As possible bird flu outbreak looms, students prepare

“I had a little bird, its name was Enza. I opened the window, influenza.”

Children during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 jumped rope to this rhyme. The questions remain for Americans of the new millennium, will children once more jump rope to this rhyme?

The Centers for Disease Control report that the world may be facing another influenza pandemic.

The Avian flu better known as the bird flu has surfaced in parts of Asia, Europe, and a most recent case in Africa.

According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, the world has experienced three influenza pandemics during the 20th century.

The pandemic of 1918, also known as the Spanish flu, killed 20 to 40 million people. It was a determining factor to the end of WWI.

The Asian flu of 1957 killed 1 to 1.5 million people.

Finally the 1968, Hong Kong Flu killed between 750,000 to 1 million people.

In 2003, bird flu surfaced in Asia and according to the CDC, as of Jan. 7, human cases of avian influenza A have been reported in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Turkey.

On Feb. 7, in Amarah, Iraq a 14-year-old male pigeon seller died.

The following day a case of the bird flu virus was reported in poultry in Kaduna, Nigeria.

“People should take their health seriously,” said Rose Cadean, 21, a junior political science student from Fort Lauderdale.

She said she believes that if there is a pandemic many will die because people may not take it seriously at first.

According to the CDC, the bird flu virus is common and highly contagious among birds such as chickens, ducks and turkeys. When infected the bird becomes gravely ill or dies. Infected birds carry the virus in saliva, nasal secretions and feces.

The virus spreads by birds migrating from continent to continent. “Americans should be worried about the bird flu,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert. So far 148 people have been infected and 82 have died.

Nicole Atkinson, 20, an economics student from Tallahassee said that she is concerned about a possible outbreak in the United States.

Osterholm said the virus is not passed from human to human contact, but it may mutate. “The chances it’s going to happen is either today or 10 years from now,” said Osterholm. If a pandemic occurs 160 to 180 million people will die. A kissing cousin of the 1918 pandemic,” said Osterholm.

“No one should take this bird flu situation for granted,” said Cadean.

Atkinson agrees.

“A bird flu pandemic would cause great panic and suspicion among Americans and we may be discussing the inevitable.”

According to the CDC, the symptoms of bird flu reported in humans have ranged from typical influenza-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections (conjunctivitis), pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, and other severe and life-threatening complications.

There are four different types of antiviral drugs which are amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir. The CDC also states some of the 2004 H5N1 viruses isolated from poultry and humans in Asia have shown that the viruses are resistant to two of the medications, amantadine and rimantadine.

On Jan. 14, the CDC Health Alert Notice (HAN) recommended that neither amantadine nor rimantadine be used for the treatment or prevention of influenza A in the United States, for the remainder of the 2005-2006 influenza season.

According to MSNBC the World Health Organization, the H5N1 strain is the most likely candidate for adapting and becoming a pandemic strain. The reason is the H5N1 virus remains resistant to many antiviral medicines.

The CDC reports it will participate along side a new inter-agency National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Task Force organized by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

These agencies will develop preparedness efforts in case of a pandemic.

Contact Melissa L. Louis at