Wednesday, January 03, 2007

January 3 Flu Update

A third person has died in Egypt of bird flu. They are from the same region, though it does not appear to be a cluster.

Japan will spend $10M on prototype bird flu vaccines.

Confirmation that the first family in Vietnam was H5N1 negative.

ProMed opinion piece states what I believe is a reasonable position in the migratory bird vs. smuggling debate.

As the European cases show, there is no doubt that wild birds are involved to some degree in the virus's spread, but this role has been massively overstated by some (especially the media). The key to halting the virus's further spread undoubtedly lies with better biosecurity measures within the global poultry industry.

ProMed on the news that poultry was still being illegally imported into Vietnam from China.

US DNA vaccine enters human trial.

Mississippi poultry is blaming a drop in exports on unrealized fears of bird flu.

Michael Fumento is back in the American Spectator with his latest diatribe against those who would prefer to prepare for a pandemic.


At 1:26 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


I see the great mental midget Washington DC lawyer, Michael Fumento, has published has latest ranting about the fallacy of H5N1 pandemic preparation, in that ultra-conservative think-tank rag, the Spectator. I don’t believe I have ever seen anybody distort and omit critical information like this guy. I am quite sure he had relatives eons ago who advised the Neanderthal’s species not to worry either. One has to wonder… does he even believe in ordinary seasonal flu inoculations. Oh well.

Here are some basic facts about the threat of avian influenza that he has conveniently omitted:

First, a little history lesson, for my boy… direct avian–to–human influenza transmission was unknown before 1997. While H5N1 poses the biggest potential pandemic threat, other avian influenza subtypes have also infected people – in 1999, for example, H9N2 was spotted in Hong Kong, in 2003, H7N7 in the Netherlands, and as recent as 2004, H7N3 occurred in Canada. In 2003, it has been documented that highly pathogenic strains of H5N1 and H7N7 (subtypes) again crossed over from birds to humans. The world has never known or documented in history, avian influenza outbreaks as severe as those we are seeing now.

Scientific studies confirm beyond any shadow of a doubt, that H5N1, like normal Type A and B influenza viruses, continues to evolve, with Type A expanding into more diverse mammalian species. When 1997 H5N1 viruses are compared to those H5N1 now circulating, they were on average, more lethal, especially in certain mammalian reservoirs, and survive longer in the environment. So why the alarm ? Since 1997, there are now two distinct clades of H5N1 circulating around the globe: clade 1 in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam; and clade 2, found throughout China, Indonesia, the middle east, Europe, and Africa – which has branched into 6 recognizable strains, with a possible new “Fujian-like” strain emerging from China. We also need to be very concerned across the entire spectrum of all avian influenza viruses. In each of these outbreaks in recent years, the HPIV was preceded by an outbreak of a LPIV: Australia- 1976 (H7N7, 1985 (H7N7), 1992 (H7N3), 1994 (H7N3, 1997 (H7N4); Italy – 1997 (H5N2), 1998 (H5N9), 2001 (H7N1), 2003 (H7N3); Ireland – 1998 (H7N7); Chile – 2002 (H7N3); US – 2004 (H5N2); Canada – 2004 (H7N3). This all does indeed indicate a looming human threat, in my average one-hundred-billion-brain-cell loaded, three-pound brain.

Granted, the avian influenza virus is presently unable to efficiently attach itself to certain types of human cells, and is not wholesale transmissible. However, there exists only 2 amino acids mutations necessary for the H5 virus to recognize human cells. In order to become fully transmissible, this doesn’t appear to represent a major reassortment challenge, based on the behavior of ordinary Type A flu viruses to continually shift and antigenically drift, across multiple flu seasons. In addition recent studies have shown that avian influenza viruses can acquire the ability to recognize and bind to human cells, while they are in the respiratory tract of swine.

Michael Fumento’s general argument that H5N1 will not become easily transmissible, or has no different actual fatality rate, than say the ordinary flu, is just plain incorrect based on the facts over the last six years. In the majority of human documented H5N1 cases, the patients succumbed due to viral pneumonia directly caused by the disease, and the patients did not respond to antibiotics – rapid fatality at a 60% CFR or greater, is commonly seen. In ordinary flu cases, the patients usually die from cardiac problems or secondary bacterial pneumonia – this is the famous 30-36,000 we always hear about.

The behavioral similarities of the pathogen threat and lethal ability of H5N1, compared to the characteristics of the mutated Type A influenza virus of 1918 are startling. Again, it only takes one single amino acid change, to result in H5N1 to begin to mutate and bind with human cells and ordinary influenza Type A and B viruses. And we are only two simple chemical amino acids away from H5N1 avian flu to become a pandemic virus, like the Spanish one of 1918.

I don’t think it would be wise to stake our nation’s health on the uninformed ravings of a lawyer. Other than that, thanks for printing his article, he makes a convenient easy target.

I have always believed in the sage advice from my great aunt Brunhilda – “to the errors of a wise man make your rule, rather than the perfections of a fool” (William Blake 1757-1827).


At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Wayne said...

Purhaps Mr Fumento's rantings would be more credible if he would actualy go to Vietnam and have a chicken dinner with some farmers who are forced to eat sick chickens because they are so poor.
So far the bird flu is mostly a virus spreading across the globe using the paths of least resistance which so far has been other birds and also very poor people who are force to handle these chickens.
Countries are spending huge amount of money to develop the magic bullet vaccine which can only be produced in small Quantities or it will simply make the virus stronger by forcing it to mutate around it.
In the long run it would probubly be better to raise the standard of living of these impoverished people.By helping them we would be helping ourselves.


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