Fear of pandemic
the fear of an influenza pandemic has gripped the world following reports of the first case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in Thailand. So far, the disease had only been transmitted to humans from birds. A spokesperson of the World Health Organization (who) South East Asia Region recently voiced a warning for countries that have reported bird flu cases in the past, saying they need to be extra vigilant. Even the West is alarmed, because there is no vaccine to prevent the disease. The only known medicine, Tamiflu, is very expensive. Many countries, such as the us, Australia, Japan and New Zealand are already stockpiling this medicine. The who recently called a meeting of the drug industry to discuss how a crisis could be averted.
All the four recent cases in Thailand are from the same family. The first victim was an 11-year-old girl, who passed the infection to her aunt with whom she lived in Kamphaeng Phet. Both had contact with dead chicken. But the girl seems to have passed the infection to her mother too, who lived in Bangkok. The aunt's son also fell ill and was hospitalised, but he is recovering now and tests are being conducted to confirm the nature of his infection. To thwart the spread of the flu, the Thailand government has decided to buy about five million duck eggs from farmers and destroy them, spending us $605,000 in the process. The disease has also been reported in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, China, Laos and Indonesia in the past.
In a meeting on October 8, 2004, members of the Association of South East Asian Nations decided to accelerate surveillance to check the disease.
Two pharmaceutical companies, Aventis Pasteur, based in Pennsylvania, usa, and Chiron, based in California, also in usa, have made a vaccine for the disease. But its human trials are yet to be conducted and are not expected to begin before the end of this year. The medicine Tamiflu's effectiveness is also not documented due to lack of enough cases of human infection. The 10-capsule treatment course of the drug for an adult costs us $68. Swiss drug company Roche Group is its sole manufacturer, but its production capacity is very low.
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