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Bird Flu Continues to Spread

from the August 09, 2005 eNews issue

The deadly strain of the avian influenza that has infected more than 100 people and tens of thousands of birds in Asia has spread to Russia. Russian government officials have confirmed that the H5N1 strain of the bird flu has infected birds in three regions of Siberia. Russian officials have also said that the continued spread of the avian influenza into Europe seems inevitable.

World Health Organization officials have warned that the avian influenza (also known as the bird flu) could become a global epidemic if a new virulent strain of the virus emerges that can jump readily from human to human. If that happens WHO officials estimate that it would spread rapidly and could infect nearly one-third of the world's population and kill anywhere from 2 million to 50 million people.

Avian has been known to mutate rapidly, and has resurfaced as an epidemic in eastern Asia. There are at least 15 different types of avian influenza that routinely infect birds around the world. The current outbreak (H5N1) is highly contagious among birds and rapidly fatal. Unlike many other strains of avian influenza, it can be transmitted to humans, causing severe illness and death. So far, the virus has only spread to those who came into close contact with infected birds or to people who have had close and prolonged exposure to infected humans. However, infectious disease experts fear the virus will soon mutate within a pig or some other animal which harbors both human and avian forms of the flu virus. The two viruses might then merge, creating an even more deadly virus that could spread rapidly among humans.

Avian flu will likely be the cause of the next pandemic, which experts say will probably happen in the near future. There have been 4 pandemics during the last century, which emerge – on average – every 30 years. Between one and four million people died during the last flu pandemic, which hit Hong Kong in 1968. Health experts at the WHO have indicated that we are long overdue for an outbreak, a WHO spokesman has stated that: "As with an earthquake or any other natural occurring phenomena, we cannot give an exact time but the situation now is particularly concerning in that we are so long after the last pandemic... and we have a virus circulating in Asia [speaking of avian]. We are living perhaps on borrowed time.

Most of us are mindful of the nuclear threat - and, indeed, this is a major cloud that overhangs every strategic decision in geopolitics. But from Revelation 6:8, it appears that about one in four will die from pestilence, and from "the beasts of the earth." With the advent of antibiotics 50 years ago, scientists predicted the end of death and suffering from infectious diseases. During the past 25 years, however, we have witnessed the reemergence and geographical spread of well-known diseases, including tuberculosis, malaria, and cholera, often in more virulent and drug-resistant forms. Scientists have also identified more than 30 previously unknown diseases, like HIV and Ebola, for which there is no known cure. The spread of infectious diseases is just one of trends we monitor on a regular basis. For more information on this and other topics see the links below.


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