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Real Doctors (Life Makers)  |  Community complex  |  General Discussion  |  News: 10 Year Old Girl Has Bird Flu, Chinese Authorities Confirm « previous next »
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News: 10 Year Old Girl Has Bird Flu, Chinese Authorities Confirm
« on: /December/ 07, 2005, 02:52:06 PM »

Chinese authorities have confirmed that a 10-year-old girl has bird flu. Experts are mystified as the area she lives in, Ziyuan County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China, is free of infected birds.

The Health Ministry has sent teams to the area to find out how the girl may have become infected. They are also coordinating disease prevention in the area.

The girl had a high temperature on November 23, as well as pneumonia. She is currently in hospital. Her relatives and people who have been in close contact with her seem to be OK, say health care professionals in the area.

This is now the third case of a human becoming infected with bird flu in China. A couple of months ago the country had no cases.

Over the last couple of months many flocks of birds have become infected and Chinese authorities have culled hundreds of thousands of birds. Authorities have said they may have to cull all poultry in the country - this could mean over 10 billion birds.

Bird flu (avian flu) spreads easily among birds. It is much more difficult for humans to catch it. Over the last three years over 100 million birds have died (worldwide) as a result of bird flu infection. About 165 humans have been infected during the same period, of which about half have died.

There have been some cases of humans infecting other humans with bird flu, but for this to happen there has to be a great deal of physical contact over a period of many days - as in the case of health care professionals and relatives caring for an infected patient.

Experts say that the H5N1 bird flu virus strain, the most dangerous one, will in time be able to transmit easily from human-to-human (it cannot do it yet). When this happens there will be a global flu pandemic.

The H5N1 virus strain could learn how to spread among humans if it managed to exchange genetic information with a normal human flu virus. If the bird flu virus infected a human who had normal flu this could be possible.

At the moment there is an antiviral drug, called Tamiflu (produced by Roche), which can save infected people's lives if the medication is administered early enough. Tamiflu is not a vaccine, it is given to the patient when he/she is infected.

In 1918, Spanish Flu was a global pandemic. The virus was a mutated bird flu virus. About 40 million people died. The world population at the time was about one fifth of what it is now. Hardly anyone travelled by plane then. In 1918 countries' economies were not so interdependent as they are now (world trade was much less). Even so, the Spanish Flu pandemic spread around the world in 11 months. Today a pandemic would spread much faster, the death toll could be huge (if the mutated virus were very virulent) - and the damage to the global economy would be considerable.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today
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