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Avian influenza (bird flu) H5N1

There are 15 types of avian or bird flu. Most contagious and usually fatal in birds are the strains H5 and H7. Even within the H5N1 strain, variations have been seen throughout the different regions so far affected.

Domestic birds such as chickens and ducks are most at risk from epidemic outbreaks since they tend to live in higher concentrations. Migratory birds transfer the disease between areas, infecting local populations as they go. Recent confirmations of the presence of H5N1 in Turkey, Romania and Greece show the pattern of spread, which is impossible to stop.

Bird Flu has swept through poultry and wild birds in Asia since 2003. So far it has killed large numbers of birds and led to more than 60 human deaths.


In the event of large scale transfer of the disease to humans vaccines could be developed and the UK Government has indicated that it would purchase enough vaccine to cover every person in the country. Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has indicated that 120 million doses would be needed, two for each person. However, such a vaccine cannot be developed until the exact strain of flu virus causing the pandemic is identified, meaning that development and production of vaccine will always come too late for some.

Estimates vary enormously as to the possible death toll from such a Global pandemic, one UN official, Dr David Nabarro, is quoted as saying that Bird Flu “could kill 150m people”. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has distanced itself from this figure, estimating the likely number of casualties at between 2 and 7.4 million.


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The spread of Avian Flu around the world is much in the media at the moment, leading to very real fears of a possible pandemic – or global outbreak, should the virus transfer to humans.

This would require a mutation of the virus; something that as yet remains only a potential threat rather than a reality. It is however, entirely possible that such a change could transpire.

Historical precedents exist to show the potential threat to humans from these virulent flu types. The 1918 – 19 Spanish Flu virus is widely considered the most deadly disease in history, killing 40 million people in a matter of months. The virus is now believed to have come from birds, by scientists who also believe that it bore similarities to H5N1, the strain currently causing concern.


Contaminated buildings require high levels of bio-decontamination for which Bioquell's patented hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) technology, Bioquell RBDS, is ideal in many cases. Already in use world wide for the decontamination of healthcare facilities and pharmaceutical production suites, HPV has proven efficacy against an almost identical virus H5N2 (Heckert et al).



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