Monday, March 20, 2006

March 20 Flu Update

Nick Zamiska is back in the Wall Street Journal, with a story on WHO discussing opening genetic databases.

Meanwhile, in an apparent effort to increase the amount of data available to scientists, the WHO will ask its 192 member states to adopt a resolution in May that includes a pledge to share virus data, Margaret Chan, the WHO's pandemic-flu chief, said yesterday
From the Christian Science Monitor (via an alert reader), a Harvard grad student says the bird flu is being sold through "a language of fear." He notes that tests have been reported to show millions of people with H5N1 antibodies.

To deal with this issue, it was addressed at length back in December. ProMed shot it down as unfounded because no data was actually reported with a N subtype.

Effect Measure came back the next day to show how these kind of reports spread--and stay in the media for months.

Finally, Helen Branswell is back, as flu communicators fear a bird flu backlash.

"We earned a lot of trust during SARS and we could blow it all on H5N1," he says of the WHO. "But I don't think that that's a big gamble as long as people understand exactly what we're saying. And it's not a bumper-sticker statement . . . we don't know what the next pandemic is going to look like."

Effect Measure looks at the whole "crying wolf" effect.

Malaysia has bird flu in three states now.

ProMed on the Egyptian death, and a suspected case in Malaysia (their first, if true).

US Government officials once again say that bird flu could be present here in the US this year, but that won't signal the start of the pandemic.

Same story. US says bird flu is now in two strains, complicating efforts to build a vaccine program.

One strain, or clade, made people sick in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in 2003 and 2004 and a second, a cousin of the first, caused the disease in people in Indonesia in 2004.

Still same story, also noting that genetic changes are moving the virus toward human transmission.


The bird flu virus spreading around the world is mutating into more variations with genetic characteristics that increase the risk of infection in humans, according to a U.S. government study.

US details surveillance plans.

CIDRAP on the surveillance program.

WHO confirms death in Egypt.

CIDRAP on Egypt.

India says all 11 samples from Jalgoan were negative.

ProMed confirms Danish bird flu.

The UK says based on migratory bird patterns, the flu might reach there, but problems aren't expected during the winter.

With 500 million birds migrating through Israel each year, a local expert decides the bird flu can't be stopped.

In Cameroon, birds are continuing to die, and people are more and more convinced bird flu is there.


EU speeds up aid to farmers.

Missoula, MT, has looked back to 1918 to prepare for the pandemic.

An excess demand on hospitals is certainly something to plan for, she said. Extrapolate to 2006 numbers, and an influenza pandemic could mean 20,000 people getting sick in several weeks with thousands needing hospitalization.

But, Leahy said, “There's a lot of people that will just need care at home. Their whole family's going to be sick, and they're going to need care.”

Pakistan is launching a public awareness program.

The same effort is underway in the Virgin Islands.

ProMed on the migratory bird debate...again (this is a "for.")

ProMed cites OIE reports from several countries.

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