I am over this winter. So much cold weather: snow, sleet, freezing rain. I am ready for Spring! This is probably the roughest winter I can remember. I won't be sad to see it go, that's for sure.
One of my clients, a pediatrician, informed me that the hospitals are full of patients with the flu. "They're full," he said, and some were put on a waiting list for when a bed becomes available. The flu may be with us here, but there is a different kind of flu that seems to be giving the far eastern countries a major headache. Asia's deadly bird flu virus is back again. This is serious stuff, folks.
Poultry farmers were told they needed to adopt strict hygiene standards to curb Asia's deadly bird flu virus. The flu warning came from a top Vietnamese official.
At least a dozen Vietnamese have died of bird flu since December 30, raising concerns that the disease could re-emerge after an outbreak last year spread to ten Asian countries. That outbreak forced the slaughter of more than 100 million birds. That's a lotta birds.
"It's a difficult situation right now, we need to educate these farmers." We know it's difficult to change their old habits," said the head of the Department of Animal Health. "We are trying our best to prevent the virus from spreading."
The big commercial farms learned their lesson from last year's deadly outbreak. They fought the first outbreak with strict hygiene standards and regular disinfection. It paid off, the latest outbreak was only reported in the smaller farms and these farms are the problemthey failed to apply preventative measures.
There are new regulations that officials are asking that all farmers abide by. Farmers should be separating ducks from chickens, requiring ducks to be raised in cages, and improving hygiene. Ducks should not roam freely in rice fields as they do now.
Officials are looking at a variety of issues, including mass vaccinations, flu research, farm hygiene, animal husbandry practices and improving coordination between animal health and human health agencies.
The bird flu virus, which in the last year has killed 46 peopleincluding 32 from Vietnam and 12 from Thailandhas yet to mutate into a form that can be transmitted between humans. But herein lies the most scary part of the report on the bird flu. Scientists say it may mutate to a human form that could become as deadly as the ones that killed millions during three influenza pandemics in the 20th century. Yikes!
The country of Thailand has approved a program to vaccinate free-range chickens, ducks, fighting cocks, and tropical birds, thus reversing a ban that the government maintained on inoculating birds.
Vaccinations seem to be the way to curtail the spread of the deadly virus. Vaccines, along with close monitoring and limiting the area in which free-range poultry are allowed to roam. Can you imagine this happening on the Delmarva Peninsula and hitting our poultry industry? It would be a total disaster. It boggles the mind!
And speaking of deadly viruses, there seems to be one lurking in the shadows that sounds even scarier than the bird fluif that is possible. Gay and bisexual men have been warned about the detection of a new strain of HIV that, for some unknown reason, rapidly progresses to AIDS and is immune to multiple classes of HIV-fighting drugs.
This virus was found in a guy last December. He admitted to taking part in unprotected anal sex with multiple sex partners. And he did this while high on crystal meth. Gosh, talk about careless behavior. What was this guy thinking? Is this an isolated case or a part of a pattern? Federal health officials agreed that it is too early to tell, but getting the word out was an important move to let the public know. Sure scared the hell out of me and Nick. We discussed this over dinner last week and wondered if this could be the start of an epidemic the way AIDS took off in the 80s. We found it reprehensible that one guy could be so out of it as to put hundreds of other gay men at risk. Is this deja vu? At least the guy is cooperating with officials trying to notify his sex partners.
According to health experts, this is not the first time a drug resistant strain of HIV has been detected. What is unique is that the two characteristics, high virulence and drug resistance, have been found in the same virus. There are too few cases to know exactly what it means. That being said, it is worth paying attention to.
What they need to examine is the connection of crystal meth and HIV. And there is no excuse for unsafe sex anymore. We who grew up in the AIDS era of the 80s remember our friends and lovers succumbing to an insidious disease that took too many long before their time.
Ignorance will only lead to more lives lost and I don't think we can deal with another epidemic. For your own sake guys, use your headnot that onebut the one on top your shoulders. Don't be a statistic! Play safe. These viruses are serious!
Rick Moore is a personal trainer certified by the American Fitness Professionals & Associates. Visit him at www.ricksfitness.net.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 2 March 11, 2005