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Wed, 12th November 2014
 

Will some kind of "Bird Flu" strike. Is it all a beatup? How far away and when. Today, nearly all doctors believe it is merely a matter of time before a major world wide pandemic of serious death dealing flu hits the globe. Currently it is the Ebola virus that is the big worry. They believe that individuals, doctors, governments, despite their vigilance, will not be able to control it. Just as the mysterious but closely similar Spanish Flu killed millions world wide in 1918 - more than died in the last dozen wars - the same event will happen.

Influenza virus and related viruses come in two major forms, termed Influenza A and B. From these two families there are immumerable sub-types or strains. The 1918 epidemic was a variant of "A". Since then there have been similar closely related outbreaks, the swine flu, the Asian flu and a few others. Fortunately, none caused many deaths, and there was no mass world scourge.

DROPLET INFECTION:

The current culprit, commonly called avian or bird flu is technically known as H5N1 variant. It spreads through inhalation of infected droplets in the air, by direct contact, and probably bird to humans. Cases reported so far indicate direct exposure to infected poultry the week before symptoms, probably during butchering plucking and preparing the poultry.

Mars Infection:

However, despite this, there appears to be little if any human to human transmission, even though it is often suspected. With the known information, just how mass infection will occur is not clear. The idea of wearing face masks to reduce levels of aerial infection, frequent hand washing, avoiding face to face contact with known infected persons are some of the many recommendations.

Symptoms are general flu like events for a few days followed by high fever, chest and muscle aches and pains, maybe vomiting and diarrhoea, bleeding from nose and gums.

Respiration:

Later respiratory difficulties can occur. Prompt reporting to the doctor is essential. The two known drugs which may help are Tamiflu and Relenza. Being a virus, antibiotics of course are of no benefit. There is some evidence vaccination against current known forms of the flu may offer some protection. It is all a wait-and-see game. But when the time comes, expect the worst. It is inevitable. With Ebola, the outcome is still unknown. High fever and red eyes seem the common symptoms. Fatality rate is high.

 
MINNIE BATTERIES

Q: 

My granny uses mini batteries for her hearing aid, occasionally changes and drops them at our place, but I am eternally worried lest the little ones crawling around the floor could find and eat one. Is this a matter of concern?

A: 

Miniature batteries are very corrosive if swallowed and attacked by stomach acids which are very powerful. The battery may disintegrate and damage or even perforate the bowel leading to peritonitis or abdominal wall infection. Tell granny to change batteries when you are present, and place the old one in the garbage can preferably with the lid on.

 
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PRAWNS

Q: 

I love prawns but now find I come out in a rash if I eat them, which is very frustrating.

A: 

Allergy to crustaceans, prawns, lobster and occasionally other seafoods is common. Remedy? Do not eat them, do not tempt fate. It may gradually worsen, and ultimately lead to a serious "anaphylactic reaction". This is characterised by breathing difficulties as the airways constrict, and may need immediate adrenaline as a life saving measure.

 
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FEVERS

Q: 

What is the best way to treat a mild fever?

A: 

Drink lots of water. Take body warmth showers ending with very cool, then dry quickly with a soft towel. Avoid drafts for this could cause fresh chills and aggravate. Paracetamol is medication of choice (see label for directions - elixir for children). It is favoured over aspirin which is a stomach irritant, and should never be given to children. See the doctor if it persists. Although many are due to mild viral infections, there may be some other cause needing additional management.

 
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SCARLET FEVER

Q: 

I looked at a very old home medical book mum had, and it talked about the horrors of scarlet fever, but we never seem to hear about it today.

A: 

Scarlet fever was once very serious and highly lethal, and a notifiable disease. The patient, usually a child, turned "scarlet", and ran a fever. But for reasons unknown, the germ suddenly lost its sting about fifty years ago. It is now rarely seen, is not fatal, and may not need treatment. Who knows this may be the ultimate fate also of HIV infection.

 
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CHOOKS

Q: 

I keep about a dozen hens in the backyard (permitted by our local council), but wonder if I run the risk of "bird flu".

A: 

Keeping a few chooks in the backyard under ordinary domestic conditions in this country is most unlikely to lead to bird flu infection. This infection occurs mainly in SE Asian countries where there are mass collections of poultry often kept under dreadful conditions, killed and sold in open markets with all the other flies, bugs, infections so common in these regions.

 
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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.

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