News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Bird Flu Gaining Footprint in Africa; Could Lead to Pandemic

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bird Flu Gaining Footprint in Africa; Could Lead to Pandemic

The appearance of the most virulent form of Avian Bird Flu in Africa, H5N1, in Africa creates major concerns for epidemiologists and medical personnel attempting to stem the spread of the disease. Many African countries simply don't have the resources to combat the disease. Authorities also face the added dimension of ignorance and panic on the part of those most affected: chicken farmers. Faced with economic ruin, farmers are reluctant to alert authorities to the presence of the disease in their flocks.

In a region wracked by AIDS and HIV, when a person dies they are simply buried. There's no concern that some might be dying from another disease. This situation causes concern because the Flu must be diagnosed before counter-measures can be taken. ...

Should the Bird Flu become endemic to the Africa, the chances of its mutating into a form that human can transmit to human becomes great. With depressed immune systems and other health concerns in millions of people suffering from HIV and AIDS, the chance of the disease finding a biological mass in which it has time to mutate is much greater.

According to

Scientists worry avian flu is taking root in Africa, where it threatens to infect humans as it has in southern Asia and China. Once the virus takes hold in Africa, it risks mutating into a lethal form that may spread easily among people, creating a global health catastrophe.

``The first pandemic of the 21st century could come from Africa, rather than Southeast Asia,'' John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of London, said in a telephone interview. Oxford said Africa's poverty, densely populated urban and farm areas, intermingling of people and chickens, and poor health services create a fertile ground for the virus.

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