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  Category: Articles » Health & Fitness » Medicine » Article

Tamiflu destroys H5N1 virus

By Silvia Martin

Avian influenza or bird flu hit the headlines in 1990's. It was first reported in regions adjoining China but gradually appeared in south east Asia and spread to as far as Europe.

This flu type condition is caused by an influenza virus H5N1, which is commonly present in the wild migratory birds. The virus is dormant in nature and rarely causes an epidemic. But when this strain, H5N1, passes onto domestic poultry, it assumes an epidemic nature and kills the birds by thousands. The epidemic is very difficult to contain and large scale culling is the only sensible option. Economic losses are high but governments have been supportive to poultry farmers in this case.

In 1997 the first case of
Bird Flu in humans was reported. The person infected by the H5N1 strain was one who was constantly in an environment where secretion and excretions from infected birds were prevalent. Upon infection the person showed classic flu type symptoms - headache, running nose, body ache and fever and in some cases respiratory inflammation, pneumonia, eye infection and other life threatening complications have been observed.

Various antiviral treatments for Bird Flu in humans have been tried but none has provided a fool proof measure. Tamiflu, manufactured by Roche, has by far been the most successful in fighting bird flu virus provided it is administered within 48 hours of appearance of the symptoms.

Tamiflu's success is attributed to the fact that it kills the H5N1 virus rather than masking the flu symptoms leaving the virus to play havoc inside the body.

There have been reports that in China some poultry farmers gave anti bird flu shots to their birds in order to prevent an outbreak. But in the process the bird flu virus mutated and developed resistance becoming extremely dangerous when it crosses over to humans.

Human to human propagation of bird flu virus is rare and the infection does not sustain beyond second host.

Serious work in identifying a bird flu vaccine began in April 2005 but so far it has not met with any success. Tamiflu continues to be the only treatment when bird flu symptoms have set in.

Tamiflu is FDA approved and safe to use. It does not interfere with other medication making it easy to administer during complications. It should be used under qualified medical supervision and regular monitoring may be necessary to avoid side effects. Pregnant and breast feeding women should exercise caution while using Tamiflu. Do not discontinue the use of Tamiflu if symptoms subside before the end of treatment duration.

Health workers recommend use of proper isolation gear while dealing with infected poultry to prevent onset of bird flu.

Prevention is better than cure.
About the Author
The author is an amateur writer focusing primarily on health related topics or on the health related research findings.
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