Will Bird Flu Come Back?

January 5, 2012

Bird FluMost people have figured out that bird flu isn’t as big of a deal as it was made out to be when the first outbreaks occurred. Sure, it was scary—half of the people who catch bird flu die. But it’s not easily transmittable: the receptors that bird flu needs to reach to cause an infection aren’t that accessible.

Transmission of bird flu has mostly occurred either from direct contact with birds who were infected (eating raw bird parts or untidy bird areas where fecal matter is in abundance, and is then transmitted to nose or eyes), or from close, long-term exposure to an infected person. For the most part, bird flu could be prevented with good cold and flu season hygiene: washing hands before eating or preparing food, washing hands before touching your face, using safe kitchen practices like cooking meat to the recommended safe temperatures, and cleaning surfaces that raw meat touches.

However, you may have noticed a slew of recent headlines along the lines of “US Government Asks Scientists To Censor Dangerous Flu Study”. It turns out that study involved developing a technique to make bird flu an airborne pathogen for mammals. While that sounds a bit mad scientist, the data actually helps scientists better understand flu mutations, which are critical to predicting pandemics and adapting vaccines.

Of course, information wants to be free, so it’s almost inevitable that the study details will get out, and bird flu might become a legitimate issue.

The good news is that although bird flu is more deadly than regular flu, it’s just as easily beaten by current medicines and traditional treatments, especially when caught early.

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