Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 33, Tuesday March 28, 2006

 

 

Spotlight

Bits and pieces on Bird Flu

The latest on Avian Influenza or Bird Flu: the disease has spread in the western states of Maharashtra in India and also in Myanmar. Other Asian nations affected by the H5N1 strain of bird flu are Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, China, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

As of March 22, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 184 cases of H5N1 in humans and 103 deaths. Wake up people, there are no vaccines for the virus and the UN has already been spreading the message that Bangladesh is no longer safe from the Bird Flu.

One of the major reasons why Bangladesh is more vulnerable is because most people don't know about the disease and just how fatal it can be. Here are brief answers to some frequently asked questions.

What is bird flu?
Avian influenza or bird flu is an infection caused by contagious viruses that are common among birds. Wild birds may carry these infections, but they typically prove most harmful to domestic fowls like chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Highly potent forms of the virus can quickly kill 90 to 100 percent of infected birds. The best-known strain of bird flu is a variation of H5N1, a highly contagious and deadly bird virus that now has the power to infect humans.

How do humans get bird flu?
Nearly all humans who have been diagnosed with bird flu had close contact with infected domestic birds (chickens, ducks, or turkeys), or areas contaminated with their excrements and secretions. It however does not transmit easily.

Can you get bird flu from eating poultry products?
There is no evidence that avian influenza can be transmitted through cooked food. However, precaution is necessary. Normal cooking temperatures, around 70ºC/158ºF or higher kills the virus but all parts of the bird or egg must be fully cooked at this temperature. People handling or preparing raw poultry must also ensure that the juices or blood do not contaminate other foods or drinks.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?
Many symptoms reported by avian influenza victims are similar to those of seasonal flu: aches, fever, cough, and sore throat. Additional and more serious symptoms include eye infections, acute respiratory distress, and pneumonia. It does not have any additional sign. Only a laboratory test is the way to determine if a human has contracted bird flu, which is why it poses more of a threat.

Can bird flu be passed from person to person?
To date, spread of the H5N1 virus between people has been extremely limited.
But flu viruses undergo regular genetic mutations. If H5N1, or another strain of avian influenza, mutates to become easily transferable from person to person then humans would have no immunity for such a new virus and it will be catastrophic. So far there is no evidence of such a mutation.

Why doesn't bird flu spread easily from human to human?
Both bird and human flu viruses infect people by attaching themselves to cells in the respiratory tract. Bird viruses prefer the deepest branches of the human respiratory tract or lungs. This remote location inside the body makes it more difficult to spread the bird flu virus by coughing or sneezing, whereas human flu infects cells in the upper respiratory tract and spreads more easily.

How can bird flu be treated?
Laboratory studies suggest that some antiviral medicines are effective at treating the H5N1 virus in humans. However, influenza viruses can become resistant to drugs, too, so there is no guarantee that any particular medication could remain effective in the event of a pandemic.

Why does Bangladesh need to worry?
Bangladesh is more vulnerable because the country lies on the major route of migratory birds. The poultry industry is very much dependent on import from other countries. Some of them have already been declared as bird flu affected countries. Owners and employees of our back yard poultry farms lack basic knowledge of how to detect infected poultry. The dense population and close living quarters increase potentials for virus transmission. And we have a very poor medical infrastructure to handle a major pandemic.

LS Desk
Source: National Geographic News


Reader's chit

Dressy dudes, read on

It was a beautiful Friday night and we were supposed to go out. All of us were dressed and ready for the party, yet nobody knew when we would start.

My brother just kept running in and out of his room fretting about his attire and fussing over his hair. He wasn't sure if his big fat bracelet or the funky chain would be appropriate for the occasion. When he was finally done we had to lose ten more minutes because of the vital decision regarding his shoes. I have heard of girls who lost their sleep over clothes, hair and petty matters like a pimple on their nose. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would witness boys being worried about their looks. That too, my baby brother, give me a break!

It is definitely good to be self conscious about your appearance and clothing but some of the boys today tend to over do it. Just the other day my friends and I went for a bit of shopping. While we were haggling over the price, an old lady was trying her best to choose a shirt for her grandson. We couldn't help but over hear her describe the size she wanted for him. “I want something of my size, does it mean small or medium?” With a smile she went on “He is quite tall (elevating her hand) about this much, but prefers wearing short and tight tops, you see.” We left immediately as it became impossible to hold back our laughter any longer.

The pants they wear on the hand are well below the belly button, quite long and stretched. I wonder if it makes Dhaka City Corporation happy or not as it seems to work like a jharu (broom) when they pass by the dusty and muddy roads.

We can see that a large number of boys are running to the parlours for facials, hot oil treatments, even manicures and pedicures. Believe it or not some of them go to the extent of colouring their hair. This is not an exaggeration when I say that boys who pluck their eyebrows and use hair-removing creams are increasing.

All the young gentlemen out there, please do not get me wrong here. I am not against men who have a strong aesthetic sense and are ready to spend money and time on their appearance. It's definitely a cool thing to be up to date about the latest fashion and styles. Being hip or the trend maker is even cooler. But please make sure that the hairstyle you choose suits you and the outfit you opt to wear looks good on you. Just try to be comfortable with what you put on and that will give you the confidence. A self-assured good poise in a man is always in. If you feel good you will look good, do what you have to do to achieve it, just don't over do it!

By Syeda Shamin Mortada

 

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