Saturday, January 07, 2006

January 6 Flu Update--Turkey continues to lead the news

WHO acted Friday to try to stem panic, over the situation in Turkey. Situation is that between 18-26 people are hospitalized with flu there. WHO says it does not call for "excessive panic."

I'd like to know two things:

  • Is "excessive" panic ever called for?
  • Does this mean regular panic is called for?
Meanwhile, two fowl in Western Turkey were found to be sick with bird flu.

ProMed on the Western Turkey cases, which it says is "significant" if true.

Here's what we have all been waiting for...Helen Branswell on the situation in Turkey.

The possibility of multiple cases occurring at the same time in rural eastern Turkey could signal unwelcome changes in the virus's makeup, experts said Thursday.

"Any change or subtle change in the epidemiology of the virus or larger clusters -- as a virologist, you do get very nervous,'' said Lance Jennings, a virologist and epidemiologist at Christchurch Hospital in New Zealand who has taken part in previous H5N1 investigations for the World Health Organization.

....

"There have certainly been clusters, there've been family clusters before,'' he said from Atlanta.

"But to have a number of people on ventilators at the same time from a similar exposure, that would say `That looks like something is a little bit different from what's happened before.'''

The largest of the clusters Dowell and his co-authors reported on contained five members of one Vietnamese family. Most were groups of two or three family members.

...


"If in fact there was some group common intense exposure to sick poultry . . . then it may not be that much different (from the previous experience in Asia), except that there were a larger number of potential exposures that occurred here,'' said Dr. Arlene King, director of respiratory diseases for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

ProMed on the cases in Turkey. Very good mod comments:

[Some new aspects of the epidemic situation in Turkey compared with those pertaining in East Asia appear to be the following:

(1) relatively small outbreaks of disease in poultry in at least 5 widely separated places (several hundred kilometres apart);
(2) larger number of confirmed (3) and suspected (more than 20) human cases in a limited time-frame;
(3) children apparently at greater risk of infection;
(4) ineffectiveness of Tamiflu treatment in at least one case;
(5) failure of poultry culling and quarantine of population to contain the outbreak; and
(6) for the 1st time serious consideration of the possibility of some limited person-to-person transmission.

ProMed on the Turkey confirmations...situations is "qualitatively different" from Asia.

Effect Measure wonders if people with mild cases are being turned away from the hospital and not registered as "positive" bird flu cases, thus giving us a low case count.

Effect Measure follows up on the familiar pattern in the news from Turkey.

The death earlier this week of a man in Jakarta is confirmed to be from bird flu.

Interesting article on the pandemic and stock markets. Biotech stocks of companies working on vaccines are rising in value today, but there is a warning: all the "value" is based on the perception of the liklihood of a pandemic, and if people think the threat is passed, stock prices could go down again.

Interesting article from Reuters. US Zoos are going to be "sentinels" to help monitor whether the bird flu has arrived in the US. Remember, that the zoo in Jakarta was ground zero.

Italian officials remind people there that poultry is safe to eat.

The New Scientist on what has been a recurring theme...lack of autopsies is hampering efforts to combat the pandemic by not allowing scientists to understand what organs are impacted.

The Lowell Sun says that the pandemic could come, and Massachusetts says it is not ready.

Arizona had a pandemic preparedness summit Friday.

Here's a WaPO Q&A with Susan Blumenthal on how "international travel, a weakened public health system and antiquated vaccines have made the prospect of an influenza pandemic a matter of when, not if. "


This might be the most discouraging thing in the news today. We know that governments tend to put the best face on things...here's a Reuters story on the advice for US families to ride out the pandemic.

There is no vaccine and drugs are in short supply but Americans may be able to ride out any bird flu pandemic if they stock up on supplies and keep their children clean, the U.S. government said on Friday. The Health and Human Services Department's checklist illustrates just how little can be done to prevent widespread illness and disruption if H5N1 avian influenza causes a pandemic -- a global epidemic -- this year.

Reuters on the uphill battle to fight bird flu. Dr. Webster says that scientists don't even understand how to use Tamiflu to fight bird flu.

Effect Measure on an alarming exercise in Boston as a hospital checks to see if it is ready for the bird flu. For example, it was clear that 30% of hospital staff were not going to show up for work.

ProMed on testing in, Azerbaijan, a neighbor of Turkey.

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