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Page #14


THE COMING WAVE
(An Interview With Mother Abigail)


Q. There are many people worried about the novel H1N1 virus combining with the H5N1 virus. What are your feelings on the issue?

MA. The HPAI A(H5N1) virus is an avian disease - panzootic in poultry and wild birds - and while there have been over 250 human deaths in the last six years from H5N1 infection there is very limited human-to-human transmission of the virus.

But it is worrisome considering it's:

1. High lethality
2. Worldwide host reservoir
3. And propensity for mutation

We know, for instance, that in Indonesia the virus may be adapting to pigs.

The H5N1 virus isolated from pigs is less harmful to mice than the H5N1 isolated from chickens.

This means that the virus growing in pigs might well be adapting to a new host - which, in turn, suggest that it might eventually adapt to humans as well.

Pigs are seen as a possible intermediate host that can help in that adaptation because the epithelial cells in pigs' trachea can be infected by both avian and human flu. Where, in the event of co-infection, viral reassortment might occur.

It seems prudent to be concerned.

However, the normal seasonal flu kills over 30,000 per year which is a quantum leap in risk.

As to the novel H1N1 virus now spreading like wildfire around the globe - the issue is different. The new H1N1 virus is more deadly than common seasonal influenza because of its ability to infect cells deep in the lungs where it can cause scarring and pneumonia.

Also it is more virulent. At least in animal models that is, what we see in the human population is a rather low (0.2%) lethality. Time will tell what the final verdict on virulence is.

We know for certain that it does not have the mitochondrial killing prowess of the 1918 flu virus. However it seems to have spread in six weeks as much as the seasonal flu spreads in six months.

It is hot.





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