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 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.
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.
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.
May 13--Mother's Day Flu Update
There's a bird flu death in Indonesia--all but lab confirmed. She was 26, 4 months pregnant.ProMed has this story as well.The World Health Assembly is coming up. Helen Branswell is here with her usual indispensable analysis. Avian flu will be the big topic--and here is the problem. This throws cold water on the idea of a pre-pandemic vaccine.
Simply put, scientists can't be certain how much vaccine is needed to protect people against novel influenza viruses such as H5N1 avian flu, because they don't know what the immune system of a person protected against a new flu strain would look like.
Sure, they can observe whether immunization with H5N1 vaccine produces certain antibodies and to what levels the antibodies rise, but they have no way of gauging how much protection those antibodies will provide if the person is exposed to the virus.
"We can't get the answer to that until the pandemic comes. There's just no way," admits Dr. Robert Webster, the renown flu researcher from St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Of course, virus sharing is also on the agenda at the Assembly.Bangladesh still struggles with bird flu.ProMed on Bangladesh and Vietnam.Surveillance is being stepped up in Volta.African publication says bird flu deadlier than HIV.
May 11 Flu Update
10,000 birds were culled in Bangladesh as the flu spread.Vietnam has a "problematic" batch of avian vaccine, which means it can't be used...which puts provinces out hard earned cash.World Migratory Bird Day is launched. Hint: you don't get the day off work.Research shows that seven new species of wild birds have been identified as H5N1 carriers.ProMed on this study. Notes that while it may not be much value in studying H5N1, they provide invaluable data on the life of flu viruses in wild birds.CIDRAP has an update for its business audience on the antivirals and bird flu. This is a great summary of the state of play. Note this for the good---and the bad--of Tamiflu.
"The numbers are so small that it's hard to know whether Tamiflu is efficacious at mitigating disease, but it's all we have, so it's worth trying because it has very limited toxicity [poisonous effects]," says Stephanie Black, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the section of infectious diseases at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Studies in mice have demonstrated a protective and therapeutic benefit of Tamiflu against the 2004 Vietnam strain of H5N1. However, this efficacy does not guarantee the same result in humans or with a pandemic strain.
A 2007 study of the effectiveness of Tamiflu in improving the survival rate of ferrets exposed to the H5N1 virus found that giving the drug within 4 hours of exposure (ie, before illness) resulted in 100% survival. When the treatment was delayed 24 hours after exposure, a higher dose was needed to achieve the same result. (H5N1 follows a similar course in ferrets and humans.)
CIDRAP notes that there is little resistance to Tamiflu, as noted by WHO. Of course, a Tamiflu resistant H5N1 is a nightmare of the first order.
CIDRAP also notes that Edmonton has added ginseng to its bird flu stockpile. (I'll stand in line longer for the Tamiflu.)
Brunei says it is stepping up its bird flu measures.
You saw where the US military released its bird flu planning doc this week. Given the performance of the military in Iraq, let's just say Revere is skeptical.