Saturday, October 22, 2005

H5N1 & The Death of a Parrot

Listening to Radio 4 today, there was a lot of discussion about the fact that a parrot in quarantine died of avian flu. This parrot's death is now the subject of an enquiry and the strain of avain flu that killed it is now being rapidly investigated.

A parrot in quarantine; surely this is what quarantine is for. What's the big fuss about? I am aware the avian flu H5N1 is currently a hot topic and that there has been alot of scaremongering in the media but c'mon.

Over the past four decades, only 18 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, most caused by strains other than H5N1, have occurred throughout the world.- WHO website
The major threat is migratory birds, and the liklyhood of an infected bird surviving long enough to get here is small. On top of that even in the unfortunate event that a migratory bird infects the domestic bird population, (a wildlife tragedy to be sure) the chances of the HN51 virus mutating to a strain that could infect humans and be highly virulent and of infecting a particular individual (you) is so small that you'd have a better chance of winning the lottery.

What's in a name:Is it only me, or does H5N1 seem a bit trendy, a bit media savvy? A bit like DKNY or FCUK. Could it have been specifically chosen as a name so that it would roll off the tongues of bored news presenters?Maybe I should be less cynical but a quick Google for any reference of a HN50, HN49 or HN48 virus didn't return any virus related results. [My error here should have been searching for variants of H5N1]

Maybe the solution would be to change the name of the virus to something like 'Better chance of winning the lottery' virus.


Blogger MJ said...

I wonder if it was left behind by aliens following their crash in area 51? Surely no relation... wait... I hear black helicopters coming ater me ;)

22/10/05 18:42  
Blogger Jon said...

How exactly does one 'hear black helicopters'? I was just wondering ;)

22/10/05 22:43  
Blogger MJ said...

You see, 'black' happens to be a colour, not a sound...

23/10/05 16:21  
Blogger MJ said...

The name of the virus is actually 'Influenza A(H5N1)' - commonly referred to as just the abbreviated 'H5N1' (not the media savvy 'HN51' you suggest) - and follows the standard naming convention for influenza viruses. Try searching for H4N1, H5N2 or H5N4 for example.
In fact H1N1 was the designation given to the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak that killed between 25 and 50 million people worldwide.

For those that are interested, the H and the N derive from the hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) protein spikes from the virus core. It may be seen as a shortened manner of stating "the virus characterised by a hemagglutinin spike of type five and a neuraminidase spike of subtype one". Oh, and the A on the beginning of the full title tells you that this is an influenza type of the A genus (avian influenza) of the virus family Orthomyxoviridae.

24/10/05 11:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace!

24/10/05 14:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


13/2/06 14:57  

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