November 12, 2005

AVIAN FLU SPREADS TO PIGS in China. This is bad news, increasingly the likelihood of a strain that will jump to humans.

(Via Rand Simberg). Also there’s this troubling news:

Experiments with human cells have found the H5N1 virus can trigger levelsof inflammatory proteins called cytokines and chemokines that are more than 10 times higher than those that occur during a bout of the common flu.

This massive increase in cytokine and chemokine activity can inflame airways, making it hard to breathe. It also contributes to the unusual severity of the avian flu, which can result in life-threatening pneumonia and acute respiratory distress. . . .

“This is basically a cytokine storm induced by this specific virus, which then leads to respiratory distress syndrome,” Osterholm said. “This also makes sense of why you tend to see a preponderance of severe illness in those who tend to be the healthiest, because the ability to increase the production of cytokines is actually higher in those who are not immune-compromised. It’s more likely in those who are otherwise healthy.”

Perhaps inhaled steroids, such as are used in treating asthma, would help.

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