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The Potential For Avian Influenza To Cause Another Worldwide Pandemic

1690 words - 7 pages

The Potential for Avian Influenza to Cause Another Worldwide Pandemic

Abstract
There are three major factors involved in the start of a pandemic; the viral strain must be new, able to cause serious illness, and transmit efficiently between humans. This article explores the avian influenza virus?s potential to cause another global pandemic through its ease of transmission and ability to evade treatment. Avian type A influenza virus generally spreads either through an intermediate vector during the process of antigenic shift or directly to humans when it jumps the species barrier. A certain strain of the virus, H5N1 was of particular concern as it was the first strain to move directly from birds to humans. The avian influenza virus poses another threat as it evolves quickly through antigenic drift and eludes all treatment protocol, quickly gaining resistance to medication. Battling not trying to stop this virus seems to be the best course of action as we prepare ourselves for another possible outbreak.

Avian influenza is a viral disease that does not normally affect humans. However, there have been an increasing number of cases where people have been affected and died. In order for any virus to become a pandemic, it must fulfill three major requirements. It needs to be a new subtype of the virus, one that hasn?t existed in the past. It must be able to replicate itself and cause serious damage in humans, and it must have the ability to transmit efficiently between humans. (World Health Organization, 2005). During the 20th century, there were three pandemics of a strain of avian influenza, two of which (originating in Hong Kong and China) were caused by a new viral strain containing a combination of genes from both human and avian influenza viruses. (Center for Disease Control, 2005). With further exploration, we find that avian influenza?s high potential to become a global pandemic is through its increasing ease of transmission and its ability to resist treatment.
There are three types of influenza viruses, namely A, B, and C. Of the three, type C is the least harmful and type A is the most lethal because of its ability to mutate quickly. Furthermore, type A viruses affect a variety of animals from humans, pigs, and horses, to sea mammals, and birds. Type A viruses also have a large number of smaller subtypes as well, all of which reside
Avian Influenza: A Global Pandemic - 2
among aquatic birds. This huge source of genetic variation is what makes the Type A virus the most likely to undergo antigenic shift. The influenza virus is made up of eight gene segments. When a human influenza virus and an avian influenza virus come in contact with one another, they swap gene segments and create a new hybrid virus. (World Health Organization, 2005). This hybrid virus may encompass the virulent factors of both parent viruses. Since this influenza strain is new, organisms don?t have a preexisting immunity to it and this fact guarantees the virus a...

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