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Timely Book On Bird Flu 174

Posted by kdawson
from the take-care-out-there dept.
Lifelongactivist writes, "A new free book about bird flu has been published by Michael Greger, M.D., the US Humane Society's director of public health and animal agriculture. Bird Flu: a Virus of Our Own Hatching (the site contains the entire book text) tells why modern industrialized agricultural methods, including factory farming, antibiotics misuse, and the use of animal refuse as a food source (!) for chickens and other livestock, have led to a staggering increase in the number of 'zoonotic' diseases that can leap from animals to people, and make a bird flu pandemic likely. The book discusses in practical terms what you can do to prevent infection and what to do if you do catch the disease. The book is especially timely given yesterday's news that a new, vaccine-resistant variant of H5N1 has been detected in China."
Update: 10/31 19:44 GMT by KD : Corrected to read "vaccine-resistant."
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Timely Book On Bird Flu

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  • by the_humeister (922869) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @02:45PM (#16661887)
    The book is especially timely given yesterday's news that a new, antibiotics-resistant variant of H5N1 has been detected in China
    It's a virus! Antibiotics are for bacterial-type infections. A vaccine is not an antibiotic.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @02:51PM (#16662027) Journal
    Antibiotics work on bacteria, not on viruses. This new virus is not stopped by the current vaccine, although the reason for that is unclear.

    Flu has something somewhat like chromosomes: different strands of genetic material that can mix and recombine. As a result there are many, many subvarieties of influenza. The way vaccination works (currently and for the forseeable future) is it presents parts of the virus to your immune system so your immune system can subsequently recognize them and fight them off. We can't present every single possible viral coat in one shot (mostly because we haven't ever encountered most of them so we don't have any way of making them to put into the shot) so what we do is take the viruses that are currently active in China, put those in the shot, and give those to suseptible populations. It's a different mix every single year, and it sounds like now this one has changed enough it's time for another mix, just like every other year.

    A reason that flu is particularly worrisome is that it's shared between pigs, chickens, and humans, which is somewhat unusual; in many places in the world people, pigs, and chickens live in close contact, which makes cross-infection easy; and when a person, pig or chicken catches two different varieties of flu, they can recombine (because of the multiple strands of genetic material) and create a whole new variety that is unlike anything seen before. The new variety will suddenly have a whole world of unprepared immune systems to go attack, so it'll do very well indeed for a while.
  • Nonsense. (Score:3, Informative)

    by FellowConspirator (882908) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @03:06PM (#16662273)
    Since several already beat me to the antibiotics being for bacteria and not viruses, I'll have to add:

    If the theory is that the industrial farming of livestock leads to cross-species infection, then there's not a lot to indicate that. Bird flu is a particularly good example, seeing as how the H5N1 strain mentioned originated in poultry from pre-industrial style farms in southeast Asia. All of the cases outside of that region have been detected in wild birds. Crossing species has only been reported among people in those areas where there's protracted contact with the birds.

    The referenced site overstates the virulence of the H5N1 flu as well.

    Antibiotics don't select for strains of the virus, and strictly speaking neither do vaccinations.

    Animal products being fed to the same species can be a problem for prion-based disorders, but that represents a very situation that produces a toxin, not a virulent disease.

    As far as treatment for it, that's easy. There's only two: vaccination, and transfusion of blood from someone that's already had it. Other than that, you just treat the symptoms and hope for the best.

Biology is the only science in which multiplication means the same thing as division.

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