Wednesday, November 22, 2006

November 21 Flu Update

Helen Branswell on the US decision to buy more pre-pandemic vaccine. A US official responds to the criticism that the virus could mutate and render the vaccine less effective or ineffective....

"We're doing this for preparedness. And we started this because we wanted to make sure that companies and the (vaccine) regulators had experience with making pandemic-like vaccines at full commercial scale," Dr. Bruce Gellin, director of the U.S. National Vaccine Program Office, said from Washington.

Gellin said the U.S. government understands the H5N1 virus will continue to mutate, as all flu viruses do. But he said it is important to learn what implications that has on the effectiveness of vaccines that aren't a perfect match for later strains.

"So while we know there's a possibility that the vaccine we're making might not have the full effect that the perfectly tailored pandemic vaccine would . . . there's still the possibility that it could provide some protection," he said.

Branswell also writes about a triage protocol developed in Canada which will determine who gets carefully considers whether the elderly should be given priority.

CIDRAP with more on the discovery of the two mutations needed for flu to become human-human.

Recombinomics had reported a potential outbreak in the Sudan. Note, here, some confirmation from ProMed, though reports of a human case are doubted.

Citing "receded" bird flu fears, the Dutch are now letting poultry outdoors again.

More outbreaks--this time in household poultry--in Egypt.

Austria has an option to buy 16 million doses of vaccine.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority met to discuss the bird flu. (Bird Flu Brings People Together).

The Council on Foreign Relations has some new flu information. Highlighted by the always stimulating Laurie Garrett, the report (and podcast) emphasizes that we are still a long way from where we need to be.

Alberta has spent $30M on bird flu equipment and supplies.

Meanwhile, the US has donated equipment to Botswana.


At 9:43 AM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Just a general comment to your world readers today on the necessity of taking immediate preparations for a world epidemic.

In case they are not aware of the truly dire situation, the major types of influenza viruses circulating around the world today are A, B, and C. The numerous subtypes are broadly divided into the H1, H2, H3, H5, H7 and H9 varieties. Of course, the most disturbing subtype, is the H5 kind, which is manifesting itself into the most deadly, with the N1, N2 and N9 variants being the most common. These variants are already found on several continents. To further complicate things, H5 may being classified as LPAI or HPAI (low/high pathogenic), but this is misleading, since it is like classifying a fire as "hot/not-so-hot". What's of major concern is the different major types A, B and C are continuously evolving, through antigenic drift and shift - unpredictably in birds, pigs and humans and many other animals. Some of the evolution is gradual, but some of these mutations can occur so instantaneously that they can spark a pandemic, unpredictably. It can be any place in the entire world, at any time. A panemic happens simply when our anti-bodies can not recognize one of these new evolving viruses at all. This is what basically happened in 1918. And many scientists and virologists truly believe the modern day H5 to be even more lethal, incredible as that sounds.

If a pandemic occurs in 2007, no country on earth will have a suitable effective vaccine for many months, until one can be developed. We can not at this time genetically reverse engineer a pandemic vaccine quickly enough, and mass produce enough, to stave off a pandemic. Maybe in ten years, but not now. We will only be able to throw up sand-bag-like procedures, by distributing anti-virals (effectiveness questionable) and implementing quarantines. These primitive strategies are only delaying tactics. It could be the "Battle of the Bulge" being waged on every continent. It's that simple.

Still think the pandemic warnings are no big deal ? Think of a pandemic in terms of a moden day wild fire, that can burn unabatedly. Even the best of resources can not put it out promptly. Sometimes, wild fires simply have to run their course until nature ends the crisis.

If you don't want to heed the warnings, sit back, relax, eat your popcorn, and watch the train wreck movie.



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