Scientific community members are worried about whether sporadic outbreaks of bird flu could indicate the nearing of global bird flu pandemic. Although the impact of the H5N1 bird flu infection has been minimal compared to AIDS/HIV and malaria, bird flu pandemic could claim a million lives, worldwide.
The bird flu virus is one of the lethal viruses to infect birds. However, it has not inherited genetic changes that would enable human -human transmission of the disease. So far, the H5N1 virus has not been able to alter its behavior in human beings, reducing the possibility of a sparking a pandemic.
This might not be true, argues Dr. Todd Hatchette, a virologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax. What is needed by the avian influenza virus to be effectively transmitted between human beings is poorly understood at the moment. Hence it is impossible to predict which form of the virus can trigger the next pandemic, he stated.
Officials belonging to the World Health Organization (WHO) are urging the countries to prepare themselves for a potential bird flu outbreak, most likely to be related to the H5N1 virus. Effective communication of the bird flu threat is a significant challenge, according to Dick Thompson, a spokesperson for the UN body in Geneva. 'We have to get across the complete message: this is a dangerous virus, but we don't know when or if it's going to transform into a pandemic virus,' he said in an accompanying statement.
The bird flu pandemic that occurred in 1918, in Spain is regarded to be the worst. With improved preparedness for bird flu, the current pandemic would not be as devastating as the previous one. The stockpiling of bird flu drugs and vaccines with a limited shelf life is believed to be a waste of available resources and aggravate general panic about bird flu. Critics however argue that it is a representation of effective crisis management.