Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th Flu Update

Since the bird flu threat has "receded," the Dutch agriculture minister has now allowed poultry to go outdoors again.

An Australian doctor says Tamiflu could save "hundreds" of lives.

No such luck in India, since the bird flu "scare" has returned.

Is Taiwan leading the way? Nation plans to produce cell-based flu vaccine.

Due to flu fears, chicken sales are down 40% in Kuwait.

In Monticello, IN, preparation is the best defense.

At Harvard, administrators are testing their bird flu response.

Think only Indonesia is worried about access to vaccine? No, Sweden is too, as Revere notes. They have a rational response--figure out how get domestic capacity.


At 7:47 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Very intriguing set of articles today, lots to comment on.

Something is really interesting about your Dutch article. Even though it optimistically looks forward to the end of the migratory season of wild birds there, it reminds us that another deadly avian flu strain, H7N7, was a significant problem in 2003. In addition, as your article from Taiwan points out, H7N3 were also found in bird droppings there last year, and H5N2 caused a significant problem there in 2003, as well. This all serves to remind us: our problem is just not limited solely to the deadly H5N1 strain, multiple troublesome strains are circulating simultaneously.

Your A+ article for the week, goes to Australian virologist and professor Graeme Laver, who asks the most basic obvious question in the entire universe: “why is Tamiflu not made available over the counter, to save more lives ?”. In addition, “why are the governments not making a safe and effective drug available to citizens ?” I agree with him 100%. If countries in Asia, Indonesia, China, Egypt, Turkey and others are massively making this drug available to its citizens as I type this, what in the world is going on with the western countries ? The arguments about side effects, indiscriminate usage causing resistance – just doesn’t fly as a reason for not making it available over-the-counter.

In fact, the best argument and reason I can see to make the drug available over the counter, is so that people like us can have it available within the two day time-frame when we would need it, at the onset of an pandemic. I sincerely doubt that any large government like the US and Canada, can guarantee it will have Tamiflu in its citizens hands within 48 hours. Anybody who believes this, also most undoubtedly believes in Bigfoot, UFO’s and the Lochness Monster.

I burst out laughing when I read one sentence in your article about the bird flu scare returning to India. The sentence reads, “… the main concern was that the Government of Bangladesh is suppressing the actual scale of the epidemic”. The Indian’s should pick up the phone and call the 800 avian gorilla – China, if they really want to talk about suppression and censure. Even tiny Taiwan, states in their article, “multiple strains of the disease (H5) originated in southern China and spread elsewhere”.

Speaking of Taiwan, and also Sweden, if they can both take the initiative to thoughtfully plan ahead for their own domestic pandemic vaccine production capability, why can’t those whiners in Indonesia do the same ? In my view, only a very small percentage of any population is going to have access to vaccines during a pandemic, so the time to prepare is now – full throttle. One has to assume that any production orders that are placed now, will most likely go to the manufacturing company’s own citizen’s first – regardless of agreement. In a catastrophic world pandemic, the host country’s government and their military, where the manufacturer of the vaccine is located and stored, with seize it in a heart beat. It goes no further. Count on it.

I noticed a small very important item in your Monticello, Indiana article, which really impressed me about that state. Apparently, “The State Department of Health has implemented several new reporting protocols over the past year, from a now year-round influenza surveillance program, to a reporting system in the schools that notifies in the event that there is 20 percent absenteeism rate for people complaining of the same symptoms of illness”. Absolutely outstanding, a good start.

Finally, I was expecting a real ho-hum when I started reading your Harvard article, about the “administrators” participating in their Central Administration’s evolving pandemic plan. It actually wasn’t too bad, about a B+ level. Those overly paid elite academic noodle heads actually sequenced some very realistic pandemic scenario assumptions. I hope they learned something more than just producing documents and filling a square.

Smart people like that should remember what Confucius said: “learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous”.



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