Huge panic as new bird flu strain is found in a Taiwanese woman
A bird flu strain that health experts thought could not be contracted by humans has been detected in a woman in Taiwan. This has now sparked panic that there could be an uncontrollable global pandemic ignited if dangerous flu symptoms are not identified at an early enough stage. Currently, it is being downplayed as an isolated case but clearly this virus, as others have done previously, has the ability to transmit across different species. The 20-year-old Taiwanese woman was first admitted into hospital in May of this year due to a lung infection. She was released from hospital after being treated with Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and antibiotics, according to the research published online in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Roche’s Tamiflu reduces the severity and duration of influenza by preventing the virus from replicating within the body. It belongs to a group of medicines known as ‘neuraminidase inhibitors’. These medicines prevent the influenza virus from spreading inside the body and so help to ease or prevent the symptoms arising from the influenza virus infection. Tamiflu came to worldwide prominence during the 2009 deadly H1N1 swine flu epidemic. After one of the as yet unidentified woman’s throat swabs was forwarded to the Taiwan Centres for Disease Control, health experts confirmed she had the H6N1 strain of bird flu. The patient was employed at a deli and had not apparently come into contact with any live birds, baffling investigators as to how she became infected. Numerous members of her family and friends subsequently developed flu-like symptoms, but nobody else tested positive for H6N1. Ever since 1996 when the H5N1 bird flu strain spear in southern China in 1996, there has been a nervous tracking of its progress. After all, it has claimed the lives of over 600 people – the majority of deaths occurring in Asia. China has been hit with various other bird flu strains to cause concern over the years, such as the H7N9 strain. There were 135 reported cases of H7N9 in eastern China between February and July of this year alone, 45 of which proved fatal. As yet though, no bird flu strains have been shown to mutate into a form that is easily transmitted among humans. Marion Koopmans, a virologist at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, said in a commentary accompanying the new report: “The question again is what would it take for these viruses to evolve into a pandemic strain?” Ms Koopmans says there should be more thorough analysis of animal flu viruses and additional research into viruses that could cause a global problem. “We can surely do better than to have human beings as sentinels,” she wrote.