Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thursday, January 09, 2014

First North American Bird Flu Death Of 2014

From ABCNews
The first person to die of the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus in North America had just returned from China, Canadian authorities have confirmed.

Officials said the victim, whose gender and other details were withheld to protect the family's privacy, had recently returned from a trip to Beijing.

He or she died in Canada's western plains province of Alberta.

Canada's health minister Rona Ambrose said it was the first known instance of someone in North America contracting the virus and stressed it was an "isolated case".

"I want to reassure the public this is an isolated case and the risk of H5N1 to Canadians is very low," Ms Ambrose said.

Full Story Here

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One Sneeze Could Infect 150 People

An indication of just how fast and easily the bird flu virus could spread between humans in crowded cities if it ever turns pandemic :

A single sneeze in a busy area can end up infecting 150 people with a cold in just five minutes, new research suggests.
An analysis of the germs unleashed from a single commuter's sneeze showed that within minutes they are being passed on via escalator handrails or seats on trains and underground carriages.

At the busiest stations, one sneeze not smothered by a tissue or handkerchief will provide enough germs to infect another 150 commuters.

Dr Roger Henderson, a specialist in colds and flu, investigated how germs released by a sneeze would spread.

A single sneeze expels 100,000 droplets of germs into the air at 90mph. Individual droplets get transferred to handles, rails and other areas frequently held or touched. Up to 10 per cent of all commuters will come into contact with an area infected by that one sneeze, Dr Henderson calculated.

In the busiest areas, such as underground station escalators, this amounts to about 150 people during rush hour, he said.

How Many Actually Died During 2009-2010 Bird Flu Pandemic?

From New York Review of Books :

To the Editors:

Helen Epstein’s article “Flu Warning: Beware the Drug Companies!” [NYR, May 12] contains a significant factual error. It states that worldwide the death toll from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic was 18,000. In fact, as the World Health Organization has tried, but apparently failed, to make clear, that number represents only laboratory-confirmed cases, and these numbers are a small fraction—possibly a tiny fraction—of the true death toll.
In the United States, there were 2,117 laboratory-confirmed deaths, yet the Centers for Disease Control estimate actual deaths in the US alone at between 8,870 and 18,300. Applying similar multiples to laboratory-confirmed cases around the world would yield 72,000 to 162,000 deaths. But that number, since it is still based on confirmed cases, still understates the deaths by a wide margin. Few countries—and none in the developing world—devoted much resources to testing cases. In many countries there were so few laboratory-confirmed cases that the number is meaningless. All of Africa had only 168 laboratory-confirmed deaths.
In addition, since the people who died were much younger than is normally the case from influenza, in terms of years of life lost the H1N1 pandemic was significantly more lethal than the raw numbers suggest.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

H7N9 Bird Flu Begins Killing People In China

Here we go again?

From the Daily Mail:
A deadly strain of bird flu previously unknown in people has begun to mutate into a form more likely to cause a human pandemic, scientists say.
Just days after authorities in China announced they had identified cases of H7N9, flu experts in laboratories across the world are picking through the DNA sequence data of samples isolated from patients to assess its severity.

One of the world’s top flu experts, Ab Osterhaus, from the Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands, says the sequences show some genetic mutations that should put authorities on alert and entail increased surveillance in animals and humans.

'The virus has to a certain extent already adapted to mammalian species and to humans."

The Full Story Is Here 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yes, They Did

If this pandemic-ready flu virus did escape.....well, let's just hope it doesn't.

From the Daily Mail :
A group of scientists is pushing to publish research about how they created a man-made flu virus that could potentially wipe out civilisation.

The deadly virus is a genetically tweaked version of the H5N1 bird flu strain, but is far more infectious and could pass easily between millions of people at a time.

Virologist Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands lead a team of scientists who discovered that a mere five mutations to the avian virus was sufficient to make it spread far more easily.

