Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 18 Flu Update

The Indonesian Health Minister says bird flu cases over the last six months in the country are down.

Hong Kong health officials says that due to government intervention, there is little risk of human bird flu in that country.

Surveillance shows that Alaska, a migratory pathway, is free of bird flu.

The EU has relaxed the bird flu protection zone in Britain.

CIDRAP on the comments of David Nabarro yesterday on improved pandemic prep with a remaining threat.

Bird flu ruled out in swan death in Wales.

Canadian Letter to Editor chides newspaper for mixing up antivirals and vaccines.

Bedford TN is lauded for its bird flu plan.

Action! Bird flu plan in Nepal begins.

The Chamber of Commerce in Cadiz, KY, heard a pandemic flu talk.

There was also a pandemic drill in Maryland.


At 6:28 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


I believe there is a real credibility issue with the statements of Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari in your very first article. Her contention that, “in the last six months the number of cases of bird flu on human beings in Indonesia had declined significantly”, is certainly an attempt at spin control on her part to frame her country in a better light, and to draw away attention from their H5N1 pathetic situation. Maybe their government bird reporting is on lock-down, but their bird flu illnesses haven’t slowed one bit. According to local news media translated reports, the human cases still keep on rolling in to local clinics and hospitals - then they mysteriously evaporate once their health department officials reporting to her get involved. (As a side note: notice also that she gives no credit or attribution to the US in her remarks, it seems that only Australia, Germany, India and China are “supportive” of their efforts).

The Hong Kong article statements, on the contrary, appear quite credible based upon their past history of effective bird flu containment and competent health authority actions.

I find the “Alaska Report” about the scientists there who are testing for avian influenza, rather perplexing… what exactly do they mean when they say, “there are strains of avian flu here, but not of the deadly stuff” ? Do they mean just H5N1, or do they also mean the whole array of threats: H1N1, H2N2, H3N2, H7N7, H1N2, H9N2, H7N2, H7N3 or H10N7, or are they referring to any LPAI viruses, regardless of subtype ? LPAI has been found in various locations throughout North America, for over thirty five years, particularly in the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and in Canada. Just because an avian virus is LPAI doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. All influenza viruses have a relatively high mutation rate that is characteristic of RNA viruses. It only takes one amino acid substitution to cause an avian flu virus that is not previously pathogenic in humans, to cause a human pandemic.

The real danger is that LPAI H5N1 can be transmitted to domestic poultry, then mutate into a highly pathogenic strain. In fact all confirmed LPAI H5 and H7 avian influenza subtypes must be reported to the OIE because of their potential to mutate into highly pathogenic strains. H5N1 has already mutated into dozens of highly pathogenic strains, but some of them do not cause significant disease in wild birds, while other infected birds shed the virus for very long periods of time before they eventually die. If H5N1 reassorts, it can still remain an H5N1 subtype, or it could shift subtype completely, like H2N2 shifted to H3N2 (the Hong Kong flu).

And, as to why Alaska scientists haven’t found any “infected birds” ? I truly doubt that the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea have acted as natural barriers – more likely due to defective testing procedures (nasal versus butt swabs), asymptomatic conditions, or simply due to the fact they are testing in the wrong migratory geographic region, is more my guess. Who knows… LPAI H5N1 HAS been found already in several states throughout the US for thirty five years, so how is it getting here?(I doubt it is by magic) – it must have circumvented Alaska, via a different route or other means.



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