The threat of a killer flu pandemic is greater than ever because of the spread of the bird flu virus in south-east Asia, the World Health Organisation has warned.
The WHO said avian influenza was still spreading across south-east Asia despite efforts to block it, and there was more than a 50 per cent probability it would become a global pandemic that could kill millions of people. More than 50 people have already died from the H5N1 virus in the region, most of them in Vietnam, where tens of thousands of people raise poultry in backyard farms.
Listen to our two-part MythArc Radio interview with molecular virologist Dr. Henry L. Niman. He gave us some valuable insight into the situation without the spin being applied by the WHO and government spokesmen.
Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was well prepared to combat the virus should it develop into a strain that can be carried by humans.
“Australia has the world’s largest stockpile of antivirals on a per capita basis,” he said.
That’s well and good. However, only one anti-viral, Tamiflu, has been proven effective.
But it’s designed to work against H3 viruses. It’s been mostly ineffective against H5 strains, like the avian flu.
Vaccines against H5N1 are in development, but as Dr. Niman told us, it will be a couple of years before human trials are complete. By then, if the virus has recombined into a form that’s more easily transmitted, the vaccine developed to fight today’s strain will be ineffective.
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