He conducted his tests on ferrets as the animals have become a model of choice for influenza and have similar respiratory tracts to humans.

Paul Keim, chairman of NSABB, said: 'I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one. I don't think anthrax is scary at all compared to this."

Nature couldn't get it right. So we had to give it a helping hand.
Unfortunately, we're back.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hong Kong Preparing For Bird Flu Pandemic Outbreak?

A Rense reader notes that warnings and signs of preparations to stop the spread of bird flu are all over Hong Kong right now, including electronic billboards, disinfectant and hand cleaners for the public in hotels, elevator buttons covered in plastic and cameras that can detect human fever at seaports and airports.

Carcasses of chickens from bird flu-infected poultry farms outside Hong Kong have reportedly been showing up in the city's waters.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Obviously, by the lack of updates, this blog is on a hiatus for the time being.

One of the better sites for bird flu related news is this one :

Bird Flu Breaking News


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hong Kong : All Chickens Must Die

From Bloomberg :
Hong Kong ordered the slaughter of all chickens in the city's markets and retail outlets after the H5N1 bird flu virus was detected in three more markets.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus has been found in four markets since the first outbreak last week, the government said at a press briefing today. Hong Kong banned poultry imports from mainland China and suspended exports from local farms for as long as 21 days on June 7.

Public health officials' concerns about a worldwide outbreak of lethal influenza among humans have risen as the H5N1 virus spreads among birds from Asia to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The deadly strain may spark a global outbreak if it mutates to become as infectious to humans as seasonal flu.

The government has stepped up efforts to halt the spread of the virus after ordering the culling of 2,700 chickens from nine stalls at the Po On Road Market on June 7. The virus was detected in bird feces, and no animal or human deaths have been linked to the disease, the government said.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Test On Bird Flu And Human Flu Virus Hybrids Show They're Compatible

We are told the pandemic will most likely begin when a bird flu virus, like H5N1, enters a human body and comes into contact, and shares genetic information, with a virulent strain of human flu.
New research indicates the two viruses will fit together very well, but the research also raises doubts on the likelihood of a bird flu virus ever becoming so virulent amongst humans as to cause a pandemic :
An experiment mating H5N1 avian flu viruses and a strain of human flu in a laboratory produced a surprising number of hybrid viruses that were biologically fit, a new study reveals.

And while none of the offspring viruses was as virulent as the original H5N1, about one in five were lethal to mice at low doses, showing they retained at least a portion of the power of their dangerous parent.

The work suggests that under the right circumstances - and no one is clear what all of those are - the two types of flu viruses could swap genes in a way that might allow the H5N1 virus to acquire the capacity to trigger a pandemic. That process is called reassortment.

"This study is just showing exactly that: There is a risk this virus can successfully reassort with a human virus," said Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization's collaborating centre for influenza research at St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

"The problem is we don't know at this stage whether there's a benefit to these H5N1 viruses in doing that."

Nor can anyone say why, if the viruses swapped genes so readily in the laboratory, that hasn't seemed to have happened in the parts of the world where H5N1 has been circulating for years.

Reassortment is one of two ways in which a pandemic virus can evolve. The other is for a bird virus to acquire a number of mutations that allow it to more easily infect people and transmit among them.

The latter, called adaptive mutation, is thought to be the way the 1918 Spanish flu virus emerged. The viruses responsible for the milder pandemics of 1957 and 1968 arose through the mixing of human and avian flu virus genes.

This work, done at the CDC, was conducted to study the reassortment potential of H5N1 and H3N2 viruses. H3N2 is one of two human influenza A viruses that cause disease during flu season.

Reassortment studies can be done one of two ways. One involves simultaneously infecting cells with the two viruses and seeing what nature produces. The other involves making viruses by piecing together combinations of synthesized human and avian genes.

"It's like Lego," Donis, head of the molecular virology and vaccines branch, says of this approach, which was the one used for this study.

