First the bird flu was in Romania.
Then we heard it wasn’t in Turkey after all. No, wait… they were just saying there weren’t any cases of PEOPLE with bird flu in Turkey, a fact that hasn’t stopped Turks from flocking to pharmacies to buy boxes of Tamiflu.
This is awfully confusing, probably because there are several different strains of bird flu. The only strain recognized to be deadly to humans is known as H5N1 — the strain they absolutely, positively found in Turkey.
Romania’s bird flu is considered an H5, but it hasn’t been subtyped for certain as yet. Unfortunately, Dr. Samuel Jutzi, director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization “suggested that the tests being conducted on Romanian samples would identify the same virus, despite earlier conflicting reports.”
In the absence of a bird flu vaccine, everybody is stockpiling oseltamivir (AKA Tamiflu), a pricey anti-viral that does not cure the flu, only reduce its severity. Unfortunately, Tamiflu manufacturer Roche insists that no other company may produce it, which means there probably won’t be enough to go around. Since it takes 12 months to make and Roche only recently boosted production, we shouldn’t expect Tamiflu to be easily available at our local drug stores this winter.
The good news about the bird flu seems to be that there only have been 117 confirmed cases in humans, and human-to-human transmission is considered extremely rare. The bad news is that 60 of those cases resulted in death, and experts fear the virus will mutate or combine with a “human” flu and become highly contagious. Meanwhile,