Influenza, Avian Influenza, and the Impacts of Past and Looming Pandemics

Powerful Essays
Influenza, Avian Influenza, and the Impacts of Past and Looming Pandemics

Avian influenza is a disease that has been wreaking havoc on human populations since the 16th century. With the recent outbreak in 1997 of a new H5N1 avian flu subtype, the world has begun preparing for a pandemic by looking upon its past affects. In the 20th Century, the world witnessed three pandemics in the years of 1918, 1957, and 1968. In 1918 no vaccine, antibiotic, or clear recognition of the disease was known. Killing over 40 million in less than a year, the H1N1 strain ingrained a deep and lasting fear of the virus throughout the world. Though 1957 and 1968 brought on milder pandemics, they still killed an estimated 3 million people and presented a new problem of vaccine manufacturing and production. The new avian flu in Asia now claiming 54 lives has the world rushing to find a vaccine and prevent another, even more deadly pandemic

Influenza is a pathogenic virus that has been the cause deadly pandemics throughout recorded history. Influenza is caused by an A or B virus, the more deadly of the two is influenza A which derives from the avian species and initiates pandemics in the human population (Levison, 2004). The genomes in influenza viruses are divided into eight parts of RNA. Influenza A viruses are named by the two sets of proteins that protrude from the surface of the cell. The first protein is haemaglottin, or HA, which determines binding and cell entry. There are fifteen HA subtypes with H1, H2, and H3 most common in human infection (WHO, 2005). The second of the two proteins is neuraminidase (NA) that presides over the release of virus DNA from infected cells into host cells. There are nine subtypes of the NA protein (WHO, 2005). The ...

... middle of paper ...

...ration of international health organization on vaccine development, education of medical professionals on safety and protection, and increase of public awareness on basic prevention. Though H5N1

Impacts of Past and Looming Pandemics 7

has only claimed 54 lives, science must compete with nature to assure the lives of millions more.

Impacts of Past and Looming Pandemics 8


CDC. (2005, May). General Information On Avian Flu. Center of Disease Control and Prevention. July 7, 2005,

Levison, M. (2004). Infections of Leisure. Washington D.C.: ASN Press

Ruben, F. (2005). Influenza: Getting Our Attention. Clinical Infectious Diseases, (40), p. 1697.

World health Organization. (2005, June). Avian Influenza: Assessing the Pandemic Threat. WHO. July 5, 2005,
Get Access