But this is a game of Lego where it's not clear from looking at the pieces which will go together into a structure that will hold. "We really don't understand the rules of engagement for playing the Legos. We don't know what makes these things connect well or not connect well," he admits.

Is the general thinking wrong then on the potential likelihood of H5N1 becoming pandemic, and killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people? We are told, most often by World Health Organisation spokespeople, that a bird flu pandemic amongst humans is not a case of if, but when. But what if it's a case of "not likely"?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Elderly, Sick, Demented To Be Left To Die During Pandemic

The list of people who will be denied medical care during a full blown bird flu pandemic is long, and varied. The potential of a purposeful culling by care denial of the elderly and sick by regimes around the world is huge, and troubling.

From Raw Story :

Doctors know some patients needing lifesaving care won't get it in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The gut-wrenching dilemma will be deciding who to let die.

Now, an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn't be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia.

The proposed guidelines are designed to be a blueprint for hospitals "so that everybody will be thinking in the same way" when pandemic flu or another widespread health care disaster hits, said Dr. Asha Devereaux. She is a critical care specialist in San Diego and lead writer of the task force report.

The idea is to try to make sure that scarce resources — including ventilators, medicine and doctors and nurses — are used in a uniform, objective way, task force members said.

To prepare, hospitals should designate a triage team with the Godlike task of deciding who will and who won't get lifesaving care, the task force wrote. Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:

  • People older than 85.

  • Those with severe trauma, which could include critical injuries from car crashes and shootings.

  • Severely burned patients older than 60.

  • Those with severe mental impairment, which could include advanced Alzheimer's disease.

  • Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes.

If followed to a tee, such rules could exclude care for the poorest, most disadvantaged citizens who suffer disproportionately from chronic disease and disability...

The list of those who would be denied medical care, due to rationing, is very similar to lists drawn up by countries like Australia, the UK and a number of South East Asian countries. The World Health Organisation is expected to endorse such a list in its pandemic preparatory literature and guidelines.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bird Flu Spread Leads To Calls To Seal India-Bangladesh Border

If such action is taken, this will be the biggest, and most costly, border closure due to the spread of the H5N1 virus so far.

As deadly as the virus has proven to be in poultry populations, dealing with outbreaks is proving to be an extremely costly business for governments. Sealing borders will only be done when the potential financial losses from likely outbreaks are shown to vastly outweigh the monstrous losses and costs that would result from closing the border between India and Bangladesh.

From NDTV :
''Unless the border is sealed, it is not possible to control the spread of the virus and it is hard to believe that there is no movement across the border. The border is too porous,'' said Mrinmoy Burman, assistant director of Animal Resource Development Department.

''The areas affected are all bordering Bangladesh. If Bangladesh doesn't take this up immediately, it will affect us very badly. There is fear psychosis now,'' said D C Das, SDM Sadar, Agartala.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bird Flu Virus Found Spreading In Dogs

Excerpts from Bloomberg story, April 2 :
A bird flu virus that killed dogs in South Korea can spread from one dog to another, showing that the disease is capable of crossing species and causing widespread sickness in mammals, a study found.

A cocker spaniel and a miniature schnauzer were among dozens of dogs in South Korea sickened by an H3N2 strain from birds, researchers said in a study published in the May issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. Viruses taken from the sick canines were used in an experiment later to see if pathogens were capable of spreading from dog to dog.

The findings add to scientific understanding of how flu viruses evolve in animals and the risks they pose to humans. A separate bird flu strain called H5N1 has killed 236 people worldwide by spreading primarily from birds to humans. If a deadly H5N1 strain evolved like the strain in today's study to spread from one human to another, it could kill millions.

"Transmission of avian influenza A virus to a new mammalian species is of great concern because it potentially allows the virus to adapt to a new mammalian host, cross new species barriers, and acquire pandemic potential,'' the Korean researchers said.

