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Avian Flu

            These are the times that I appreciate the course I took in college - Microbiology. I may not be as well informed as I was years ago in the field of Microbiology, but at least I still have an idea of what the avian flu is about. The first time in years that I took an interest again in Microbiology was when the SARS virus came out.
             The avian flu scare. The head of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine is correct in reminding the people that the avian flu is not food-borne. The virus can only be transmitted by birds to humans through direct handling of live chickens infected with the strain H5N1. So we can eat as much chicken as we want, but to be safe it is advised to consume only properly cooked chicken dishes. The danger lies to those people working in poultries, those who come in contact with the live birds.
             This is pleasant news to all the people in the chicken business - restaurant owners and to the poultry owners as well, whose businesses were affected with the onset of the dreadful news. Now, we can all eat the chickens at Max's, Mcdo. Jollibee without the fear of catching the bird flu. .
             Ok, RP chickens are safe, but for how long? The bird flu has so far infected 10 Asian countries and has killed 8 people this year. The Philippines for now is bird flu free, maybe due to a lot of measures done by the government to monitor chickens coming into the country (imports), but the problem are those beyond the government's control like the migratory birds. Each year, during the cold season a lot of species of birds flee the chilly climates and fly toward the temperate regions, the Philippines included. There's a great chance that infected birds may infect our local species, thereby endangering us all. When this happens, we can all expect a ghastly problem.
             A vital characteristic of viruses is its ability to change of mutate. When I was college, there were already about close to 200 species of rhinovirus or the common cold, that figure may already have increased for up to 50%.

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