Friday, February 16, 2007

February 15 Flu Update

Nick Zamiska of the WSJ has an article in today's paper about bird flu vaccines. It is a must read. Notes that even as vaccines are being developed, questions arise. Do you cut regulatory corners when a pandemic is only theoretical? Do you take production capacity away from seasonal flu to make a pandemic flu vaccine? Here's the key question.

The current vaccines are based on strains of the H5N1 bird-flu virus
from recent years; should the virus mutate, as it would need to do to
spread among humans, it isn't clear that it would fully protect people.
Still, some experts think the current vaccine probably would protect
against severe illness and death, even if the victim still got sick.
Governments are proceeding on that assumption, and millions of doses
have been produced.

Bird flu has been found in three new villages in Turkey.

Surveillance in US has shown no evidence of H5N1 in migratory birds, leading to evidence in favor of the poultry trade argument.

ProMed surveys the world....including an interesting post on what poultry farmers should do to protect their flocks.

A lab in the Philippines is designed to help fight the bird flu.

South Korea is also launching a major effort to prevent bird flu.

The Socialist Party of Britain says that the government puts profits ahead of health.

The World Bank is donating $2M to Armenia to fight the bird flu.


At 1:30 PM, Anonymous mpb said...

"Surveillance in US has shown no evidence of H5N1 in migratory birds, leading to evidence in favor of the poultry trade argument."

This isn't a criticism about your fine efforts here, but a caution for readers.

It's a losing battle against the headline writers, but the USGS and FWS press releases are confusing.

Careful reading would indicate-- H5N1 has been found in wild birds from this past year. Low pathogenic H5N1, yes. High pathogenic H5N1, no.

When I last looked, results from all states EXCEPT Alaska are published in the HEDDS database on-line.

I don't think it helps anyone to understand, analyse, and plan without a clear use of terms (instead of hedging and obscuring).
The results from Alaska have been difficult to find and late in being publicized.

Proper risk communication (hazcom) is essential.

Even those of us in the Unorganized Borough (1000 miles from the nearest state capitol and within walking distance to Asia) are capable of deciding our risk, if we get the information. (Yes, my nose is out of joint.)

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Orange said...

Fair enough. Thanks for reading and commenting. You make a good point--when I do the blog, I have a tendency to think only high-path because I'm focusing on the pandemic risk.

But, you're right....low path has been found.

Thanks, and keep reading.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Well, seems that the subject of vaccines is all over the news today, so I’ve got to weigh in with some comments.

The WSJ article is quite insightful and does a good job pointing out some of the multiple dilemma’s that have to be decided pretty quick: for example, do we curtail production of ordinary flu vaccines in order to produce a pandemic H5N1 version; do we prime-the-pump and make the pre-pandemic vaccine available to the general public before an outbreak emerges; should the vaccine be strictly controlled; what is the priority and allocation of the limited pandemic vaccine’s, if current production is limited to approximately only 1B doses, when there are over 6 B people in the world ?

Most of the answers are intuitively obvious, in the short term. Unlike Oseltamivir, which is mainly being employed in a temporary “firebreak” band aid type approach, the production and distribution of pre-pandemic H5N1 type vaccines is an entirely different issue. It’s a classic “manufacturing capacity issue” which free enterprise, the wealthy Western and petroleum-rich Middle Eastern countries, deal with on an every day-in-and-out basis (think OPEC, Microsoft, Toyota, Exxon, Daimler Benz, Sanyo, IBM, AT&T – they all have the expertise and could deal with this manufacturing problem single-handedly, if they wanted to). These companies combined spend a hundred times more money on internal R&D, than it would take to fund 10 of the world-wide best-in-class, strategically located vaccine manufacturing facilities.

In my mind, it’s a matter of money and countries stepping up – it’s no longer a technology issue. We now have the ability to manufacture two or three of the most five most prevalent bird flu strains. The world’s most influential and economical able nations need to use this time as a window of opportunity, to pool financial, scientific and technical resources, bite the bullet, and establish production and distribution facilities for vaccines, throughout strategic areas of the world. More succinctly, we now are in position where we have nearly resolved the H5N1 vaccine strain issues, now the matter is mostly simply financial – pool the money together and think longer term. We have the expertise to make this happen, and it’s cheaper to do it now, than have to deal with it later.

We also need to stop thinking shorter term on this issue and develop the additional capabilities to not only manufacture influenza vaccines, but other critical vaccines types also, for example, inactivated, parenteral, topical, toxoids, recombinant’s and DNA’s type vaccines – why not take this as an timely opportunity to help not only resolve the threat of a deadly avian influenza pandemic, but also smallpox, polio, typhus, yellow fever and HIV, pneumonia, and other killers as well ? Influenza and other kinds of pandemic threat’s, will be with us for hundreds of more years to come. What a perfect opportunity for the “rich” nations to form geo-political vaccine and health care alliances with the third world underdeveloped countries. Compared to the Bush “war on terror” outlays of incomprehensible and limitless amounts of resources (mainly centered around the rat hole called Iraq), this would be a drop in the bucket and do wonders, as a peaceful means to expand human values and critical medicines across all countries and cultures.

If we could marshal our resources, like I’ve just suggested, you could then close down your present pandemic blog site Orange, and maybe, move on to more relevant and pressing topics, say like Global Warming.

You could rename it…”The Coming Meltdown and New Ice Age” (incidentally lots of talk in the spook and Navy circles getting nervous about this subject lately).

You could even get ol’ Al Gore to be a guest writer and commentator to replace me. That would be interesting.

PS – MPB… in my book, LPAI can be just as dangerous as HPAI. LPAI can, and has, in several instances evolved into deadly HPAI, so in a technical sense, the Canadian and US surveys are correct, but they are misleading, in my opinion. The fact that we don’t have HPAI in North America, yet, does not change my preparation posture on bit. It’s all a matter of time, like in Great Britain, before some one screws up, or a chance turn of events occurs, and we will have a similar crisis on our hands. It’s all semantics and spin, and who doesn’t want the finger pointed at them.



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