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The Fujian Virus Is Simply A Mutated Flu

Posted December. 07, 2003 23:05,   


The counsels of the Ministry of Health and Welfare are concerned as the new Fujian Virus that is sweeping the United States and Europe has finally landed in Asia.

Some media have contributed to the current state of panic, reporting that this may be the renewal of the deadly flu that will likely sweep off another generation of the human race. In history, there has been a deadly flu epidemic every 10 or 30 years which inflicted many lives. The Fujian Virus, they argue, may be the next one.

Those who believe this stress the fact that Fujian Virus is a mutant virus that was not included in the annual “Flu of the Year” list reported by World Health Organization. However, many doctors point out that the danger of this virus has been extremely overstated. Why is that?

Would this year be the period for another flu?: In the field of medicine, it is a common belief that a mutated form of flu comes out every 10 or 30 years, endangering the human race.

The infamous Spanish flu in 1918 took approximately 20,000-50 million lives. The Asian flu in 1957, the Hong Kong flu in 1968, and the Russian Flu in 1977 likewise killed thousands of people.

Many health care researchers have kept a watchful eye for the next arrival of a deadly influenza. The Hong Kong Bird flu in 1997, as well as this year’s Fujian Virus are being viewed as possibly being deadly also.

The whole world is watching out for the flu: The World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annually go through extensive analysis on the kinds of flu that arise in each continent, and provide information for any possible outbreaks.

Every spring, the WHO announces the “flu of the year” to predict the upcoming emergence of a new flu so that international pharmaceutical companies may produce a “vaccine of the year” against them.

So far, WHO had never missed a guess.

This year, the Panama flu, Hong Kong flu, and New Caledonia flu were selected to be the three flu viruses of the year by the WHO. However, an unexpected emergence of the Fujian virus has kept health researchers on their toes. As the reality of this unknown virus is being unveiled, though, it seems the health researchers don’t have much to worry about.

Why won’t this be so deadly?: If you learn a little bit about the flu virus, it is easy to understand. There are three types of virus (A, B, and C) that causes the flu.

Type A is contagious to human, pigs, and birds and may cause severe inflictions. Type B is usually found in children, and Type C rarely effects humans.

Type A virus can be divided into many different subtypes according to the two antigens -Hemaglutein(H) and Neuraminidase (N). So far, 15 types of Hemaglutein and nine types of Neuraminidase have been found. H3N2 virus is the most commonly found virus with the H1N1 virus.

However, inside the pig’s body, a totally new subtype of virus, constituted of the bird flu virus and the human flu virus, can formulate. This sudden emergence of a new subtype virus is called a “Shift” and usually becomes the start of a new deadly epidemic.

However, the Fujian virus is not included in the Shift category, because it is similar to the H3N2 virus (Panama flu) that the WHO had previously announced as this year’s flu. This would be a “Drift” where the Panama virus has mutated inside the human body. In addition, the Fujian flu had already emerged last year in Australia and New Zealand.

It is still very dangerous: But not to be too relieved. Although there are no exact number of deaths in Korea, according to report from the U.S., almost 30 million – 50 million people become inflicted with the flu virus each year. 100,000 people are hospitalized, leading more than 20,000 to die from pneumonia or bronchitis

Especially, it is reported that the vaccine can only prevent about 50 percent of the virus cases. However, almost all vaccines only provide 70-80 percent prevention. And if you take the vaccine, even if you do catch the flu, the symptoms will be much lighter without further complications. Anyone who have not yet received vaccine shots are advised to get them as soon as possible.

Since the antibody of the virus are formed two weeks after the vaccine shots, it would be wiser to take flu treatment from the hospital if the flu virus emerges before that period. (Help from Professor Woo Heung-jung of Hanrim University of Medical Department, Professor Kim Woo-joo of the Korea University)

Seong-Ju Lee stein33@donga.com