Friday, January 05, 2007

January 4 Flu Update

Bird flu continues to "spread its wings" in Vietnam.

In her inaugural address, Margaret Chan, the new Director-General of WHO says the world must remain vigilant against bird flu.

Helen Branswell (thanks, Crofsblog) has the story of Dr. Chan's first day

"We learned from past experience it goes into cycles. There would be periods of high H5N1 activity or low activity," Chan said from Geneva during a telephone news conference.

"These kinds of what I call peaks and troughs are very characteristic for influenza. ... So my advice to health authorities would be: We are moving into the peak season of influenza activity again. This is the time we really need to redouble our efforts in terms of heightened sense of vigilance."

CDC has approved a "flu chip" that tests quickly for avian flu.

A wild bird has tested positive for H5 in Hong Kong---no word on N1.

Recombinomics has sources saying it is H5N1, and details the state of flu outbreaks for 2007.

This story has emerged before. Imagine a pandemic. People take Tamiflu by the million, and then, eventually, it ends up in the wastewater treatment system, where active ingredients don't biodegrade.

Another societal effect of the bird supplies could be severely restricted.

Recently, we ran a story about how water and wastewater treatment would react in a pandemic, with the report saying that measures currently in place could be effective. Revere blogs this article, saying more work like this is useful, if not the road to "academic stardom."

Cameroon reports that its poultry sales have bounced back from bird flu scares.

Here, a fellow flu blogger notes our second anniversary.


At 12:16 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


I found several of your posted articles rather intriguing today.

I see recombinomics, Henry Niman, continues to diligently and methodically connect the H5N1 Clade and mutation dots around the world, which in my mind, has turned suddenly very fascinating and interesting. I focused in on his important second paragraph, where he points out that the “new flu season will lead to new polymorphisms as seen in the human H5N1 isolate in Egypt. That isolate ad M2301, which is adjacent to the receptor binding domain and is found in all three human serotypes (H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B). The new acquisition creates an exact match with positions 226-230 (QSGRI) in influenza B”.

I may be misconstruing the nuances of his remarks, but they appear to be slowly indicating evidence of real reassortment of the H5N1 Clades and subtypes, with common Type A and B influenza viruses in the hemagglutinin protein gene, through antigenic drift. Ergo, since Clade 1 is the predominant strain circulating in Vietnam (where H5N1 is re-emmerging with a vengeance after massive prior poultry innoculations) and Clade 2 is circulating in China and Africa, careful scrutiny and further tracking of H5N1 as related to the cyclical flu seasons, is essential. The HA protein changes and their “receptor binding pockets” mutations, theoretically is what will enable H5N1 influenza viruses to efficiently attach and bind themselves to human cell receptors. Kind of like a Sears socket and ratchet match. I have learned enough over the last several months on this subject to develop a real appreciation of how hemagglutinin (HA) protein plays a pivotal role in efficient host recognition and H5N1 transmissibility. Spotting the true signs of an emerging pandemic will not be easy – it will be like watching the stars shift in the night sky, while the earth rotates. I am convinced of this situation because of the plethora of panzootic diseases and human viruses circulating throughout the world today – many more than 1918. My on-line degree program to acquire my high school equivalency certificate, seems to be working.

On the lighter side of things, the report out of England you posted regarding the weakness of the financial community to keep their systems up-and-running, during a pandemic, is but one of the major struggles all countries will have to be realistically incorporate into their pandemic planning strategies. Maintaining cash liquidity is only a minor one, along with the more significant challenges: emergency communications, food and pharmaceutical reserves, the internet, maintaining adequate fuel and essential supplies deliveries – let alone all the public safety, quarantine, social distancing, hospital surge, and maintenance of social order issues. Sprinkle in the likely situation of widespread fear that would be prevalent with the issuance of very limited anti-viral’s and pre-pandemic vaccines, and one could predict some puckering and intense times.

Just as a side note, I was curious because of what is occurring in several of the Rhode Island school districts. I got all of my pistons pumping and spent several hours yesterday researching scientific articles on micoplasma bacteria, pneumonia and encephalitis, especially to see if there was any direct relationship to the 1918 pandemic, or the two years preceding (I have heard unsubstantiated rumors to this effect). I could not find any – it doesn’t mean the research doesn’t exist, simply, I couldn’t find any thing substantial anywhere worth noting.


At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Wayne said...

The flu epidemic in Jordan could be an ealy warning of what could happen worldwide during a flu epidemic.

At 7:34 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Never at a loss for words, I had to think very carefully about your comment before I framed my reply. My opinion is that we have a recent better example closer to home, as to what the signs of an emerging pandemic might appear to us in the US or Canada… right here in Rhode Island, of all places. The facts and events as I read them, are – mysterious undiagnosed illness, suspected to be pathogenic, small number of young fatalities, pervasive illnesses, schools cancelled by order of health department (20,000 plus students told to stand down until the schools reopen), public events cancelled, CDC immediately sends numerous epidemiologist experts to ascertain history, origin and transmissibility, parents frightened and demanding answers. This is just one small affected area, mind you – multiply this situation by several dozens or hundreds of others, simultaneously, and that’s how I would really expect an influenza pandemic situation to unfold in our midst. The extremely difficult part of the equation would be: is the situation just a severe seasonal epidemic caused by ordinary Type A or B flu; or are there exceptionally high mortalities involved, indicating an actual new pathogen being introduced, say like H5N1, or even mycoplasma, viral pneumonia, or encephalitis. This would be a very frightening and difficult scenario that we might find ourselves in. Not as damaging as 9/11 or Katrina to property, but certainly as frightening in a societal sense.

What do I expect ? I’ll stick my neck out and speculate and say all the evidence so far, points to the very densely populated far East part of the world, that is where the nastiness will first emerge, according to my Radio Shack Avian Flu GPS locator. The rest of the avian strains plodding around Europe, the Middle East and Africa, I attribute to H5N1 expanding its host range. I further believe that in countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Laos, Indonesia, etc, we now have hundreds of millions (if not billions) of asymptomatically infected poultry, wild fowl, as well as certain mammals (like our friends the piggy’s) shedding viruses and excreting dangerous secretions or fecal matter into the environment. Continuous human contact with these contaminants is inevitable.

Having said all that – have a good evening.


At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Wayne said...

I prefer to be brief rather than boring.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Wulfgang said...

You would make a good student of Voltaire, Wayne –

“Le secret d’ennuyer est de tout dire”.
(the way to be a bore is to say everything)

The problem I have is the Horace syndrome -

“Obsecuru s fio”
(It is when I am struggling to be brief that I become unintelligible)



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