Tuesday, May 23, 2006

How Dangerous is Avian Flu?

How Dangerous is Avian Flu? Provided by: DrWeil.com

Q: Is bird flu really as dangerous as we're being told? I'm skeptical. -- Aidan M.

A: There is cause for great concern. Avian flu is an infectious disease that affects birds, but it is caused by the same strain of the influenza virus responsible for most types of human flu. The strain now spreading in Asia, H5N1, is very dangerous - it kills nearly 100 percent of the birds infected and has been very damaging to poultry farms.

It also can infect humans, causing severe disease and even death. To become infected, you probably would have to eat raw, infected poultry or have had prolonged exposure to the virus. So far, at least 60 people in Asia have died after contracting H5N1. Most of these cases resulted from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces, although health officials believe that, in some instances, the flu spread from person-to-person contact.

A chilling account of the worldwide pandemic that could occur should the virus that causes avian flu mutate in a way that would allow it to become an airborne infection that can affect humans was published in the Feb. 28, 2005 issue of The New Yorker.

Author Michael Specter wrote that while it is rare for a virus to mutate so that it is capable of infecting other species, the fact that H5N1 has already spread among a growing number of species besides poultry makes it more of a threat than other viruses that have emerged in the past few decades.

We are overdue for a global flu pandemic, and the one potentially brewing in Asia could be up there with the flu of 1918 that killed at least 50 million people. (See "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History," by John M. Barry for a gripping account.)

Monitoring the spread of the virus and studying its genetic structure may enable scientists to develop a vaccine to protect against it. Efforts to produce and test a vaccine in the United States that will be capable of protecting humans against H5N1 virus began in April 2005. With luck, we won't need it.

In the meantime, flu season is fast approaching; you can help protect yourself by taking a daily antioxidant, multivitamin-mineral supplement, as well as astragalus, a well-known immune-boosting herb that can help ward off colds and flu. Be sure to wash your hands often and keep them away from your eyes and nose, and try to avoid contact with people who have respiratory illnesses.

If you're in Asia or planning to travel to countries with known outbreaks of avian flu, be sure to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals. And don't eat any local foods made with the blood of fowl, such as duck blood pudding.

At present, we have no vaccine capable of protecting against the avian flu although urgent efforts are underway to develop one. That doesn't mean that the currently available vaccine isn't worthwhile against other strains of the flu virus, which may be all we have to worry about this year.
I recommend flu shots for those over 65, as well as anyone with a weakened immune or respiratory system, nursing home residents, and health care workers who have regular contact with patients.
Pregnant women whose last two trimesters fall during flu season (generally November to April) might consider getting the shot.
Andrew Weil, MD

No comments:

Starter Body Cleansing Kit

Starter Body Cleansing Kit

[ learn more ]

Add to Cart

Kit Includes: 1 Bottle of Oxy Powder®, 1 bottle of Livatrex™ and 1 bottle of Latero-Flora™.

Cleanses: One 7-Day Oxygen Colon Cleanse and One Liver & Gallbladder Cleanse. Takes 12 days to complete both cleanses.

Dr. Group's Opinion: Easy to Perform, Minimum Dietary Changes, Cost Effective.



[ learn more ]

Add to Cart

Top Quality Colon Cleansing
Oxy-Powder® is a scientifically formulated compound that uses the power of oxygen to safely aid the body in relieving irritation associated with constipation symptoms. A clean, toxin-free intestinal tract is the foundation for maintaining optimal health. Did you know over 100 million Americans are constipated? 120 Vegetarian Capsules.