This is a topic I’ve not blogged lately, but I’ve continued to follow the H5N1 news all along. I became aware of, interested in, and concerned about the potential of this global public health issue while teaching biology at Radford in 2004 and 2005.
While the tens of millions of birds who have died from it or been slaughtered because of it might not think so, the virus has been kind to the planet by an evolution toward human transmission that has been slow. But change in this direction has not been non-existent. And since it first appeared in a relatively small geographic area, bird hosts now harbor the virus over the majority of the planet. Take a look at the clickable map, and especially of the changes over the second half of 2006. Meanwhile, vaccine development goes on, with small victories and discouraging defeats.
And the press, understandably, is suffering from bird flu burnout, as is the general public. How does a nation, state, or community far removed from the Asian center of this pathogen remain appropriately vigilant for months, for years and not become complacent?
From Yahoo News: Bird flu surges in 2006: WHO chief – Yahoo! News: … 2006 was a record year for human bird flu deaths. There were 161 deaths from bird flu worldwide in 2006 out of 267 confirmed cases, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.
“More deaths occurred in 2006 than in the previous years combined,” the WHO director general said Monday.
The fatality rate reached 70 percent last year, 10 percent above the average since the first recorded deaths in China and Vietnam in 2003.
“The message is straightforward: we must not let down our guard,” Chan said at the opening of the WHO’s executive board meeting.
“As long as the virus continues to circulate in birds, the threat of a pandemic will persist. The world is years away from control in the agricultural sector,” she warned.