Soaring Fear over Bird Flu Pandemic
By Maria Grella
Talks are under way in Europe and Asia to discuss what can be done about the growing influenza pandemic. The G8 health officials met in Moscow Friday to incorporate steps to fight the infectious disease, along with others which include HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Their finding will be delivered to the Group of Eight leaders, (from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Russia) in time for the July summit.
Health officials from the U.S. and Bangladesh signed an agreement that will allow South Asia to enhance their ability to respond to these wide-spread diseases. Stewart Simonson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, reached the union with the ICDDR-B, the International Center for Diarrheal Research, Bangladesh. Simonson met with government heads from animal and human health specialties to discuss preparedness and response. The agreement will boost the readiness of Bangladesh to deal with pandemic illnesses. In a released statement Simonson said, "This memorandum of understanding will help better protect the world by strengthening Bangladesh's disease surveillance infrastructure."
International response and cooperation on disease tracking and prevention has been steadily increasing in the last year. This is due to the continued spread of a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, first appearing in East Asia, but which has now spread to birds in nearly 50 countries in Asia, Europe, the Near East and Africa. 200 million birds have either died from the Avian Flu, or have been destroyed in order to prevent transmittal. Casualties of the Avian Bird Flu has numbered 113, out of the 200 people infected, with confirmed cases in China, (12 fatalities of 18 infected), and Egypt, (4 deaths of 12 diseased). Thus far, there have been no findings on the virus' ability to be passed communicably, (through coughs, sneezes or handshakes); studies have indicated that those infected had contact with diseased chickens.
Focused efforts call attention to strategies for preventing and limiting infections that have the potential to cause millions of worldwide deaths, resulting in possible economic and social decline. The IOM, (Institute of Medicine) which is part of the National Academies of Sciences, talked of the worth of surgical masks. The Institute found that there is no evidence to support the use of inexpensive, disposable medical masks and respirators to prevent influenza. The user is protected from infectious particles as they get caught in the fibrous materials of disposable masks and respirators. However, the material can be damaged through attempted cleaning and disinfecting.
Also a factor is the proficiency in which the individual uses the mask. Properly fitting the mask onto the face is important for it to be effective. Various inexpensive masks are being considered for widespread use, but while some diseases are impenetrable, the influenza virus has not been tested. IOM panel member and professor of International Health and Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, John Hopkins University, Donald S. Burke, commented on the usefulness of surgical masks. "Even the best respirator or surgical mask will do little to protect a person who uses it incorrectly, and we know relatively little about how effective these devices will be against flu even when they are used correctly." The IOM panel is calling for more research on how influenza viruses are spread, which will lead to better development of protection and prevention strategies.
For more information on the Bird Flu, please see http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/global_issues/bird_flu.html
Source: The Student Operated Press
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