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View Diary: Bird Flu: What We Don't Know (109 comments)

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  •  Strong immune systems = death (none)

    When you think of bird flu, it may help to think of it as an autoimmune disorder triggered by the H5N1 virus.  There is some evidence that the body's immune system overreacts; the process is called a "cytokine storm".

    Cytokines are hormones created by the cells engaged in fighting an infection to signal other cells to the battleground.  In turn those cells generate cytokines to summon more cells, which creates a positive feedback loop.  In normal cases of the flu, other cells create cytokines that suppress this cycle.  In a bird flu infection, the cycle is not suppressed and the body begins to fight against itself.  

    Thus people with weak immune systems like the elderly catch bird flu, but their immune system is too weak to damage the body.  Children and young adults, on the other hand, have strong immune systems that can mount a response that ends up killing them.

    Source:  Flu Wiki

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