Treating Bird Flu

Bird flu, just like most other flu types, can become lethal to humans if left untreated. However, with most of the other flu viruses you have a fair window of treatment that can last for weeks before the virus produces symptoms and other complications that are harder to treat, such as flu specific pneumonia, high fever and so forth.

With the bird flu virus, this treatment window is considerably lowered, since the virus is quicker in effect and may produce more damaging complications such as the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or highly potent forms of flu pneumonia. That is why the correctness of the treatment is equally important to the speed with which it is applied.

In the past, most flu viruses were treated using one of four neuraminidase inhibitors. At first, the viruses were completely defenseless against any of these inhibitors and the flu was easily treated if found on time. However, during the course of a short time span, they developed resistances and even immunities to some of them.

Resistance Grows

For example, in 1994, amantadine and rimantadine were used to treat the H3N2 flu virus with 99% efficiency. This means that in only 1% of the cases, the virus strain showed resistance to the medication. By 2003, the same virus had adapted itself to be more resistant to these particular inhibitors, with a 12% chance of ignoring the effect.

Bird flu, just like most other flu types, can become lethal to humans if left untreated. However, with most of the other flu viruses you have a fair window of treatment that can last for weeks before the virus produces symptoms and other complications that are harder to treat, such as flu specific pneumonia, high fever and so forth.

With the bird flu virus, this treatment window is considerably lowered, since the virus is quicker in effect and may produce more damaging complications such as the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or highly potent forms of flu pneumonia. Thats why the correctness of the treatment is equally important to the speed with which it is applied.

In the past, most flu viruses were treated using one of four neuraminidase inhibitors. At first, the viruses were completely defenseless against any of these inhibitors and the flu was easily treated if found on time. However, during the course of a short time span, they developed resistances and even immunities to some of them.

Resistance Grows

For example, in 1994, amantadine and rimantadine were used to treat the H3N2 flu virus with 99% efficiency. This means that in only 1% of the cases, the virus strain showed resistance to the medication. By 2003, the same virus had adapted itself to be more resistant to these particular inhibitors, with a 12% chance of ignoring the effect.

The biggest leap in this sense was done between 2003 and 2005, when the H3N2 virus became resistant to the inhibitors in 91% of the cases. For this reason, amantadine and rimantadine are not effectively used in treated flu cases, however zanamivir and oseltamivir are still highly efficient.

The Bright Side

Recent studies on the bird flu virus strains (H5N1 versions) have a bright side however. It was recently acknowledged that the new viruses actually become less resistant to amantadine and rimantadine with each passing flu season. So the use of these inhibitors could once again be a viable option.

You may ask why it is important that amantadine and rimantadine are effective too, when zanamivir and oseltamivir may very well do their job in treating bird flu. The main point is that the constantly changing virus can easily become resistant or immune to the latter inhibitors as well, leaving us with no treatment options. Thats why having as many treatment methods as possible is important.

Best Traditional Treatments

Besides these medications, there is a set of conventional treatment methods, or better yet, treatment guide lines that are used with most flu viruses, hence with the bird flu as well. Getting plenty of rest, drinking a lot of liquids (preferably plain water) and avoiding the use of toxic substances such as tobacco and alcohol would fit in these general flu treatment rules.

In addition, bird flu symptoms may be treated specifically with specialized medication, although this will only stop that particular symptom and not the virus itself. Last but not least, it should be noted that aspirin is not recommended as a treatment medication for flu, especially for children and teenagers. Taking aspirin in the presence of the bird flu virus has been shown to increase the chance of a liver disease called Reye syndrome to appear.

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