Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bird Flu 2005 and the 1918 Pandemic

Working in healthcare, you can't avoid discussion of the hot health topics. So I'm revisiting my Bird Flu post because there's a piece of new information garnered from this week's story on the 1918 flu pandemic.

The news - Scientists reconstructed the Spanish flu virus that was responsible for a highly lethal pandemic in 1918:

Researchers Reconstruct 1918 Virus

The particle of significance I derived from their work - The virus mutated to become infectious to humans without the assistance of a common human flu virus.

It was previously thought that the same human would have to become infected with both a bird flu virus and a human flu virus. Those virus strains would have to meet in the same cell, interact, and produce a new strain with the deadliness of the bird flu virus, and the transmissibility of the human flu virus. This is no longer the case. The World Health Organization (WHO) will have to update their bird flu fact sheets.

This raises the notion that a pandemic strain could develop easier and with less warning than previously thought.

One other bit of info I gleaned from all the 1918 pandemic talk - it infected young adults more virulently than it did children or the aged. So if there does become available a vaccine, we may have to reconsider our current recommendation of vaccinating children and seniors first.

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