The World Health Organization (WHO) warned the entire international community about a possible flu pandemic and asked for all governments to monitor avian influenza in birds and poultry, and to report immediately if there is a register of a human case.
The WHO is concerned about the possibility of expansion for the deadly avian influenza, because since last year there have been different strains of the disease spreading through Europe and Asia. This has caused the slaughter of poultry in many countries and even some human casualties, especially in China.
A group of experts from the health scientific field is worried about the possibility of the virus mutating, making the fight against it harder and the worldwide spread easier. According to the WHO, almost 40 nations have reported outbreaks “of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or wild birds.” These reports had come since last November.
“The rapidly expanding geographical distribution of these outbreaks and the number of virus strains currently co-circulating have put WHO on high alert. The world is better prepared for the next influenza pandemic, but not at all well enough. We cannot allow so many countries to be without tools. Remember, it takes four to six months to get the vaccine,” Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, told the start of the U.N. agency’s executive board.
China’s problems concerning bird flu
According to Chan, China has presented a “sudden and steep increase” regarding the number of cases of H7N9 among humans since last month. However, the WHO has not been able to discard the possibility of a limited human-to-human spread in some cases as no sustained expansion has been reported to the date.
One of the WHO regulations states that all the members of the organization are required to detect and report any case of influenza among humans as soon as possible. Chan said that “we cannot afford to miss the early signals,” about the vital that becomes for global health the fact that countries report any flu cases.
The delegation from China for the WHO, led by Zhang Yang of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, stated that the country would accomplish their respective obligations as a WHO member as it will communicate any case or outbreak of the disease if there is one. Yang said that the local statistics regarding this issue have remained unaltered.
International public health expert, David Nabarro, says that the direct address of the bird flu threat is a central priority when it comes to reducing the problem and avoiding the beginning of a pandemic.
Nabarro also stated that this kind of viruses often moves persistently between birds and poultry, and a complacent posture from each government could translate into a serious international problem.
Nabarro is one of the six health experts that hope to replace Margaret Chan as Director-General of the World Health Organization.
The United States also have a flu problem
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of influenza human cases in the United States has been rising greatly over the past days, as the number of deaths because of the disease also presented an augment.
The CDC has advised the American citizens to get a flu shot, especially to those population groups that are more vulnerable like the elderly, the very young, the chronically ill and pregnant women.
Lynnette Brammer, a CDC epidemiologist, states that it’s not too late for people to get a vaccine, although, it would have been better if the people had gotten their shots earlier.
“It would have been better to get vaccinated early, but there is still potential benefit from the vaccine. Flu activity is still going up. We are starting to see an increase in flu-related deaths. Although deaths aren’t at a level considered epidemic,” Brammer said in an interview this Friday.
The CDC does not register every adult death because of the flu. However, they do collect the information concerning child deaths. Only last year, over 130 kids died due to influenza-related complications.
Brammer also informed that the influenza activity is having a new presence in the center of the country, an area that has not been considered at risk because of the low number of cases reported in the last days.
“Two more children died this week, bringing the total to five so far. Some places like the Northwest may have peaked, but it looks like areas that haven’t been hit hard are starting to see activity. Even if we were at peak, you’ve still got half the season to go,” Brammer stated.
According to Brammer, the majority of the cases are H3N2 virus patients. However, there is the presence of H1N1 and B cases in some areas of the U.S.
The CDC’s vaccine includes all the currently circulating viruses, for a more efficient fight against the disease. The agency is recommending all the citizens to get a flu shot, especially for those aged below six months old and 65 years old.
According to the CDC, a vaccine could be between 40 and 60 percent efficient, as they recommend Tamiflu and Relenza as antivirals for when the illness is present.