L’Allarme Aviria in a nutshell

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The Alarm of the Virus in Europe is that the H5N1 strain that can be transmitted from birds to human from feces droppings into the sand then transferring into the air. This is how the avian virus can spread from animal to human, and then from human to human. My attempt to see what is happening and the risk for Italy is quite difficult because Italian is not my forte of languages. When I attempted to search on the internet about the virus and Italy, I find only the accounts for the UK, Scotland and Ireland, which are the European English speaking countries.

Concern about the spread is evident in Italy because the newspapers are flooded with maps of the bird migration routes and the bird virus explanations and antiviral possibilities. This concern may be due to the fact that in Italy during 1999- 2001 the H7N1 virus mutated within 9 months to a highly pathogenic form and more than 13 million birds died or were destroyed.

The viral spread occurs when the combination of the normal flu and the avian virus exists at the same time. It is not known for sure if the virus is transmitted from migratory wild birds. Scientists believe that on species of bird may contain the virus and has a natural immunity to it then when they come into contact with other birds, the virus is transmitted to them. Many birds have been found dead not because they are the transmitters but because they lack the immunity to the virus.

A dead bird cannot fly; a sick bird cannot fly 200 kilometers then die. The problem lies in how do they find the carrier? What birds are infected? First, they need to find the carrier in order to know how to stop or restrain the virus from spreading. In the meantime, there are cross border controls not allowing any live produce into Germany from Romania where a strain of the virus was found.

FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) states in an article that the virus spread from Siberia and may carry the virus to the Caspian and Black Sea. The regions are the Balkans and could be a gateway to central Europe. The migration also runs across Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine and some Mediterranean countries. FAO also is concerned that India and Bangladesh seems to be uninfected, but may be at risk because India harbors a large number of domestic ducks and are along one of the major migratory routes.

FAO also states that “the bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003 and more than 140 million birds have died or been slaughtered.” Between April and June 2005, more than 6,000 migratory birds died due to the H5N1 at the Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve in Qinghai Province, China.

There are estimates that up to 50 million people can be killed from the virus with 50,000 in Ireland and the UK alone. WHO spokesman on influenza, Dick Thompson, told a news conference in Geneva that the WHO’s official estimate of the number of people who could die was between two million and 7.4 million in a BBC article titled, “Bird Flu could kill up to 150 million people.” There is a bit of confusion here over the estimates in numbers of possible deaths. Either the news agencies do not want a widespread panic, or the pandemic researchers do not really know what they are up against.

If we really do not know what we are up against, then how to we attempt to restrain the spread of the virus? Scotland’s attempt to stifle the spread is by developing an emergency plan for health and security. They have decided that the health boards will have the power to request a medical examination and could force detention in a hospital for quarantine. The authorities could forbid individuals from going to and from work or the children from attending school if they have been exposed to the virus.
The Netherlands are established a month long quarantine on domestic bird to go outside, the chickens and the ducks had to be released into fenced areas with roofs to protect the birds. France is planning to have 14 million doses of antiflu drugs available by 2006 and is stockpiling 200 million protective face masks; 50 million masks have already been delivered to the French hospitals.
On Monday the virus reached Greece and they are banning exports of live poultry, meat and other poultry products. Croatia, Macedonia and Bulgaria are testing possible virus cases. The virus was located in Turkey where 50 turkeys fell sick and died on Money, and another 100 died the next day. So far, 5,000 turkeys have been killed in Turkey.

To calm the situation and the concern for the spread of global panic, Jack Straw chaired an emergency meeting of the EU in Luxembourg reminding everyone that “to date there is no evidence of any transfer of the virus to human beings.”

referenced articles:

“The disease could jump species if a person became infected with avian and normal flu at the same time.” http://www.rednova.com/news/health/272539/h5n1_its_here__killer_strain_of_bird_flu_virus/index.html?source=r_health
“Wild birds expected to spread bird flu virus further” http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2005/107405/
see link for note one

BBC article: “Bird Flu could kill up to 150 million People” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4292426.stm
Spiegel Online: “Europe Struggles to Combat H5N1” http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,380362,00.html