Tests on specimens collected from three of the dogs showed they were infected with H3N2 viruses closely resembling those found in chickens and doves in South Korea in 2003. The pathogens may have been transmitted from birds to dogs fed raw, minced meat from infected ducks and chickens, the authors said.

Avian flu viruses are known to transmit to unrelated mammalian species only rarely, the researchers said. Bird- derived H7 and H4 flu viruses were reported in seals in the early 1980s, and the H5N1 bird-flu strain was found in a dog that fed on a duck infected with the virus in Thailand in 2004, according to the study.

Large cats, including tigers and leopards, kept in capacity and fed on infected poultry carcasses, have also been infected and developed severe disease. Almost two of every three human H5N1 cases were fatal, according to the World Health Organization.

Dogs may be more susceptible to flu strains carried by birds because both canines and birds share a type of virus- binding site in their respiratory systems that is less common in humans.

The bird-like H3N2 virus may be capable of spreading between dogs because it was excreted in nasal discharges and caused sneezing of experimentally infected beagle puppies, the study found. The virus wasn't active in their feces.

Evidence of avian flu in pet dogs "raises the concern that dogs may be become a new source of transmission of novel influenza viruses, especially where avian influenza viruses are circulating or have been detected,'' the authors said.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Indonesian Health Minister Claim That US Is Developing Bird Flu As BioWeapon Dismissed

Pakistan Official Confirms First Human To Human Spread Of H5N1

Indonesia's health minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, has been a thorn in the side of the World Health Organisation, and the pharmaceutical behemoths, refusing to hand over samples of Indonesian bird flu because she very reasonably fears that these strains will be patented and Indonesia will be forced to pay billions to access H5N1 vaccines in the future.

Supari has published a book called 'It's Time For The World To Change - The Divine Hand Behind Avian Influenza, and kicked up a small storm of controversy over her claims that avian influenza viruses were being 'weaponised' in American bioweapons labs. The book won an endorsement from Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Excerpts from an interview with Supari on AM :
Dr Supari expresses alarm at WHO laboratories sharing bird flu virus data with the United States national laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where nuclear weapons are developed.

"Whether they use is it to make vaccine or develop chemical weapons, would depend on the need and interest of the US Government. It is indeed a very dangerous situation for the destiny of humanity", she writes and goes on to say ".. it is a matter of choice whether to use the material for vaccines or biological weapon development".

SITI FADILAH SUPARI: I didn’t know whether our virus will be develop into a vaccine or will be develop into a biological weapon. So just a question - I didn’t blame United States, I didn’t blame any country.
Supari cops plenty back from the US government and the World Health Organisation :

The United States has rejected the Indonesian Health Minister's claims that it is using bird flu samples to produce biological weapons and World Health Organisation officials have condemned allegations of conspiring to profit from bird flu vaccines.

The Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is understood to have ordered the minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, to recall copies of her book on avian influenza, which alleges the US and the WHO are conspiring against developing countries by seizing control of bird flu samples.

WHO officials said they were dismayed by some of the claims and urged Dr Supari to do more to control bird flu's spread and end her refusal to share virus samples - which is hampering attempts to find a cure.

A US State Department spokeswoman, Susan Stahl, denied Dr Supari's claim that Indonesian virus samples had been sent to a biological weapons laboratory in Los Alamos. The laboratory possessed no bird flu viruses from Indonesia or elsewhere, she said.

The facility's only involvement was hosting a database of publicly available genetic-sequencing data to help track the evolution of the virus, she said.

The WHO's assistant director-general for Health Security, David Heymann, said he was puzzled by the claims.

"I don't understand why they would take this virus to make a biological weapon; it doesn't transmit from human to human. Indonesia needs to spend more time on dealing with infections with chickens and stopping humans from being infected."

Claims that H5N1 was a bioweapon have been aired since the virus reappeared in Hong Kong in 1997, and started killing humans along with markets full of poultry.

