Monday, May 28, 2007

May 28 Flu Update

During the Spanish flu epidemic, some doctors transfused blood from survivors to new patients, and there is evidence this might have cut the death rate in half. Question is, could something similar make a difference in this pandemic? London Times reports.

Helen Branswell on Virus Sharing as intellectual property. A typically great take from her. Note the ominous overtone from this paragraph.

"The changes that are proposed for the WHO collaborating system and the system that served to underpin the development of (influenza) vaccines worldwide for the last 50 years could collapse," warns one influenza community insider who doesn't want to be named.

If you read the first paragraph of this Effect Measure post, you could conclude that Revere was the source for Branswell. Nonetheless, he has the same ideas...

The idea that Indonesia has a property right to a virus is ridiculous and problematic on its face and serious in its consequences. Just like a lot of intellectual property law, designed by and for the convenience and profit of the property "owners." Too many scientists and their institutions have become complicit in this system, as they meekly allowed licensing or patenting discoveries they made for the sheer joy of discovery or the desire to make the world better. Now flu scientists are finding it is coming back to bite them.

The flu spreads in Vietnam.

Transcript of Radio Australia program of bird flu.

Thailand also has a bird flu plan it is putting into place.

ProMed on Thailand and Vietnam.

GPS devices are being implanted into birds to help track migration routes.

A bird flu summit will be held in Paris starting this week.

Taiwan is starting new laws to prevent the bird flu.

ProMed also has news on some research being done on migratory birds.

I have a dilemma on this blog from time to time. In general, I started it to cover H5N1. And we don't do much with other strains that come up. But Revere has an interesting post--what if this IS the pandemic strain?

So, here's a link to the latest news from Wales--there are human cases.


At 6:38 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


I’d like to comment about the question you pose – “what if, say the H7 avian virus IS the pandemic strain”, and the rather vitriolic exchange of words between Revere and Henry Niman on this subject (Whoa… and I must say, there’s some real lurking animosity evident between those two highly “educated” fellows).

Without getting bogged down in the gory details of virology, LPAI vs HPAI definitions, cleavage sites, receptor binding domains, hemmagglutinin proteins, clades and subclades, phylogenetic analysis and serological studies of antibodies between the H5 and H7 viruses (which has a tendency to be confusing), here is what, in my view, are the key issues, regarding the pandemic potential situation in England:

• We are now up to a whopping total of 142 people, who may be also be infected with the H7 avian virus, and the number seems to be climbing, as human-to-human transmission is clearly evident. Having so many human cases of exposure, with so few birds, is clearly concerning, even though H7 at present, only causes mild symptoms and conjunctivitis (eye infections). This still is no big deal to most of us.

• The H7N2 virus has clear pandemic potential, and this is a big deal to us sitting on the sidelines. It has been proven in the past, that LPAI can clearly mutate into HPAI, over very short periods of time. The fact that two hospitals and their staff who came in contact with the infected people, have been warned and issued Tamiflu, is additional cause for concern. If the Brit’s can in fact manage to contain the spread to within the island itself, there should be not problem. However, if the epidemic is allowed to spread to the European mainland and beyond, then the World Series of avian influenza, may have already started.

• The last two pandemics, were the result of existing influenza viruses recombining/reassorting with low pathogenic avian viruses. We should therefore be concentrating on mitigating and stopping the actual virulence of the current H7 strain first, then deal with the epidemiological implications, second. The epidemiological risks are clearly if the H7 gets out of control and reassort’s with H5, H1,2 or 3, or recombines, then further mutates, we could easily end of with a series of concurrent co-circulating nasty hybrid novel viruses and uncontrollable serial pandemics, not just one.

My own opinion is that we have one endemic situation in the world environment with H5N1. It would appear to me, that several other avian viruses, for example H7, are looming on the horizon as possibly additional endemic threats.

The most fearful situation in my mind that we could possibly have, is to see the H5N1 and H7N2 or other avian strains (or any of its mutated cousins), co-circulating simultaneously in countries like Indonesia, China, Egypt, and Nigeria. Talk about a vaccine nightmare. If most these countries can’t get their poultry and human vaccines straight now, it would everyone’s worst nightmare if multiple potential pandemic strains start circulating.

If Helen Branswell and Revere think the present world “collaboration system” might collapse over the current property rights debate, imagine what fuel would be added to the firey debate, by adding more lethal strains to third world country’s bargaining positions. It would be analygous to Indonesia and China possessing the worlds largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The WHO 50 year arrangement wouldn’t just face a collapse, it would culminate in certain disaster, a situation almost guaranteed to thin the worlds population.



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