Sunday, February 26, 2006

February 25 Flu Update

China reports two new human cases, and fears a massive outbreak in the Spring.

Earlier on Saturday, Xinhua reported that two new human cases of bird flu had been diagnosed in the east of the country.

A Chinese girl in eastern Zhejiang province and a woman farmer in neighbouring Anhui province were currently in critical condition, Xinhua cited the Ministry of Health as saying.

Effect Measure uncovers an interesting story about a comment that says that the virus killing birds in Indonesia is different from the virus killing people. Obviously, the genetic makeup of the virus is the #1 item on the watchlist.

PETER CAVE: Are you seeing mutations in the virus in Indonesia?

ANDREW JEREMIJENKO: Yes, that's a good question. We are seeing mutations in the human virus. We are not seeing that same mutation in the bird virus. And that's of great concern.

Basically, when you do an investigation of a bird flu case, you should try to find the virus from the human and match it up with the virus from the bird and find the cause.

Now, in Indonesia, the investigations have been sub-optimal, and they have not been able to match the human virus to the poultry virus, so we really do not know where that virus is coming from in most of these human cases.

PETER CAVE: Does it suggest it's going through an intermediary before it's infecting humans?

PETER CAVE: It's a possibility that we can't rule out. I think they really need to do a lot more investigations. So far the closest match we have to the human virus is from a cat virus. So the cat could be an intermediate. We really don't know what's happening yet. They need to do more studies, they need to get better investigators on the ground to work out what is happening in Indonesia, and it needs to be done urgently.

PETER CAVE: Can Indonesia do this on its own?

ANDREW JEREMIJENKO: I think they need international assistance. So far the investigations have been unable to match the viruses. It is poor communication between the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture. There are many reasons, but they don't seem to be able to match the viruses from the human case to the animal case, and that is putting the world at threat.

Here's the raw interview.

ProMed reports that the bird flu is back in Cambodia.

EU tries to avert flu-based trade of the predictable human effects of the flu.

In India, a medical college official is strongly critical of the media for creating panic around bird flu.

Similar theme--two more sick birds, no need to panic.

(Question: when is panic ever needed?)

Wire story: health officials are alarmed at the fast spread and sweep of bird flu across Europe.

Dr. Scott Dowell of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it's difficult to predict the spread of the disease in the next few months, because public health officials have little experience tracking a disease spread by migratory birds.

"I'm not an expert on migratory birds carrying human pathogens. I don't know who is. We're going beyond our experience," said Dowell who heads CDC's global disease detection program.

The closest analogy he could think of is West Nile virus, a bird-associated illness that began in Africa and landed on the East Coast of the United States in 1999. Within four years, it had spread to the West Coast.

As to where the virus has the best chance of morphing into a more serious human threat, Nigeria, where many people live close to their chickens, poses a particular threat. Its 800 federal veterinarians lack the support they need to combat the disease, said Dr. Peter Cowen, former director of a WHO coordinating center in veterinary public health.

Indonesia confirms 20th death.

More Indian "hype?"--can the country stand a second outbreak.

India says all its 95 human samples were negative.

Here's some dead birds reported to have died of something other than the flu.

Pakistan says it is still bird flu free--no mention of anything in Kashmir, where a case was earlier suspected.

Promed on South Korea and Malaysia.

New York State releases its pandemic plan.

Preparations in Washington (as in the state) are ongoing. Article includes collaboration with other states and British Columbia.

A Japanese companys says it can use a petrochemical product to replace the star anise chemical used in Tamiflu. This is not the first time that shikimic acid has been synthesized.

A conservative think tank says that the FDA is over-regulating vaccines and preventing production.

Dr. Gleeson points to what he thinks people should look at when planning for a H2H pandemic.

Recombinomics has some genetic data, with quick results from Italy.

Finally, here the fluwiki gets some news coverage, and some cautious praise from the "real" scientific community.


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