Tuesday, April 08, 2008

April 7 Flu Update

Bird flu outbreak reported in Tibet.

Culling begins in region in India.

More on outbreaks in Vietnam.

CIDRAP on new outbreaks in Asia.

The Indian poultry sector is looking for a little economic relief.

CIDRAP on previously reported dead Egyptian.

Vaccine testing continues in Vietnam, as 10 people take the second dose.

According to ProMed, the French Swans was a false alarm.

Planning is going on in Qatar.

IT WILL take 10 years to provide enough vaccines to treat 20% of the world’s population if bird flu becomes seriously endemic, an expert told an awareness session for healthcare workers organised by the National Health Authority (NHA) yesterday.

Imagine this: "So, what do you do for a living." "Well, I work at Colorado State University and I'm going to Vietnam soon, and I'm going to plant clams in waterways to check for bird flu. How about you?" "I'm a financial planner."

Its now easier to detect fake Tamiflu.


At 6:04 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Interesting set of articles today – all over the board. Probably the most fascinating is the Rocky Mountain News piece about the Colorado State University scientists who are flying to Vietnam to place fresh water clams in the waterways, to see if they can spot the H5N1 viruses in their tissues. Why just limit the clam study to the bird flu virus ?

Just a random thought here, but what they should also be checking for are traces of other pharmaceutical compounds (i.e. Oseltamivir), and other medications. Scientific studies have shown that even trace amounts of drugs, such as antibiotics and heart medications, are linked to mutations in fish, and the long term exposure to humans and animals are unknown. No doubt in my mind that if the scientists also planted some clams in the waterways in China and Indonesia – they’d have to put the clams on life support due to the amount of drugs and viruses in their tissues – the contaminants would probably register off-scale.

Your Qatar article about the intensive pandemic emergency planning going on in that country is also quite interesting, from a philosophical standpoint. I don’t think the world has the luxury of ten years to produce enough vaccine to treat 20% of the world’s population. Even though many scientists are beginning to question whether H5N1 will become the deadly pandemic that was predicted several years ago (I know, heresy being expressed here), since it has had trillions and ka-zillions of opportunities to evolve, and has failed to do so – we still have several H5N1 endemic toxic zones in the world – namely, China, Indonesia, Egypt, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. If a pandemic breaks out, it will most likely be in one of these countries. The only bulwark, in my view, preventing the virus from acquiring pandemic characteristics, has been the massive blanket use of Oseltamivir.

Once the virus becomes efficiently resistant to Tamiflu (and it will eventually I believe), then the waiting game is over and those countries that have stockpiled a pre-pandemic vaccine will have to resort to actual human inoculation programs to protect their citizens. No more drug blankets. And this will raise another interesting issue when the time comes: vaccination policies for H5N1 in all countries will present a major health challenge, just like the 1975 swine flu debacle did decades ago in the US: because of herd immunity, if a sufficient proportion of any population is believed to be already immune, either naturally or by vaccination, then even the slightest risk associated with vaccination by others will be perceived to outweigh the risk from infection. Large numbers of people will balk and refused vaccination. As a result, individual self-interests (refusals) might preclude complete eradication of the H5N1 pandemic disease.

Then what happens, do we perhaps end up having regional or localized “super epidemics” ?



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