Bird flu strikes again with more deaths

It has emerged this week that two devastating strains of flu have broken out across the globe causing massive chaos. Yesterday health officials confirmed that the deadly H1N1 strain of the influenza A virus had caused the deaths of 11 people in Bolivia and infected an additional 873 people. This particular strain first came to global prominence in 2009 as it was the main component of what became known as ‘swine flu’ to many people. This is human, bird and swine flu viruses joined together with a Eurasian pig flu virus. This year it was revealed that staggering 579,000 people may have succumbed to the disease in the last three years, as only those fatalities confirmed by laboratory testing were included in original data.

The latest H1N1 epidemic although very serious, has not yet increased to that of a national crisis. Johnny Rada, director of the ministry of health’s epidemiology service, spoke out to try and restore some degree of calmness. He said, “At the national level, the situation is under control. The most affected area is in the west.” Rada’s comments are backed up by figures that show 606 of the cases emanating from the western department of La Paz, with the next highest department being the eastern area of Santa Cruz, where 167 cases have so far been reported. Bolivia’s Deputy Health Minister Martin Maturano, advised people to stay safe by eating well and making sure to regularly wash hands. It appears that those affected by this outbreak are the groups of people who are usually most at risk of catching the disease and include; the elderly, young children, those who have had a previous illness and have a general weak system and anybody with problems such as diabetes or hypertension. Authorities have yet to confirm if the virus came into human contact from pigs or birds.

Across the world in China however, authorities have already pinpointed the outbreak of flu seen there is definitely the H5N1 avian virus. Like H1N1, this is a subtype of the Influenza A virus and is more commonly referred to as ‘bird flu’ or ‘avian influenza’. Though it is considered an avian virus, there have been some instances of a human to human transmitting of the virus.

The Chinese agriculture ministry have confirmed that the H5N1 strain of avian flu has thus far claimed the lives of 1,600 chickens and a further 5,500 have been left suffering from it. Authorities have acted quickly and culled 156,439 chickens to stop the disease spreading further. It is rumoured that the outbreak began on a farm operated by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, whom some describe as a ‘semi-military government organisation’ consisting of two and a half million people. The epidemic follows the April outbreak in the Ningxia region of China, which saw 95,000 chickens fall victim to the disease. Also only last month it was reported that a young boy in Hong Kong had been diagnosed with bird flu.

There is currently no definite cure for either of the two strains of flu mentioned above. However it is widely acknowledged that oseltamivir (marketed by Roche as Tamiflu), effectively helps to prevent the influenza virus from spreading inside the body. The medication has even been at the core of many governments and organisation’s efforts previously when anticipating a potential H5N1 pandemic. It is available through Medical Specialists Pharmacy from as little as £21.98 per pack as we have dramatically lowered the price of Tamiflu recently to help out new and existing patients during this difficult recession.

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