The True Dangers of the H5N1 Virus

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The True Dangers of the Feared Pandemic

Abstract

The H5N1 strain of the avian flu is a virus. It has the potential to be very dangerous especially through its ways of transmission. The statistics of the current deaths and possible deaths also show the possible pandemic arising in the near future. However, this topic must be put into perspective and the common belief that it will eradicate our world is rather exaggerated. There is actually a higher chance that the avian flu will not become a deadly killer. Still, there are many possibilities and no one can be completely sure of the outcome.

The H5N1 Virus

Avian flu is probably one of the most feared possible outbreaks. The H5N1 strain is the particular strain in question. If this strain mutates, allowing for easy human to human transmission, there is an immense chance for a worldwide pandemic. This pandemic could leave the Earth barren with the possible eradication of humans unless there is a gene that allows a small percent of humans to be resistant (Siegel 33).

The H5N1 virus has been the most feared virus because of its likelihood to mutate. The structure of the H5N1 virus is the main reason of its possible mutation. The envelope of the H5N1 virus is comprised of three proteins. Two of them are the hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N). The hemagglutinin is the layer used to penetrate the host cell. It has receptors that bind to cells, allowing it to open and infiltrate the host cells. The receptors are very specific to the receptors on the cells to which it binds. This is the reason that viruses with

H5N1 Dangers 2

the H5 subtype have not been able to transmit from human to human very easily. Birds have been its main target and up to this point, have been affected to most. The neuraminidase serves as a mechanism used to cut the virus free from the mucus and other inhibiting factors of the immune system, allowing the virus to move about freely in the body (Tambyah, Leung 16).

Because this virus very rarely infects humans, the resistance it will face in the human immune system is predicted to be minimal. The virulence of H5N1 in its ability to multiply rapidly, making it more likely for the virus to mutate by chance. The greatest fear is that the virus will mutate in a way that permits it to gain airborne transmission, allowing it to spread rapidly from human to human.

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