I feel at this point it is prudent to share some basic information about health and your immune system so you can better understand certain important things. I will keep it as simple as possible so you won't need a degree in Biology to understand what I feel you should all know.
What I want to explain is some basic stuff about viruses and the immune system to help you increase your potential for survival. If nothing else, it will help you know when you are being lied to.
You need to understand that more humans have been kill by micro organisms than all other forms of death combined including guns, wars, nuclear weapons or radiation, and chemical weapons. The most deadly thing in the world to the human is what we call protists or, for the most part, viruses and bacteria.
We have developed treatments or cures for most bacteria because they tend to stay in our blood while attacking our cells. We have never developed a cure for one virus because of the way they attack our cells.
Viruses attack the human body by getting into cell tissue, usually via the circulatory system and injecting either a DNA or RNA stand into the cell causing the cell to become reprogrammed to be a virus producing factory. The infected cell will happily crank out viruses until it becomes so full of them that it will explode and send those viruses scattering through the human body to infect and turn other cells into virus factories. The only time we can get at these viruses is when they are in the blood because, while they are in the cells, they are protected by our cell membranes. It should also be only common sense that these viruses will only destroy so many of the right cells and our bodies will stop functioning and we will die.
Until now, the most common difference between flu viruses and most other viruses has been that the flu viruses tend to be released back into the lungs instead of into the blood so that the infection remained local to the lungs. The most common causes of death by flu viruses have been that 1) the virus will cause the lungs to fill with body fluids in an attempt to defeat the virus to the point that no oxygen can diffuse into the blood stream causing you to suffocate or literally drown in your own body fluids, 2)the virus causes your air passages to constrict tight enough that you can't get enough air into your lungs to support body functions causing you to suffocate which is very common for birds which die from the flu, and 3) the virus over taxes your immune system enough that other diseases like pneumonia attack your body, overwhelm your immune system and kill you which is a very common cause of death by the HIV virus.
The Avian Flu virus is the first known flu virus to release from the infected cells into the lungs and blood permitting it to travel to the brain where it infects and destroys other cells. The virus will only destroy so many brain cells, especially in parts of the brain like the hypothalamus, life functions will stop, and you will die. This is probably why this virus is so very deadly even with medical treatment. Unfortunately, there are only two survivors who had the disease more than 7 months ago so we can't possibly know if there are any potential long term mental effects caused by the virus. It may take us years to find that out.
It kind of reminds you of some of the science fiction movies about alien body snatchers like "Aliens" except these nasty little critters function at the cell level. I guess you could call them alien cell snatchers.
The Immune System
Time in relation to our immune system function and the virus is critical. First, the immune system has to detect the virus and send information to certain cells so they can begin developing a specific counter to the virus. Then the antibodies they create begin attacking the virus when it is in our blood but remember the virus is safe as long as it is hiding in our cells. Second, your body can only crank out so many antibodies per hour pending your health. If the virus reaches a point to where it can reproduce in your cells faster than your body can crank out antibodies, then the virus will simply overwhelm your body and keep destroying cells until your body can't function and you die. This is very critical and your body must stop the virus before you reach this point and this is where things get interesting.
People with weak or stressed immune systems can't crank out as many antibodies as a healthy person can. We have known this for over half a century. So you need to know the different things which weaken or stress the immune system so you can avoid these things, if possible. We have known for decades that having any other disease causes the cells in the immune system to become occupied with building antibodies to fight that disease and those cells can't just stop and start turning out antibodies for a new disease. Therefore, being ill from any other disease like any STD gives a new disease like the Avian Flu a serious advantage and increases your potential for death.
After you reach a certain age, you begin to lose cells and this decreases the number of cells which can produce antibodies. Also, every time you are infected with a virus and it kills cells, some of those cells will probably belong to the immune system weakening it as you age and every time you get sick. These are the primary reasons why the elderly are more at risk for dying from diseases than middle aged people.
Also, we have known for decades that using any recreational drug, even alcohol and tobacco, does damage to the immune system weakening it and increasing the potential for death from a virus. Even many drugs used for medical purposes can weaken the immune system enough to increase your potential for death. If you have been using such drugs, your system will have already been damaged and weakened but continued use will only make it worse. The best thing you can do right now for the Avian Flu is to stop using recreational drugs.
Small children are more at risk for death from such viruses because their bodies and immune systems are still growing and developing so their immune systems can't react as fast and produce antibodies as quickly. Also, with a smaller body, it should only be common sense that it will take fewer viruses killing fewer cells before the body is overwhelmed and the patient dies.
With no vaccine, the best defense is to be healthy and exercise is your best bet. We have known for over half a century that athletes are less prone to get sick or die from a diseases because their immune systems are stronger in every aspect. They can deliver more antibodies to the viruses in the blood more quickly increasing their potential to overwhelm the virus before it can get out of control. Unfortunately, if the Avian Flu hits this fall, it is too late for many of you to get in much better shape from exercise but it would be a very good thing to begin some kind of exercise program like running, cycling, swimming, skating, cross country skiing, and other exercises where you can function at a heart rate of at least 120 beats per minute for at least an hour, five days per week or some equivalent of that just in case you don't get infected until later.
I hope this basic information will help at least some of you.