Public Health Microbiology – MICRO-ORGANISMS IN THE NEWS

Scientists tested a new vaccine against the avian flu prevalent in Asia and Russia. The preliminary tests have come back with positive results, showing good antibody reactions. Many scientists are worried that if the virus makes its way into the human population, it will cause pandemic flu, hence the preparation of the vaccine. It is meant to stave off the spread of the disease. The problem being, there’s no way to make enough vaccine for the entire population to be vaccinated. Even if those in high risk areas were vaccinated, there’s still a chance it will spread outside those areas.

It states in the article that healthy adults display good immune response. They expect that healthy adults will show resistance to the virus because of the antibodies in their system. This may not be the case. High immune responses don’t always indicate a strong reaction when presented with the actual agent of infection. If the vaccine is altered too much, then there’s a chance infection can still happen. Also, it is possible for the virus to mutate past the vaccine.

The vaccine still needs to be tested on the most troublesome parts of the population. Children and the elderly are more prone to infections than the healthy adult members of society. These people can become key transmitters of the disease.

In reading the article, people may misunderstand the threat of the avian flu and the effectiveness of the immune system in dealing with a virus. Viruses hide within our own cells, using them to synthesize their protein strands. While we can produce antibodies to attack them, and possess antiviral drugs, the true benefits are questionable. In the case of antiviral drugs, the virus still runs its course. This is done over a shorter time with the symptoms lessoned.

The article takes on an optimistic tone, believing that a pandemic infection could be averted with proper planning. Countries are preparing, ordering up the vaccine to have it on store in the advent of outbreak. Others are slaughtering massive amounts of birds in attempts to prevent the spread of the virus among avian populations. If the virus were to move into the human population, it is likely that stopping the spread would be difficult.

While vaccines are useful and show promise through testing, their true merit becomes known when faced with preventing the disease. Many of the vaccines we use now do a good job. Waiting for a situation to become pandemic is not the best time to find out if a vaccine will work.

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