Friday, June 13, 2008

June 12 Flu Update

Today's big news--all over the place--about a vaccine from Baxter that shows promise. CIDRAP reports.

In an accompanying perspective article in NEJM, Peter F. Wright, MD, cites the introduction of a cell-culture–derived flu vaccine as perhaps the most important innovation represented by the Baxter report. Conventional egg-based technology requires decisions in February concerning the next season's vaccine strains, he notes. But with cell-culture vaccines, "this schedule could be altered to permit incorporation of late-emerging threats."

A graphic accompanying Wright's commentary indicates that cell-culture technology would permit mass production of a vaccine within 12 weeks from the time a pandemic flu virus is identified, versus 22 weeks for egg-based technology.

CIDRAP reports. More H5N1 found in Hong Kong, where ALL market poultry were culled.

Reports now say that poultry traders may have ignored warning signs about H5N1.

Indonesia has now told WHO that it will announce bird flu deaths as they occur.

Arkansas professor reflects on a pandemic in light of their state's recent brush with non-H5N1 bird flu.

Effect Measure has an excellent story on Indonesia and its reporting issue. Crofsblog is a similar blog to this one, with more commentary. He noted that Indonesia stopped giving OIE reports (outbreaks on avian outbreaks) quite a while ago. Revere comments on the Crofs post. All relevant links are in this post--make sure you read the comments, too.

Chambersburg PA has a public discussion on pandemic flu.

The pandemic conversation also continued in Arkansas.

Surveillance shows no bird flu in Canadian wild birds.

Here's a UNICEF bird flu resource page....

Finally, the EU released an expert opinion on bird flu, noted here via ProMed. Excellent state of the virus type stuff, medium level of science content.


At 6:23 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Your big news article about Baxter is quite fascinating. It is indeed an excellent piece of news, even though there are substantial issues remaining. For example: 1) use of a whole –virion vaccine (versus reverse genetic engineering) could have safety implications and side effects for small children; 2) large scale production safety issues, accidental release of the virus and within a closed-biosecure-system; 3) inability to use the whole virus for seasonal vaccines; 4) current virus manufacturing process are not based on this approach, and 5) insufficient manufacturing capability exists in the entire world to make effective vaccines in enough quantities to protect people if a pandemic emerged tomorrow (or even in the next couple of years for that matter).

While I applaud this significant effort, and the news, it really just gives us another tiny step closer toward real preparation: we seem to be able to make the technological breakthroughs required to develop a viable pandemic vaccine, but we sadly have not actually developed the capability to produce any pandemic vaccine in sufficient large enough quantity to make an impact.

On the topic of Indonesia now asserting that they will report human bird flu deaths to the WHO, as they occur… time will tell. These days, absolutely nobody can predict what Indonesia and its psychotic/schizophrenic health minister will do: she says one thing to the local news media, religious and government leaders, and tells the rest of the universe something opposite. But as Revere and Crof. both point out, Indonesia hasn’t reported any bird flu outbreaks in their poultry to the OIE (which is not a UN agency – they are only affiliated) in over two years. Everyone has to assume at this point that every square inch of Indonesia turf is infected with some form of H5N1, and most of the mammals (including humans) may have been infected or be hidden hosts or vectors, also.

I guess a simpler way to refer to uncooperative countries like Indonesia and China, who perpetually mislead and obfuscate human disease outbreaks, epidemics and H5N1 infestation facts, is to call them what they really are: potential or likely “ground zero zones”. They are both areas on our planet for smart travelers to avoid.

Nobody could pay me to visit either of these countries, even if they gave me a free first class plane ticket and five star hotel accommodations. Both places are hotbeds harboring extremely high health risks in my view. (But of course, so is down town LA and Washington DC and Miami – and I avoid those places too: you could get shot for just looking at someone wrong or picking your nose with the wrong finger, which somebody might mistake for a false gang-sign). Until Indonesia and China’s governments start reporting their disease outbreaks in a truly open and honest manner, and on a timely basis to the WHO and the tourist community, I’d rather walk around with a metal umbrella in a lightning storm.



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