Thursday, November 24, 2005

November 23 Flu Update--Second Death in China Reported

In China, a 35 year old farmer died of bird flu. Elsewhere in the country, a male schoolteacher was found not to have H5N1.

There are also more flu outbreaks reported in birds in China (Xinjiang).

If you've been here for the last few days, you know there is debate on what is really going on in China. Official reports are as listed above--a literal handful of cases. Underground web reports are saying there are hundreds of cases. Effect Measure has been trying to avoid spreading rumors while awaiting something which elevates the info beyond rumors, and today notes that an outside (Japanese) virologist is corroborating the underground claims. Obviously, must be monitored.

ProMed on the China cases.

"There is no proof of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in the world so far," Chen Xianyi, head of the contingency office of the Ministry of Health, told the Xinhua News Agency in an interview.

Promed with news from East Asia and China.

A boy in Vietnam has H5--tests will determine if it is N1.

News reports on outbreaks in China and Russia.

CIDRAP on China and Vietnam.

CIDRAP also reports on Russia and Canada news.

Also, via Crofsblog, a New England Journal of Medicine article looks back at what we can learn from 1918. Note that the article says the flu may have been circulating in humans since 1900. There has been speculation about whether the Spanish flu was really as "sudden" as it seemed...if true the implications for our current situation are obvious...a must read. I moved this up higher once I had the chance to review it.


Things seem to have slowed down in Indonesia, and they are using the time to set up a flu task force in case it happens again.

UPI status update on H2H transmission--not there yet.

Must read: Robert Webster of St. Jude's is in his native New Zealand to talk bird flu.

A critical phase in the evolution of a bird flu pandemic could play out in China in the coming weeks, world bird flu expert Robert Webster said in Dunedin yesterday.

The University of Otago-educated virologist is in Dunedin at the New Zealand Microbiology Society's annual conference this week.

He said a campaign in China to vaccinate its 14 billion poultry flock could precipitate a worst case scenario.

The doomsday scenario was that the Chinese would use a poor-quality vaccine that did nothing more than force the virus to mutate into something more lethal.

"The international community has no way of knowing whether China will use a good one," Professor Webster said.

"There is a big argument that they will simply help the virus to evolve to become a human pathogen."

--clip--

The recent discovery of the virus in flamingoes in Kuwait indicated it was moving down toward Africa, which could provide the perfect environment for the critical mutation to human-to-human transfer.

"If it gets into the backyard flocks in Africa...that's a real worry," he said.

People whose immune systems were already compromised by HIV, which is widespread in Africa, either died quickly or went on shedding a virus for weeks.

If the former happened, that was tragedy, but if it were the latter, it might be even more dangerous, Prof Webster said.

"It gets the chance to adapt to the human and pick up the characteristics of receptor specificity," he said.

Good CIDRAP article follows up on the Chinese bird vaccination angle to this quote--why it may be impossible, and may do harm.

This is pretty big news...officials in Saudi Arabia are considering calling off the hajj, a January pilgrimmage of nearly two million people due to flu concerns.

The EU kicked off a pandemic planning exercise on Wednesday.

Hong Kong is stepping up its bird flu controls.

In Sequin Township, Ontario, there was a local session on preparing for the bird flu.

From The (Toledo) Blade, an excellent letter to the editor from Dr. Donna Woodson of the local Academy of Medicine who details the risks of "just in case" Tamiflu.

There's also flu attention in Antigua.

The Director of the Danvers Board of Health in Massachusetts says that the arrival of the flu in the US is one year away.

Interesting story from New Zealand. Apparently, the government has a legal obligation to provide safe working conditions--what implication does that have on Tamiflu distribution to healthcare workers.

Business Week looks at the bird flu scenarios, and how various business sectors would be affected.

There have been many reactions to the US bird flu plan. Here's one from the UK in Scientist magazine.

In addition to allotting insufficient funds for areas like surveillance in Asia, the UPMC document argues, the plan places too heavy a burden on U.S. state and local authorities with minimal funds, personnel, and political influence. The plan calls for states to handle the bulk of the response, from identifying influenza strains to monitoring hospital admissions, and makes them responsible for individually stockpiling anti-viral medication, bearing 75% of the cost at an estimated $500 million. "There are some parallels [with Hurricane Katrina]," Inglesby said. "Assuming that the states can mount the kind of effort that's required I think is not very realistic," said Monto.

Monterey, CA paper helps its readers understand the bird flu.

The Chinese detailed their vaccine development plan.

Chinese researchers obtained the seed virus from the World Health Organization (WHO) and planted it in chick embryos in seven-day-old eggs. They then ensured the embryos grew normally in the eggs before the embryos were extracted after three days of growth.

Effect Measure has a good article on how controls on air travel are being constructed as a key bird flu protective barrier, proposing a Maginot line metaphor.

Crofsblog points us here--bird flu has cut economic growth in Vietnam.

In France, they are launching a public education program to keep people eating chicken.

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