Avian Influenza And Its Expected Ramifications

2730 words - 11 pages

Over the past fifteen years H5N1 influenza (also known as Avian Flu or Bird Flu) has become a common topic of speculation and debate worldwide, causing quite a bit of confusion about its possible impacts on our society. At this point in time it is generally recognized by the international medical community that Avian Flu is bound to become a pandemic, most likely within the next ten years. Research on Avian Flu and its effects have led many scholars to make grave predictions of major global turmoil while a small portion of medical scientists remain skeptical, believing we will have enough time to thoroughly prepare for the outbreak. The one thing that nearly all health professionals seem to agree upon is that the avian flu will surely have a large impact on the development of humankind. To truly understand the threat of this disease and what we must do to prepare for it, we need to look at the issue from multiple angles and consider what the spread of a disease so lethal and so prone to mutation would mean for our daily lives, health professionals, laws and government procedures, and of course the continuation of the human race.
It is necessary in order to understand Avian Flu's impacts on society to first understand what H5N1 influenza is. Like any virus, influenza viruses cannot reproduce on their own the way bacteria can. Technically, viruses aren’t even alive because in order for them to reproduce, they must take over the living cell of another organism. This makes all viral diseases notoriously hard to cure because modern research has yet to reveal a medication or procedure that can kill a virus without killing its host. The best medications that we currently have available to treat viruses can only prevent the virus from invading more cells; it cannot kill viruses that have already invaded a cell. The intention of these anti-viral medications is to prevent the virus from taking over more of the infected organism, allowing the organism's own immune system to fight the viral cell invasions that have already taken place. There are many different types of flu, categorized most broadly by influenza A, B, and C strains. They are further classified by genetic differences represented by H and N. Seasonal flus are either type A or B and classified by H3N2, swine flu (a flu strain you may remember by the media stir it caused in 2009) is type A and H1N1, and avian flu is type A and H5N1. Type A flu strains are considered to be the most severe and are usually the only type of influenza that can cause a pandemic.
On paper the avian flu may seem like the flu strains that we experience every year, but H5N1 is certainly unique. The first reason for this is that research has suggested that for currently idiopathic reasons the avian flu seems to have a predisposition to mutation, enabling it to rapidly create new strains that may be more dangerous, more contagious, or even resistant to antibiotics (which has already been observed in at least one case...

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