Tuesday, October 18, 2005

October 18 Flu Update

Here's a great Reuters story on the various flu scenarios, what could happen, and how it could all start in one, tiny place. The quote below is from a Mayo Clinic physician, which is chilling for its simplicity. (emphasis added).

In a few potential scenarios, the world gets lucky and officials act quickly to vaccinate populations and distribute lifesaving antiviral drugs. The damage, while enormous, is limited and economies recover after a few months.

But health experts are unusually united in warning that if H5N1 makes the jump from birds to people in the next two years, it will cause an unprecedented disaster.

"I want to emphasize the certainty that a pandemic will occur," Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota, who represents the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told a briefing last week of Congressional staffers and lobbyists.

"When this happens, time will be described, for those left living, as before and after the pandemic."

The EU nations had a meeting today, and they declared bird flu to be a global threat. They are walking a difficult tightrope between the "don't panic" message and they "we have to do something message."

Roche has promised to build a plant in the US to increase Tamiflu production, but that has failed to quiet critics who are demanding they give up their monopoly rights to the drug.

Meanwhile, WHO is warning Europeans not to hoard Tamiflu, noting that it is not a vaccine.

A human bird flu trial is underway in Australia, with 400 participants.

More on the arrival of bird flu in the EU--Greece.

In Thailand, the bird flu is ruled out in the case of a man with a respiratory disease.

Recombinomics notes that they have a history of such reports, and that he suspects a familial cluster.

MSNBC has the story of anxious Americans on bird flu. Note some of the questions that have reached the CDC. (You can't blame people for not understanding. Its a complicated topic, and the job of everyone to help them understand what to be afraid of, and what not to be afraid of.)

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been handling numerous fearful phone calls from the public and the media, fielding such questions as "Is it safe to have a bird feeder in my yard?" and "Is it still OK to have turkey at Thanksgiving?"

“It’s been insane,” said Dave Daigle, a spokesman for the CDC, which has been getting an average of 447,000 hits a day on its avian flu information Web page.

Here's the answer to the question the title proposes:

"Short of obtaining [antiviral] drugs, there’s not really much we can do to prepare," says Webby. "My expectation is that [bird flu] would spread within community, like a normal human flu. The transmission of that virus, the mechanism, would be similar, so normal precautions would be the same."

That means regular hand washing and staying home if you feel ill. Beyond that, about all someone can do is to get vaccinated for the regular flu.

The vaccine for the upcoming flu season wouldn't offer protection against bird flu. But protecting people against conventional flu could make them stronger against a new illness, some health experts say.

Thailand will start human vaccine trials in 2006.

The Esteemed Helen Branswell has the preview of an upcoming journal article which will cite 15 family clusters of bird flu (correction courtesy commenter Damien).

The EU said that the presence of bird flu in Europe doesn't increase the chances of a pandemic...

and said that panic is "premature."

EBay has halted the sale of tamiflu on its website.

There are reports from all over the place about Tamiflu buying frenzies. Here's one.

The Internet drug trade is a place with many drawbacks.

A Dutch country is now looking to produce a human bird flu vaccine...

As is a company in France.

Here's a letter to the editor in Arizona sending readers to recombinomics.

Recombinomics says there are some dead birds in Russia, which, combined with all the other news, raises concerns.

You may recall over the past few weeks we've carried some debate here about whether migratory birds could carry bird flu--"dead birds don't migrate." The most current news appears to be putting that to rest, as H5N1 notes, with an article from the New Scientist.

Bloomberg has a great article on avian flu, Y2K, and what real preperation would look like.

British Tories are calling for a minister to coordinate all responses to the bird flu.

Canada.com surveys the entire flu scene, including some Branswell articles.


At 9:57 AM, Blogger Damien said...

Please note that the title of the link to
the EID article about which Helen Branswell writes is incorrect.

Neither Helen Branswell's nor the original CDC article say there were 15 cases of H2H transmission. The research article cites 15 family clusters, and specifically note in the article "Family clustering does not necessarily indicate person-to-person transmission, as it may also result from common household exposures to the same H5N1-infected poultry or from other exposures, such as to uncooked poultry products."

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Orange said...

Damien, thanks for the note. It has been corrected.


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