Friday, June 23, 2006

June 22 Flu Update

Back on board...

While I was out, the news broke that there may have been an H5N1 case in China two years before the previous earliest date in China. It was originally announced as SARS. News came out in a NEJM article from eight scientists, some of whom asked to be removed from the article just prior to publication.

Here's the actual letter from NEJM.

CIDRAP reports on this story, including a shocked WHO demanding some answers.

Story cries out for Helen Branswell. And here she is.

The eight wrote of the case of a 24-year-old man, apparently from Beijing, who had pneumonia and respiratory distress in November 2003. In that period, when the entire world was anxiously waiting to see if severe acute respiratory syndrome would re-emerge with the arrival of cold and flu season, doctors thought he was suffering from SARS.

The man tested negative for the SARS coronavirus. But H5N1 was found in tissue from his lungs. The letter does not state when the testing was done or how long it has been known that the man died from H5N1.

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Flu watchers aren't surprised that China had cases as early as 2003. In fact, outside China it has been widely assumed, given that three people from Hong Kong became infected with the virus during a visit to Fujian province in February 2003.

The retracton angle is interesting. You can guess it had something to do with internal political pressure, but we need to hear more to be sure.

Effect Measure comments, noting that Revere's IP is banned in China, but is critical of Chinese government.


ProMed on China and Indonesia. (Note mod comment: news from China does not surprise any observer, or so it seems).

The 98 contacts of the recent flu victim in China have been released after being under observation for one week. (ouch).

WHO is conceeding H2H among the family cluster in Indonesia. CIDRAP reports.

Biotech stock shares rose on this news.

Zambia is testing dead birds for H5N1. WHO is appealing for calm.

Malaysia says it is bird flu free, wants to export chickens again.

All of Southern Africa is on a bird flu alert.

GlaxoSmithKline is preparing to seek approval this year for its flu vaccine. On matching strains, it says:

The vaccine should be able to protect people even if the H5N1 virus mixes with a strain of human flu, Stephenne said.

``If you compare H5N1 isolate to the flu virus that created the flu pandemic in 1918, we know it's only a little difference,'' he said. ``This little difference will not change the quality of the vaccine."

During the three-day bird flu meeting in Indonesia, that country finally admitted that it has a severely limited ability to respond.

Bird flu prep kits are being given to schools in Contra Costa, CA.

Manitoba, Canada, has assessed that its poultry and swine are at low risk for bird flu.

Manitoba's pandemic preparedness plan.

Bird flu scare caused a huge glut in the poultry and egg markets in Europe, and the EU is rushing in to help support prices.

More on bird flu pledges falling short. US had pledged $1.9B, has forked over only $300M to date.

These stories come out every once in a while. Grassroots Balinese are not worried about the bird flu...nor are they very knowledgable about it. I think that some people have such difficult lives its hard to have the luxury to worry about non-immediate threats.

Dr. Mary Emmerichs, a professor at UW-Sheboygan, thinks people don't learn the lessons of history. Specifically, about the bird flu. She is giving a talk in Fond du Lac, WI, on a local perspective on the 1918 pandemic, as part of a local effort to educate on H5N1. In my opinion, this is an excellent approach. The 1918 story creates context and limits what is otherwise an abstract threat.

A public meeting on the flu in Indiana revealed...the need to have another meeting.

Local planning is also ongoing in Santa Rosa County, FL.

Stanford is looking for volunteers to participate in trials to test a vaccine produced in Australia.

India is still banning retail Tamiflu sales.

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