October 5 Flu UpdateToday's most intersting story was all over the media, here captured by Gina Kolata for the New York Times. The story of Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger in her book generated my interest in the flu. Taubenberger's research has revealed that the 1918 flu was an avian virus--different from the century's other two pandemics, which were essentially human flu viruses with some bird genetic material.
The significance of this for our current situation is obvious. From the article:
The bird flu viruses now prevalent share some of the crucial genetic changes that occurred in the 1918 flu, scientists said, but not all. The scientists suspect that with the 1918 flu, changes in just 25 to 30 out of about 4,400 amino acids in the viral proteins turned the virus into a killer. The new work also reveals that 1918 virus acts much differently from ordinary human flu viruses. It infects cells deep in the lungs of mice and infects lung cells, like the cells lining air sacs, that would normally be impervious to flu. And while other human flu viruses do not kill mice, this one, like today's bird flus, does.
CIDRAP on the 1918 comparisons.
Fluitzer nominee Helen Branswell on the 1918 flu isolation.
ProMed on the 1918 isolation. Here's an interesting quote I have not heard before:
Professor John Oxford, an expert in virology
at Queen Mary College, London, said the
suggestion that the virus had the potential
to jump between humans without first
combining [reassorting] with a human virus
made it even more of a threat. "This study
gives us an extra warning that H5N1 needs to
be taken even more seriously than it has been
up to now," he said.
A 7th bird flu death in Indonesia has been reported.
CIDRAP on the new death report.
Promed on the 7th fatality.
Effect Measure on the new death report, and what all this flu attention could mean.
The geographic range of the outbreak has increased dramatically so that the regional panzootic in birds is now on the doorsteps of Europe and the Indian sub-continent, with the apparent means to spread further via infected migratory birds. The host range of this avian virus has extended to many other species, including marine mammals, ferrets, cats (large and small) and mice (in the laboratory). Human cases, like the current one, continue to occur (the official count in this outbreak is 116 with 60 deaths, a conservative estimate). The most worrisome situation now is in the populous country of Indonesia, where the transmission efficiency of the virus from birds to humans seems to have ratcheted up another notch. It is reasonable to assume there are many missed cases in Indonesia, where seven deaths are officially blamed on the disease and over 60 people are under observation as possible cases.
The IHT has a story on the US finally beginning pandemic planning.
The Detroit News also covers the flu preperations in Washington.
To all of us who were critical of President Bush's military plan from yesterday, here's Australia with essentially the same plan.
Here's breaking news from CBS--the bird flu may pose a threat to people.
65 countries will come to the US starting Thursday for an International Bird Flu conferences (is it my imagination, or are there a lot of conferences in the bird flu arena?)
In Russia, they say that bird flu is gradually receeding.
In a contradiction, this report says bird flu is in 7 Russian villages, with 19 on the watch list.
Here's ProMed on the Russian report.
A flu report from Canada's Centre for Globilization Research.
Jamaica hits the "its not if, but when" angle.
Editorial from an Indonesia-based writer on the bird flu, and the many theories and great uncertainty that surround it.
Experts agree on one thing: preventive intervention is impossible, even in developed countries. As Kevin Baird, scientific director for the U.S. Navy Medical Research Unit in Jakarta, told his Chamber of Commerce audience recently, "We can't forecast what a pandemic-capable virus will look like, so we can't develop a vaccine and know whether it will work or not."Luxembourg notes the significance of tamiflu resistance.
Large-scale sequencing of flu genome is reported.
Recombinomics on the mystery disease in Toronto.
H5N1 says there are now 16 dead.
Recombinomics on the circulating virus in Indonesia, and what it means for re-combination.
Like many of us, H5N1 does some number-crunching.
H5N1 on a negative reaction to the Bush Military Quarantine plan.
ProMed on the confirmed presence of asymptomatic chickens in Indonesia.