Whatever happened to Bird Flu?
Two articles with that name have come out recently. The first an editorial in Reviews in Medical Virology (Rev. Med. Virol. 2008; 18: 1–3)and the second in Nature. The upshot: no pandemic yet (as you may have noticed) but whatever danger there was is still there, even though the media scare has thankfully blown over. In southeast Asia the virus is spreading throughout avian populations and its containment seems unrealistic, and since we’ve never studied at what rate the flu viruses can mutate into a human-to-human infecting form it’s difficult to predict what, if anything, may happen. In the meantime, three good things have grown from this: One, vaccines are being developed at a quickish pace; two, the whole thing was something of a wake-up call, and the threat of a global pandemic has been seriously considered – but not faced yet. That’s a good “dry run” for the real thing, if it ever comes. third and finally, the research effort devoted to this field is yielding some deep understanding of the infection mechanisms and immune reactions in flu.
It’s good to hear scientists and government agencies are still on the lookout even after the reporters are mostly gone. Just thank heavens we’re not birds. You may be able to fly, my duckies, but I’m not envious any more.