Wednesday July 18, 2018

Dumaguing: Bird flu is contagious

FOR THE record, tri-media outlets released this alarming and scary news August 24, especially on national television. Add to that the discovery that the avian flu virus that has brought almost a plague-like disaster to thousands of chicken and quails belongs to the H5N6 strain.

The original Avian or bird flu virus has three strains- H5, H7, H9, with H5 as the most virulent or pathogenic-disease causing strain.

The news came at a time when the ban for the transport of poultry products from Luzon to the other islands is lifted, particularly to Mindanao.

It also came at the heel of reassurances as well as encouragements from government offices like the Department of Agriculture that it is alright- read: safe- to eat chicken, but are quick to add, "As long as it is cooked properly."

Let us not forget also the front-page pictures of government officials eating with gusto chicken and even feasting on balut. Those positive and engaging activities and endeavors all have been reduced to naught with that recent news that, contrary to the previously-held belief that Avian flu is zoonotic, that is from bird to birds and from birds to humans only, now health authorities have finally realized that human to human transmission is possible.

Contagion is the ease by which a disease is transmitted from one sick person to a susceptible host or person. A disease is considered infectious if it involves an agent- microbes like viruses, bacteria, fungus, protozoans, helminthes or worms-in causing an illness or malady. Communicable diseases are those which can be transferred from one person/animal/organism to another. Contagious diseases are communicable diseases which are easily transferred or transmitted.

Avian flu virus is seen from the tears, saliva, urine and droppings of infected birds or fowls. The very first outbreak in San Luis Pampanga was attributed to interaction of our native chicken and quails with migratory birds which flock to the Candaba swamps during winter in the Northern hemisphere and return home during the warmer climes of summer June to last week of September, and in such instances these birds may have carried some viruses with them.

Of course, we can only surmise that the spread to Jaen and San Isidro of Nueva Ecija can be traced again to the migratory birds or the usual routine movement of people from one province to the other.

Admittedly, the recent news created a massive collective fear among us. Signs and symptoms of avian flu are mostly respiratory in nature, and memories of the deadly SARS and ARDS- acute respiratory distress syndrome send a cold chill up our spine.

Being viral, antibiotics are not first-line treatment but may be useful when secondary bacterial infection sets in. thus for the most part, management of Bid flu is supportive and symptomatic, meaning antipyretics for fever, mucolytic-expectorants and bronchodilators for cough and difficulty of breathing. The sad reality is there is no vaccine for avian flu, at least for the moment.

My pediatrician friends- responding to a dire demand for vaccinations- reassure that if a person has had the quadrivalent flu vaccine, there is some protection from being victim of Bird flu. A consoling thought but knowing the propensity of viruses to mutate or change their pathogenic capacities, it is prudent on everyone to make sure that our immune system is at its best, and to monitor the development or evolution of the Bird flu, to take appropriate defensive and protective measures.