this year, the vaccine turned out not to do much good anyway. Why? Because,
as physicians began reporting in late December, this year's vaccine
didn't offer much protection against this year's most serious flu. Then
by Januuary the media were ablaze with reports of a new "bird
flu" in Asia. Soon, several
Asian countries were slaughtering chickens and ducks by the hundreds
of thousands, trying to control its spread.
that's not all that happened. By early January, several humans had been
infected with bird flu and 15 of those patients died. The World
Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) became
what might happen next. On
January 28th, 2004, the WHO announced that the size and spread
bird flu outbreak in Asia was "unprecedented" and that it poses a global "threat
to human health." On that same day, United States Health and Human
Services Secretary Tommy Thompson ordered the CDC to activate its emergency
operations center an action taken only when there is threat of
a serious epidemic or an episode of bioterrorism.
is all the fuss about? Isn't the flu just a little worse than a bad
cold? And aren't colds and flu part of life? Why didn't the vaccine
work this year? And why is a flu that almost exclusively attacks birds
causing an international alarm?
to all of these questions can be found in the Sections that follow:
What is influenza and who gets it?
can we get the flu again and again? And why can't we develop a one-time
How are flu vaccines made?
Why are flu vaccines sometimes not effective?
Why are researchers so worried about this
new bird flu?