July 12, 2012

Officials Kill Millions Of Birds Due To Flu Outbreak

Connie K. Ho for - Your Universe Online

In containing a recent bird flu outbreak, 2.5 million birds were killed in Mexico.

According to Mexico´s Ministry of Agriculture, many of these birds were slaughtered during the past three weeks at poultry farms. Officials traveled to 148 poultry farms, found bird flu in 31 of those farms, and discovered that 34 other farms did not have any of the viruses. There was a total of 3.4 million affected poultry.

"The number of birds that have been sacrificed as a control and eradication measure as of (Monday) is 2.5 million," the ministry wrote in a prepared statement.

The Telegraph reported that, on June 20, the outbreak was first discovered in the state of Jalisco. As a result, the Mexican government decided to declare a national animal health emergency on July 2 to face the growing epidemic. The government then imported one million vaccines from Pakistan and farming officials have stated that they created a seed-made vaccine that would be produced at four laboratories. A total of 80 million doses of vaccines would be produced in the initial run.

These health scares have been occurring since 2009. From that year on, health officials have been closely monitoring outbreaks, hoping to evade another swine flu epidemic. According to AFP, the past H1N1 virus killed 17,000 people throughout the world. The news of the massive killings of birds also follows a report that the H5N1 bird flu virus can quickly mutate into deadly human pandemic form after three steps. A recent article in the Daily Mail addresses “pre-pandemic vaccinations” to immunize people years before a flu pandemic could possibly occur. Public health professionals believe that it would be wiser to be prepared beforehand rather than scrambling to rush to create vaccines for a new pandemic.

“Even if you change manufacturing to higher-yield technologies, you're still going to be chasing the virus,” David Salisbury, Britain's director of immunization and the chair of a global group on vaccines during the H1N1 flu pandemic, told the Daily Mail. “The bottom line is that current production will never solve the problem. You'll always get at least one, if not two waves of infection before you can get sufficient quantities of vaccine to do anything significant ... If you want to get ahead of it, you've got to have a different strategy.”

As a result of requests from the World Health Organization, pharmaceutical companies have worked fervently to invest in flu vaccine production. Studies have been done on the various vaccines that could be produced. While the H5N1 hasn´t mutated to be able to easily pass from birds to humans, it still killed about 60 percent of people who were infected.

“Given that licensed H5N1 vaccines are available, we have the option to vaccinate individuals at greatest risk or to vaccinate more broadly, including the populations of individual countries, of continents, or even the entire globe,” wrote Rino Rappuoli, a scientist at Swiss company Novartis that has H5N1 vaccines approved for use, in an article in last month´s edition of the journal Science. “It is just a question of evaluating the cost, the logistics and the risk of implementing such a vaccination campaign. It is not impossible.”