Saturday, March 18, 2006

March 17th Flu Update

The story from Serbia worsens--now three teens are in the hospital with suspected bird flu.

Sweden has confirmed H5N1 on a game farm.

Ethiopia says all its test from last month were negative from an Italian lab, and the country now worries about the economic impact.

Malaysia is denying a reported H5N1 case.

Human cases are closer in Israel than I think we suspected. They are reporting four people were tested, but were all negative.

More on the Tamiflu front. Its clear to me that WHO is becoming uneasy with the reliance on Tamiflu in its containment plan. They are calling for more research on an urgent basis.

"There is no direct clinical trial evidence that shows that oseltamivir is effective in human H5N1 disease because such studies have not yet been conducted," the WHO said in a statement posted on its Web site "Because the optimal dosage has not been resolved by clinical trials, and because H5N1 infections continue to have a high mortality rate, prospective studies are needed urgently to determine optimal dosing and duration of treatment for H5N1."


"It is possible that severely ill patients might benefit from longer duration of therapy (for example 7-10 days) or perhaps higher doses (for example 300 mg/day), but prospective studies are required," it said. Children should be given the drug preventively for the same length of time in weight-adjusted doses. "For people with repeated or prolonged exposure such as healthcare workers or personnel involved in bird culls, pre-exposure courses, repeat post-exposure courses or continuous treatment may be necessary," it said.

Here's the full WHO statement.

Effect Measure on Israel and Egypt.

Typical excellent Effect Measure post on the genetic hoarding story. You'll know that Nature and the Wall Street Journal, and now WHO, have written that the sequences need to be opened up. Note also criticism for private companies with extensive flu plans for keeping those secrets.

Science has little to lose from this as sequences currently being kept secret are lost anyway. Science has a great deal to gain in terms of a head start on crucially important scientific information now being sequestered for private gain, reputation or credit by scientists who should behave better.

Look to the future, part I. Georgians are "overtaken" by bird flu panic.

In a similar story, Forbes is reporting from the CDC that New Yorkers began buying anti virals seven weeks before seasonal flu was reported--in other words, in reaction to the fear of bird flu.

WaPo on WHO's calling for an open public database on the flu virus, as you have no doubt been following here and elsewhere.

The British government plan, which, it is asserted, was developed to protect the poultry industry, is being criticized as more likely to actually spread the virus.

The Times has learnt that Britain successfully proposed easier movement of birds at a crunch European Commission committee meeting last month agreeing a common response to bird flu. Supporters of organic and sustainable farming yesterday accused ministers of a “daft” change designed to help trade which risked repeating the swift spread of foot-and-mouth throughout Britain.

The Prime Minister of Vietnam has chastised local governments who let their guard down in the recently quiet bird flu period in that country.

The Ag Minister in India says bird flu is under control. (Normally, a major outbreak follows statements like this.)

Malawi has asked for $400,000 from the US to help protect against bird flu.

The presence of bird flu in India has been good news for people who produce fish and mutton for human consumption.

The Asian Development Bank has reported a $38M US grant.

Uganda says it has imported 1,000 cases of Tamiflu, and is partially lifting a poultry import ban.

WHO has announced two technical meetings--one on flu and refugee populations, and one on "social mobilization."

Secretary Leavitt is in Pennsylvania, on his Magical Mystery Flu Tour. Governor Rendell says the state is preparing.

Howard County (MD) is holding a meeting for decision makers and stakeholders on the bird flu.

One of the fascinating under the radar stories is this Hungarian vaccine. This link (which may later be active but is dead now) says they are not submitting their vaccine to the EU drug authority.

Australia is showing interest in the Hungarian vaccine.

The Managing Editor of the American Journal of Infection Control wrote this editorial in the Boston Globe. His point? Pandemic response cannot effectively be coordinated at the local level--action should take place at least at the state level.

ProMed on Israel and Indonesia....

and on Israel, Sweden and the Netherlands.


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