The potential damage from an avian flu epidemic is huge, but unlikely. Currently, the virus affects birds and humans who handle dead birds. Only one case of suspected human-to-human transmission exists. If human-to-human transmission can occur with a new strain of the virus, we are susceptible to a pandemic. The many subtypes of influenza act and develop differently. The inflammatory response generated by the virus accounts for the illness. Vaccines are being developed, but the difficulties are real, and the time to success cannot be confidently stated. Lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, and elevated liver enzymes are common. Treatment has to take into account societal issues as well as the individual health of every patient.
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