January 21 Flu Update
Three children are in the hospital in Indonesia with suspected bird flu.There's an avian outbreak in Turkey.The situation in India continues to deteriorate. There are reports of people eating sick birds or selling them at discounts, and yet the outbreak continues. Here, we see 5 people with bird flu symptoms...time will tell, often these are panic-induced. A seventh district in India is now effected.ProMed looks at the issue in India with some alarm. Note mod comment.
The extensive spread of H5N1 in India, reportedly involving very large number of small backyard holdings, is bad news, from the perspectives both of disease control and of potential infection in humans. The Indian authorities will have to make soon a decision between continuing the stamping-out policy and the possible implementation of mass vaccinations.A porous border between India and Bangladesh is part of the problem for bird flu.Random sampling of humans shows no human interaction with bird flu, according to report.Nepal has banned imports of Indian poultry.Today's most reflective story. Donald McNeil of the New York Times looks at the declining media coverage of the bird flu, and what is really going on today. Note Nabarro optimistic, Osterholm less so.
Dr. Paul A. Offit, a vaccine specialist at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, was one of those who, he jokes, “dared to be stupid” by bucking the alarmist trend in 2005.
“H5 viruses have been around for 100 years and never caused a pandemic and probably never will,” he said.
Progress on the virus sharing front. Apparently, more than 700 strains have been shared, and there is now a system in place to track viruses as they go through the system.Effect Measure blogs this report, noting progress but that some larger systems are still broken.Revere notes that whenever someone says the virus is stable, things are certain to go crazy.A poll in Canada says that people are worried about pandemic prep in that country.China says it still supports WHO (note yesterday's story about Taiwan being out of WHO meetings).The United Arab Emirates are strengthening their bird flu defenses.Article from Carnegie Mellon student paper on bird flu.
No Update Today
Events conspired to the contrary.
January 11 Flu Update
CIDRAP covers the firestorm over reported comments from OIE on whether pandemic risk was "overblown." Two notes--first, media reports differ on what he said. Second, regardless, here's what Dr. David Fedson says:
"The statement [suggesting the risk of a pandemic is minimal] ignores history," said Fedson, who also is on the IDSA's Pandemic Influenza Task Force. "The history is a pandemic coming out of nowhere in 1918 and causing great global disruption. . . . A statement like this, if people pay attention, has the practical effect of telling people they don't need to worry, they don't need to be prepared."
Fedson said infectious diseases have caused major die-offs in several mammalian species in recent years, and humans are subject to the same threats. For example, about a third of the lions on Africa's Serengeti Plain died of distemper virus in the early 1990s, and more than 50% of gorillas and chimpanzees have died of Ebola virus infection in this decade, he said.
"Given what we know of the capability of flu viruses in general and this virus in particular, we have to take it seriously and . . . prepare for a pandemic that could cause a very high mortality," Fedson said. "We have to recognize that we're as vulnerable as the gorillas and chimps."
CIDRAP on the recently reported illness in Indonesia.A Guam official was training for a pandemic in Hawaii.Welsh officials say they are workin' the plan.British officials say that the sick swans flew in from Europe during a December cold snap.There's more outbreak news from Vietnam.
This gives you an idea of the cultural battle to be fought with bird flu. Egyptians believe that it was god, not birds that killed people there. Mix in anti-government feelings, and you have trouble getting compliance.The Inspector General from the Department of Energy casts pandemic warning.Poultry farmers in Ireland are warned to be careful for bird flu.France elevates its flu threat level to moderate.
January 10 Flu Update
The Director General of OIE says that fears of bird flu were overblown.
Fears of a flu pandemic originating from the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus were overblown, the head of the World Organization for Animal Health said Thursday.Effect Measure weighs in with a thoughtful response on this statement.
The Paris-based body — an intergovernmental organization responsible for improving animal health worldwide — has been at the forefront of global efforts to monitor and fight H5N1, which scientists have tracked because they fear it may mutate into a human flu virus that starts a pandemic.
But "the risk was overestimated," said Bernard Vallat, director general of the animal health organization, also known as the OIE.
Vallat said the H5N1 virus has proved extremely stable, despite concerns that it could mutate into a form that could spread easily among humans.
"We have never seen such a stable strain," Vallat said.
The first part is that the virus is extremely stable, meaning in this context, stable in terms of changes that might turn it into an animal virus that becomes easily transmissible to and between people. Maybe Director General Vallat knows what those changes are. If he does he should tell the scientific community. I, for one, would certainly like to know. Without knowing that, how could be possibly know how stable the virus is? It does change and adapt. So it isn't stationary. Meanwhile, WHO's David Nabarro is singing a different tune.
Anybody has the right to shoot off their mouth without first engaging their brains. But the Director General of OIE isn't just anybody.
"Most countries have now focused on pandemic as a potential cause of catastrophe and have done some planning. But the quality of the plans is patchy and too few of them pay attention to economic and social consequences," he told BBC radio.Girl is hospitalized with bird flu in Indonesia.Two dead swans signal return of H5N1 to Britain.ProMed has this as well. ProMed follows up on Chinese and Pakistani human-human issues.Kerala, India, has a road map to fight bird flu.Trinidad and Tobago also have rules now to keep the flu out.Doc from the Peter Sandman lab writes letter to editor to Caribbean publication on errors in a story.Limestone, AL, asks if it is ready for the bird flu.A report is issued on 25 public meetings held on bird flu in Kansas City. Called "helpful."International Security publication looks bird flu, ready to "explode."In Benin, they are fighting bird flu with voodoo.Bangladesh has heightened concern over the bird flu.