Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 11 Flu Update

A Chinese expert says the virus is mutating, and it a bigger threat to humans.

Are there human H5N1 cases in Hong Kong?

A computer model is pointing the way to fighting the bird flu pandemic in a city....

And in each of the simulations run for the city of 8.6 million people, a rational use of preemptive household antivirals combined with a consistent program aimed at reducing human contact helped contain the spread of disease. The key, the researchers said, lay in timely initiation of a pandemic plan that included shuttering schools.

Reuters has this story, too.

Some civets have died in Vietnam.

India is holding night raids to catch recalcitrant poultry farmers who won't turn their birds over.

Revere blogs yesterday's news that the seasonal flu was worse than expected, partly due to mismatched vaccine.

ProMed with reports on numerous countries.

The National Egg Council in India is looking for an investigation into how bird flu returned to West Bengal.

Surveillance is also going on in other parts of India.


At 7:56 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Your first two China news articles are a bit concerning. Notice in the first article, “the bird flu virus has shown signs of mutation” statement is repeated twice (for emphasis one can presume), but not particular’s are given. Then of course, the WHO from Geneva, Switzerland, makes their usually disclaimer and plays down the concerns by stating, “there is no new jump in deadliness”. The fact that Hong Kong has experienced three youngsters die from a non-specific “influenza like illness”, and 38 more in the primary school have also been diagnosed with similar symptoms, adds to the uneasiness. If in fact, any of the deaths and/or 38 illnesses can be associated to H5N1, then “Houston we have a problem”. Of course, H3N2 could easily be the culprit, since the seasonal flu there is reaching it peak.

My perceptive nod goes to Chinese expert Zhong Nanshan, and not WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl, in this instance. I have a hunch the Chinese respiratory expert suspects something that the WHO bureaucracy doesn’t have a clue about.

Your articles about the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute computing modeling simulations, which indicate widespread school closings, quarantines of infected households and bans of social and public gatherings, would reduce pandemic infection spread by as much as 80% is a bit “pie in the sky”. I would not argue that these restrictive measures are entirely effective and should be implemented, I just don’t see a whole lot of people complying. In fact, contrary to researcher Stephen Eubank’s conclusion that, “I think large fractions of the population won’t have a problem with these recommendations”, I think the opposite.

A very large proportion of the US and Canadian population are not prepared for any of these measures beyond a week or two. Think about the situation realistically: we are at an all time decades historically low point in per capita savings, all time record high for mortgage foreclosures (the sub-prime crisis), gas is at a record all time high, approximately 40-50 million people do not have health insurance, the average citizen lives just one paycheck away from financial disaster, the majority of our National Guard and Army Reserves are tied up in the Middle East rat hole – how is voluntary isolation and forced closures and public distancing really going to play out after a week or two?

Excellent computer models are one thing – reality, human nature, and desperation is quite another. Pandemic models must factor in important human variables as factors (considerations), in order to be fully useful, dependable, accurate and predictable, for example: level of fear, knowledge of what’s going on, number of children likely to stay home during forced school closures, travelers attempting to egress out of hot zones, etc.

Finally, I really got a chuckle about your article from India, which describes their surprise “night raids” by government authorities, on impoverished households to catch their chickens and ducks.

I think if this were to happen in the US, they would really have some evening newsworthy fire fights on their hands, with the good ‘ol boys in rural areas.



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