Saturday, February 18, 2006

February 17 Flu Update

Bird flu...welcome to France...

and Egypt.


Official WHO report on the second confirmed death in Iraq.

Here's an interesting story. Klaus Stohr of WHO says the world has spent too much time looking at anti virals and not enough on vaccines. There has been a lot invested in antivirals. This is a must read.

Governments have spent at least an estimated $3 billion stockpiling doses of Roche's Tamiflu, according to Stohr. But currently available doses of the anti-viral would cover only two percent of global population.

The Tamiflu tab dwarfs the estimated $20 million that companies are spending on clinical trials to develop a pandemic vaccine, he said. Governments including the United States are investing to expand manufacturing plants, but there are no global figures.

"A vaccine could bring protection to many more people -- you get more bang for the buck," Stohr said.

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"These preliminary results hold a lot of promise, but it takes three to five years before you know what contribution a vaccine can make to pandemic preparedness," Stohr said.

In all, eight clinical trials have been completed, with six ongoing. At least another 14 are planned for this year, making a total of 28 trials, including one at GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Europe's biggest drug maker.

"There are still too small a number of companies that are currently ready and have finished clinical trials," Stohr said.


Vietnam says it has a bird flu vaccine that is ready for testing.

Here's another story on the day in the flu, with a little mention of Romania. Its interesting. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Asia and Africa is where the flu will come, because of the living conditions between people and birds. Read on.

"The situation is critical. So far we can say we have been lucky that we had no cases of bird flu in humans," said Adrian Streinu-Cercel, head of Romania's main virus laboratory. "It's not enough to force people to wash their hands, you have to give them the means to do it," he added. "The likelihood that some kids in Romania come in contact and play with sick or dead birds is not zero," said WHO expert Guenael Rodier.

A member of the South African National Assembly has a (literal) recipe for fighting the bird flu.

A member of Parliament in Ireland has these honest words for people there...pandemic planning can only mitigate the effects of a pandemic.

There was something from this story in my comments yesterday, but officials in Indonesia say they are worried about limited H2H.

"We can't guess when the spread of the virus among humans will occur because it will need a thorough examination of the source of the virus from each patient in a cluster," the spokesman and head of the bird flu surveillance unit at Jakarta's Sulianti Saroso Hospital, Ilham Patu, was quoted by The Jakarta Post as saying.

"But the fact that we have more and more cases of bird flu clusters shows that we are very close to having one."

Another article seeks to introduce avian flu to African readers.

ProMed on the Iraq case, with a comment on the question of genetic susceptibility.

ProMed World Survey. A couple nuggets. First, a mod notes that while wild birds have had infection in Europe, no poultry has been hit yet, a situation he calls "inconceivable." And, the first case is suspected in Mauritania.

WaPo on the continuing efforts of wildlife experts to make the case that migrating birds do not spread avian influenza.


The BBC on Business Organizations in that country preparing their members. They are finding unprecedented demand for their seminars.

A British government critic is saying that the nation is too reliant on Tamiflu, which could be resisted, and a vaccine that won't be there in time. (Note: I can't recall if I have seen if the virus spreading today is Tamiflu resistant. Somehow, I think I heard it wasn't).


As well as focusing on bird flu vaccine production, he said the Government should advise people to stockpile food, medicines, water and other supplies. Although the Government's primary ex-penditure has been on Tamiflu, Prof Dunnill said "there is now a good deal of doubt about how valuable this drug will be". He said it was "very worrying" that resistance had already been noted.

Dead swans test negative in Finland--we'll watch for possible follow up tests.

Delta--a state in Nigeria--is taking steps on the bird flu.

A meeting was held to discuss preventing bird flu in the "American Region."

HHS Secretary Leavitt is touring the country with this cheery message--refreshing, if only for its candor. Notice the introduction of the phrase "pandemic pandemonium."


'Any community that fails to prepare with the premise that the federal government will rescue them will be tragically wrong,'' Leavitt said during the pandemic flu summit with Gov. Jeb Bush and other officials.
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Florida's plan, said Bonita Sorensen, deputy state health director, is an ''all-hazards approach.''

''It is just another event for which we are preparing,'' she said, and includes public campaigns urging residents to create family plans and to stockpile food and water.

Among the disaster drills Florida will soon conduct, she said, ''is the pandemic pandemonium,'' an exercise in the chaos and panic that potentially would travel alongside avian flu.


Roughly the same event happened in Nevada.

The Business Planning Summit continued in Minneapolis. Employers zeroed in on how to protect their key asset--their employees.

Best-practice examples from different business sectors were summarized. For healthcare, one of the key strategies noted was to keep workers working and to continue to provide routine care along with the special care needed in a pandemic. The need to develop a comprehensive supply plan specific to healthcare, including routine medical supplies and personal protectie equipment, was emphasized.


Also at the Summit, risk communication guru Peter Sandman talked about the virtues of scaring people.

"There's no way to get people to take precautions without frightening them," Sandman said.

Effect Measure on the Lowy Institute report we linked here a couple days ago.

Finally, Crofsblog correctly labelled this story a must read. He's right. Its a "Bad Science" column in the Guardian.

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