When the avian influenza virus began ravaging poultry farms in rural Russia in the early 2000s, a US bioweapons conspiracy theory gained popularity. It went like this : the deadly virus was a US bioweapon designed to knock out local poultry farms and open up the market to cheap American poultry imports, mostly chicken wings and legs, which Russian poultry farmers called "Bush Legs."

A senior Pakistan government official has claimed the world's first human to human transmission of the H5N1 virus occurred in Pakistan in November 2007 :
A man in northern Pakistan passed the deadly bird flu virus to two of his brothers, and the virus killed one of them, in the first known human-to-human transmission in Pakistan, a health official said Friday.

'It was definitely person-to-person. That is confirmed,' said Maqbool Jan Abbasi, Ministry of Health joint secretary. He said the World Health Organization confirmed by serological testing from a family in Peshawar, northwest of the capital Islamabad, three brothers had H5N1, the strain of avian influenza that can be deadly in humans.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Recent Bird Flu Deaths And Outbreaks

A short update to list the human deaths and new outbreaks missed here in the past two weeks :

Feb. 20 - Fresh Outbreak Of Avian Influenza Puts Vietnam On High Alert

Feb. 19 - China Announces 27th Victim Of H5N1

Feb. 18 - Bangladesh Culls More One Million Birds On 270 Farms In 43 Districts

Feb 17. - Indonesia Reports 105th Human Bird Flu Death

Feb. 17 - Indonesia Reports 104th Human Bird Flu Death

Feb. 15 - Bird Flu Virus Kills Third Person In Vietnam This Year

Feb. 15 - H5N1 Outbreak In Hong Kong

Feb. 13 - Most Districts In Bangladesh Fighting Bird Flu Outbreaks In Poultry

Feb. 12 - Bird Flu Returns To Laos
H5N1 In Thailand Mosquitoes

This dramatic development seems to have garnered little mainstream media attention :
Blood-engorged mosquitoes were collected at poultry farms during an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Central Thailand during October 2005. These mosquitoes tested positive for H5N1 virus by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Results were confirmed by limited sequencing of the H5 and N1 segments.

Infection and replication of this virus in the C6/36 mosquito cell line was confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR. However, transmission by mosquitoes was not evaluated, and further research is needed. Collecting and testing mosquitoes engorged with the blood of domestic or wild animals could be a valuable tool for veterinary and public health authorities who conduct surveillance for H5N1 virus spread.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bird Flu Scares "Are A Conspiracy To Make Money"

The former chairman of the Pakistan Poultry Association, Khalil Abbasi, isn't buying any of the talk about bird flu becoming a pandemic that could devastate humanity.

He has his own theories about what is going on :
“The bird flu hype is part of the media campaign of a US-based commercial enterprise, which has former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld as president. All of this is being done merely to boost the sales of its product ‘tami-flu’,” Abbasi alleged.

He said that the H5N1 (bird flu) virus was first detected in Scotland in 1960 and it still exists in Great Lakes area of the USA, but it was “overplayed” when it hit Thailand and other Asian countries. “Why are we assuming that the virus would turn ‘vicious?’ This is a fallacy because no human transmission has been reported so far in the world,” Abbasi said.

PPA chairman, Abdul Basit, said that since 2004, bird flu fears had caused losses worth billions of rupees to the poultry industry. This, he said, had resulted in the closure of 40 percent of farms. “Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs only due to ‘sensational news’ because no human infection has been found so far in Pakistan,” Basit said.

There are around 25,000 poultry farms in the country, employing over 1.5 million people with an investment of around Rs 200 billion. Approximately Rs 45 billion to Rs 50 billion worth of agricultural products and by-products are being used in poultry feed, the PPA chairman said, adding that the poultry crisis would ultimately compound the agricultural crisis.

A vaccine is available to effectively control the virus in birds, and effective use of this vaccine in Pindi, Islamabad and Abbotabad has controlled the disease in those areas. Karachi will follow suite soon, Basit said.

