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Infectious Disease

Avian Flu - Is Specialization Killing Us?

13 years, 10 months ago

1966  0
Posted on Nov 07, 2005, 8 a.m. By Bill Freeman

Could specialization in medicine be keeping us from finding an effective way to prevent a potentially disastrous bird flu epidemic?

Could specialization in medicine be keeping us from finding an effective way to prevent a potentially disastrous bird flu epidemic?

Specialization in medicine - as in other branches of science and art - is an asset, but it also has its drawbacks. Invariably, specialized knowledge tends to develop where the money is, where grants and facilities are available. We have a myriad of experts analyzing the latest virus in great detail, dissecting it, defining its genetic sequences and its potential dangers. That is where the money is: development and manufacture of vaccines and drugs to counter that one specific threat, that specific mutation of the virus.

With all this attention on the details, we seem to miss the bigger picture. Could there be other, much better means of preventing a pandemic than tailor-making a vaccine or drug? Perhaps yes, but we are not looking - because all the money is in vaccine research, drug development and genetics.

A real preventive strategy would look at three areas:

It would look at where the constant supply of ever new viral strains comes from. Consequently, it would strive to make the bird population less prone to developing viral outbreaks. Chicken farms come to mind with their crowded conditions that promote the spread of any virus. Hygiene, better conditions for the birds, better nutrition for the birds, whatever is needed.

It would seek to develop and deploy a non-specific, all-encompassing immune enhancing strategy in humans. Some herbal or nutrient combination - not a vaccination - that actually makes persons more resilient and healthy. Strategies abound. We just need to decide on the best one, find the right combination.

It would seek to apply known effective anti-viral agents in those humans who have contracted a potentially pandemic virus. Vitamin C in megadose therapy comes to mind. It has been shown effective and should be given routinely by medical doctors and in hospitals - certainly until we find something better.



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