The recent discovery of a patient having contracted the H5N1 virus has called to attention the dangers of this strain.
H5N1 is a type of bird flu that is quite rare in humans. The H5N1 refers to specific types of proteins. Although it isn’t seen very often in humans — the only ones who typically suffer from this strain work very closely with chickens or water fowl such as ducks – those who contract this flu have a very low chance of surviving. Typically, victims become feverish for a day or two and then develop trouble breathing after the virus has had a chance to infect the respiratory system. Although some medications have been shown to help victims, even those that get treatment right away only have about a 40% chance of surviving this brutal flu strain.
The avian flu strain is receiving a lot of attention recently following a report that a woman was isolated in Hong Kong last week after contracting the virus. Thankfully, Hong Kong officials are reporting that this is an isolated case and that the woman has been successfully quarantined and has actually gotten back to stable condition, both good signs.
Time recently posed the question, “How worried should we be?” Well, there are pros and cons when comparing this avian flu to the swine flu. This H5N1 strain is much deadlier, but has proven to be difficult to spread from human to human. Nearly all of the 507 humans to have been confirmed by the WHO as having this strain contracted the virus directly from a sick bird. So, while you have less of a chance to survive the H5N1 virus, you also have a very small chance of contracting it, unless you work extremely closely with chickens, ducks, etc. There’s a much greater chance you could contract the Swine Flu, but thanks to medical advances against that strain, you’d also have a much greater chance of survival, comparatively speaking.
Regardless of what we know about the H5N1 strain right now, that doesn’t mean that the virus can’t adapt or evolve into a more complicated virus. As Time mentions, “H5N1 remains a threat, possibly just a few genes away from gaining the ability to spread easily among human beings. And as our muddled response to H1N1 showed, an ever-more connected world hasn't gotten much better at dealing with a global disease.” Rest assured that the recent press and continued sporadic infections of the H5N1 flu strain have resulted in a more dedicated effort to understand if there is anything that can be done to combat this deadly virus.
Around the Web:
Hong Kong bird flu case appears isolated [Mail & Guardian]
What is H5N1? [CNN]