Basit read out a statement issued by Bernard Vallet, director-general of the Paris-based Animal Health Organization. Vallet said that the risks of bird flu were “over-estimated and fears of an imminent pandemic were non-scientific assumptions.”

One of the speakers at the press conference blamed the media for “over-emphasizing” the fears of bird flu. This led to a heated exchange between poultry and health officials and journalists present there.

Before Donald Rumsfeld became US Secretary of Defense, he brought shares in an American pharmaceutical company that helped in the development of Tamiflu. Rumsfeld still held those shares when the US government began talking up the threat of bird flu, primarily, in 2005.

Increased sales of Tamiflu in the United States, and around the world, saw Rumsfeld's shares generate millions of dollars in returns.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Headlines Round Up

A small round up of latest news :

West Bengal Hit By Bird Flu Outbreak

Bird Flu Outbreak Hits Pakistan

Bird Flu Outbreak In Thailand

150,000 Poultry Birds Culled In Saudi Arabia After Bird Flu Confirmed

India : Poultry Cullers Ordered Into Compulsory Quarantine

Fresh Outbreaks Of Bird Flu Reported In North Vietnam

Indonesia : Bird Flu Claims Fifth Human Life In Seven Days

Swans Dying From Bird Flu In UK
India : Dozens Isolated With Bird Flu Symptoms, Hundreds More Being Monitored

With cullers and health care workers in India sent into numerous 'hot zones' in the past two weeks to deal with bird flu outbreaks, and with many lacking even the most basic safety equipment (face masks, gloves) it was inevitable that some would end up catching the virus.

Indian authorities may be, and hopefully are, exercising extreme caution now, but holding dozens of people under quarantine, and monitoring hundreds more, you would expect that India will be announcing a number of human bird flu deaths in the coming days.

From Reuters :
India has put 26 people in isolation with bird flu symptoms and hundreds more people are being monitored, officials said on Friday as Pakistan and Thailand reported outbreaks of bird flu in poultry.

India is battling its worst outbreak of avian influenza, which has spread to 13 of West Bengal's 19 districts. The densely populated state is adjacent to Bangladesh, itself trying to control a major outbreak of bird flu, and has millions of backyard fowl.

This photo shows the extent of the problems regarding lack of information and education. These children are standing only a few feet back from where suited up workers are dealing with possibly H5N1 infected poultry :

More from the Reuters story :

In West Bengal, veterinary staff have culled 2.6 million birds, completing what officials said was a successful operation that had brought the bird flu situation under control.

The focus now is on hundreds of medical and veterinary workers and villagers who had come into close contact with dead or sick birds. Officials said health staff returning home after the culling operation had been asked to get themselves checked.

Dozens of isolation wards had been created in hospitals in the affected districts to handle any sudden rush of suspected human cases.

Health experts also worry about the situation in Bangladesh, a crowded country of 140 million people where bird flu has spread to nearly half of the country's 64 districts.

Livestock officials said bird flu was still spreading and had resurfaced in the Feni district southeast of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. The government has ordered culling of all chickens and ducks in one kilometre radius around affected farms.

The virus is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people reliant on the country's poultry industry and driving up food prices.

"Now we are facing a critical situation, as bird flu struck at a time when commodity prices from rice, flour to milk powder and edible oil had already nearly doubled," said Shahedul Alam, a government employee.

Egg exports from the world's second largest producer have dropped about 50 percent in the past two weeks, leaving the industry with losses of around $20 million, trade officials said.

India is now ground zero for a widespread human bird flu outbreak, or pandemic. How India deals with this crisis, and winds back the spread of the virus to more than 75% of the country, and whether or not such widespread exposure to the virus will result in many human victims, will tell us a lot about how serious bird flu may become in 2008, and how effectively current control measures and guidelines are for dealing with outbreaks.