12 Jan 2023


Reactions to Avian Flu (H5N1)

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The Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 also known as H5N1, A (H5N1) is a classification of the influenza A virus. A more harmful highly pathogenic strain of the virus, which spreads through birds, is referred to as the H5N1 flu or simply as bird flu. Whereas there have not been many reported cases in humans within the US, the public is well aware of many cases in over 15 countries of the world (Hien et al., 2004) . Given the deadly nature of the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided a three phase 5 step-plans to cub a bird flu epidemic. This restriction plan was informed by the possibility of quick spread of the virus as a result of people’s reactions in cases of an outbreak. 

The initial phase regards the pre epidemic level and has two steps; reduction of human infection through the use of protective gear every time one comes into contact with related biohazard and strengthening the early warning systems to be utilized in case of a epidemic (Ungchusak et al., 2005) . The second phase also has two steps, which involve the immediate reaction to the emergence of an epidemic and involves containing and delaying spread at the source. This obligation begins with the first responder. Finally, the last phase involves an already declared epidemic that is already spreading internationally and has two steps; endeavoring to reduce morbidity, mortality and social disruption and conducting research to guide response measures. 

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With the WHO giving a fatality rate of 60% upon infection, the public reaction to Avian Flu outbreak could be much more dangerous than the Flu itself especially in the current urban and suburban overcrowded setting combined with the capacity of social media to spread news rapidly among the populace ( Knowles, 2007) . Therefore, containment of information and prevention of chaos is of fundamental importance for me as a first responder to an Avian Flu epidemic. This is, however, complicated by the fact that I need to take into consideration the various reactions that people may exhibit upon knowing the status of the outbreak. Just like any other epidemic, the outbreak of H5N1 is likely to receive a range of reactions from the public. 

Being a first responder, as I head to the site I consider the three possible reactions that I anticipate to find on the ground such as overreaction, panic or denial. Panic is the sudden and uncontrollable fear and/or anxiety occasioned by valid or invalid premises, which often triggers irrational behavior. Overreaction may actually involve doing the right thing or the seemingly right thing; however, the same is done in a forceful and often violent manner. 

Among the three reactions, the one poised to cause most danger in the face of an epidemic is denial. Denial is a choice to refuse a reality. It is mostly utilized as a defense mechanism based on the fact that the message is too scary to believe thus a circuit breaker to prevent an attack by panic (Knowles, 2007). The first step in assisting a patient who is in denial is to convince them that it is normal to be afraid since the situation warrants it. Secondly handling a panicking patient may involve making them busy by giving a simple task to do, while at the same time engaging the patient’s mind into some decision-making activities. This will enable the mind to snap out of the denial. I would also employ the love and/or hate induction can also assist in the assuaging of denial, reminding the patients of those they love, like family or even something they hate, like the virus itself can also help. The bottom line is, the patient needs snap out of the denial for me to be able to better assist. 

Overreaction and panic on the other hand are not entirely negative reactions to an epidemic albeit it may have some negative ramifications. People panic or overreact due to fear. Psychology has confirmed that in times of danger, fear is a good thing since it triggers self-preservation, preservation of the loved ones and the pursuit of a solution (Nieman Foundation, 2014). As I try to tone down the reactions from fear and panic, I will use it to my advantage and have either of these patients go through the necessary containment procedures then beginning treatment regiments. 

The next step is controlling the dissemination of information to avoid mass panic and social disorder. Fear is a good factor in a crisis but the spread of fear will only exacerbate the situation. For example, the spread of news that there is a bird flu epidemic might trigger people to use, abuse or overuse any available antivirus. This might make it difficult to diagnose them as the antivirus may hamper the symptoms without curing the patients. Others may attempt to flee from quarantine thus increasing the chances of the epidemic spreading to far flung places and affecting more people ( CDC, 2015) . It is, therefore, important for me to control the flow of information and if possible curtail it. In such a crisis, I believe it would be necessary if possible, provide a short counseling session and advise on the need to avoid spreading the information regarding the outbreak. 

Although on rare occasions, the public may have positive response towards the epidemic outbreak. In cases where the virus is well understood, the public may be willing to work with one another to curb the spread of the virus. Such individuals may encourage screening of people who have come in direct contact with the infected people and encourage the patients to take the given medications. Those infected may also be willing to be quarantined until the virus is brought under control. Under such situations my work will be eased and providing little support will be sufficient to avoid chaos. 

It is, however, vital not to forget that my initial obligation is to the patients and thus begin treatment regimens upon the patients based on the strain of the virus, their specific symptoms and the level of infection. 


CDC. (2015). Examples of human infections with avian influenza viruses. Retrieved from< http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/h5n1-human-infections.htm/> 

Hien, T. T., Liem, N. T., Dung, N. T., San, L. T., Mai, P. P., Chau, N. & Farrar, J. et al. (2004). Avian influenza A (H5N1) in 10 patients in Vietnam. New England Journal of Medicine, 350(12), 1179–1188. 

Knowles, L. (2007). Avian flu lessons learned? Poultry World, 161(11), 14-15. 

Nieman Foundation. (2014). Nieman guide to covering epidemic flu . Retrieved <http://nieman.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/podassets/microsites/ NiemanGuide ToCoveringpademicFlu/NiemanGuideToCoveringpademicFlu.aspx.htm> 

Ungchusak, K., Auewarakul, P., Dowell, S. F., Kitphati, R., Auwanit, W., Puthavathana, & Chunsutthiwat, S. et al. (2005). Probable person-to-person transmission of avian influenza A (H5N1). New England Journal of Medicine , 352(4), 333–340. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Reactions to Avian Flu (H5N1).


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