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Alert Number 129

Bird Flu in Humans

Date: September 28, 2005

This Alert was prompted by an article in the venerable New England Journal of Medicine, just published and hot off the presses (dated September 29, 2005). The subject is avian flu (labeled H5N1) in humans. NEJM does not go for sensationalism. It is about as credible as it gets in terms of well researched and well documented science. I have often been frustrated since the Journal hardly ever puts out full text articles free of charge. Here is an exception, this detailed and very informative article is published free of charge to all readers. All you have to do is click on the link here to read the entire article: NEJM Bird Flu Article. Here is the lead-in to the article:

An unprecedented epizootic avian influenza A (H5N1) virus that is highly pathogenic has crossed the species barrier in Asia to cause many human fatalities and poses an increasing pandemic threat. This summary describes the features of human infection with influenza A (H5N1) and reviews recommendations for prevention and clinical management presented in part at the recent World Health Organization (WHO) Meeting on Case Management and Research on Human Influenza A/H5, which was held in Hanoi, May 10 through 12, 2005.1 Because many critical questions remain, modifications of these recommendations are likely.

I also came across a “cheat sheet” review of the NEJM bird flu article on For those of us with adult attention deficit syndrome, this review is a good place to get the bare bones of the NEJM article. It is quite nicely done, spares me from having to do it myself: Cheat Sheet.

In a previous article, Flu Preparedness we discussed preparing for the annual flu season. We also gave you a few links where you can read up more about this potential storm brewing out there. While it is prudent to be aware of what may be happening out there, it is equally important not to get panicked by unsupported claims blown out of proportion. I am bringing this latest NEJM article to your attention as a source of credible information. I think you will find it very interesting reading. For a change, the jargon is not too dense and I think you will get quite an accurate view of where things stand on this important issue. As immune compromised patients we have more skin in this game. Being aware of potential risks is part of smart survival strategy.

Be well,


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