them is inhaled and it is this that leads to the disease. As stated it is not easily transmitted from person to person and only one definite case, in Egypt has been documented. It usually occurs in areas where poultry and humans live in close proximity to each other. Should that transmissibility improve, and its high mortality rate remain unchanged there is the makings for a pandemic that would rival the 1918-1920 Flu pandemic that wiped out 3% of the worlds population at that time.

Lizzie Bennett
Medically Speaking

Related Posts»

Leave a Reply