Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bird Flu Spreads Fast Across The Planet

The BAD News And The GOOD News

CAMBODIA : 3 Year Old Girl Dies From Bird Flu In Cambodia

CHINA : 11 Now Confirmed Dead From Bird

JORDAN : First Cases Of Bird Flu Found In Turkeys

BERLIN : First Human Case Of Bird Flu Reported

MEXICO : Authorities Deny Bird Flu Outbreak On US Border

RUSSIA : 7.5 Million Birds Now Vaccinated Against Bird Flu

SOUTHERN RUSSIA : Claims Bird Flu Outbreaks Contained

INDIA : More Cases Of Infected Bird, Culls Of 75,000 Birds Reported

SHANGHAI : Bird Flu Suspected As Cause Of Woman's Death

INDONESIA : Eight People Tested, Under Surveillance For Bird Flu Infection

GREECE : More Cases Of Bird Flu Infections Reported

ROMANIA : More Bird Flu Infections Confirmed

ALBANIA : More Bird Flu Cases In Poulty Confirmed

JORDAN VALLEY : Birds Died Of Avian Flu Claims

CANADA : Banks, Insurance Companies Now Planning For Pandemic

WALL STREET, NYC : Contigency Plans In Place For Bird Flu Outbreaks


SLOVENIA : First Poultry Infections Suspected

PALESTINE : Virus Spreads To Gaza Strip

PAKISTAN : 'Red Alert' Raised After UK Confirms Test Results

AFGHANISTAN : Poultry Cull Begins To Fight Spread Of Virus

UKRAINE : Claims Virus Spread Now Contained, Quarantines Lifted

UNITED STATES : Fearing Bird Flu Virus Migration, Defences Are Readied

UNITED STATES : Government Orders Schools To Prepare For Pandemic

AZERBAIJAN : Five Young People Confirmed As Infected With Virus

EGYPT : Four Human Infections Reported

PAKISTAN : First Outbreak Of Bird Flu Now Spreading

RUSSIA : General Bird Flu Situation Worsening, 1.3 Million Birds Culled In Past Three Months

POLAND : Virus Confirmed In Wild Swans

SWITZERLAND : Virus Found In Central Stockholm

DENMARK : More Wild Ducks Found Infected

CAMEROON : Bird Flu Has Now Crossed Border

MYNANMAR : Rumoured Outbreaks

UNITED STATES : Health Secretary Tells Americans Not To Rely On Government For Help

KAZAKHSTAN : Bird Flu Cases Confirmed

ISRAEL : Virus Confirmed Found In Two Locations

MALAYSIA (NORTH) : Virus Outbreak Detected

Sorry, not as much GOOD News as I thought there was going to be. But the BAD News headline alone was far too alarming, and hopefully unnecessarily so.

The above stories are a major round up from the past few weeks of bird flu related stories. It was compiled this way to give an indication of the monumental spread of the virus across the planet, a perspective not readily clear in daily updates of new outbreaks in different countries. A listing of countries infected, as above, are few and far between in the media.

The above stories have been listed in date order of the stories' appearances in the world's media, starting with the most recent stories at the top of the page.

(Links have been checked, but some do drop out due to regional sites access availability, apologies if dead links have not been removed or updated)

Friday, March 24, 2006



Late last year, the World Health Organisation predicted a human pandemic of avian influenza could kill more than 140 million people. Two weeks back, an acclaimed virologist told ABC News in the US that a human pandemic could kill half the world's population, 2.5 billion people.

Another week, another estimate. This time....well, hardly any at all.

From The Sydney Morning Herald :

"Scientists have discovered why the H5N1 avian flu that is so lethal in birds has not spread easily among humans.

"Unlike flu viruses that are passed easily between people, H5N1 has a hard time attaching to cells in the nose, throat and upper airways. However, it readily attaches to cells deep in the lungs.

"This suggests that people need close and heavy exposure to the H5N1 virus for it to get into the lungs, where it can take hold. But once there, it causes extensive damage to the machinery of respiration - the cells and air spaces where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide.

"'For the viruses to be transmitted efficiently, they have to multiply in the upper portion of the respiratory system so that they can be transmitted by coughing and sneezing,' said Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the research team.

"People infected with the virus, which has spread from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, have had close contact with diseased birds. Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a pandemic strain that could become highly infectious and capable of killing many millions of people.

"'Our findings provide a rational explanation for why H5N1 viruses rarely infect and spread from human to human, although they can replicate efficiently in the lungs,' Dr Kawaoka and his team said in a report in the journal Nature.

"Dr Kawaoka and researchers in Japan infected human tissue with bird flu viruses. Their findings suggest that strains of H5N1 circulating in birds would have to undergo several key genetic changes to become easily transmissible in humans."

But those genetic changes haven't yet occurred, though there is still plenty of people who claim this could happen any day. The more we learn about the human form of avian influenza, the more it seems the panic may be completely unnecessary.

It's a dangerous virus, no doubt at all, but the rush to scare the living Christ out of people, and to spend billions of dollars on anti-virals, has become a shameful exercise and, more than likely, a terrible waste of money that could have been better spent trying to save the lives of people who are already dying from infectious diseases the world over. Millions and millions of people each year.

Monday, March 13, 2006



From the Your New Reality blog :

The UK's Independent newspaper has uncovered documents that prove US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made more than $US5 million from selling his shares in the bio-tech company that originally developed the Tamiflu drug, once considered a massive failure in the pharmacuetical marketplace.

Now manufacturers can't keep up with the orders still pouring in from all over the world.

When the United Nations started tossing out estimates of a global death toll reaching 150 million people from a bird flu pandemic last year, interest in Tamiflu shot through the roof, with the Health Minister eventually spending more than an estimated $140 million on anti-virals alone, including Tamiflu.

Around the world, more than 60 countries have brought up big on anti-virals. The grand total spent so far on drugs like Tamiflu is unknown, though it is already well beyond $US5 billion.

So how did Rumsfeld come to get so much cream from the global terror the threat of a bird flu pandemic has unleashed?

Tamiflu was developed through the early 1990s by Californian biotech company Gilead Sciences.

Rumsfeld served on the board of Gilead from 1988 to 2001, and became chairman in 1997. When he joined the Bush Administration as Defence Secretary, in 2001, Rumsfeld quit the board but retained a massive shareholding in the company.

The year before the bird flu fear campaign started, in 2003, Gilead Sciences posted a loss. All that changed over the course of the next twelve months.

The threat of a bird flu pandemic became an all-consuming world media focus, despite the virus only having clocked up a handful of human cases while viruses like AIDS was steadily killing, and infecting, millions.

In 2004, Tamiflu revenues shot up to more almost $US45 million, four times the value of the previous year when few were concerned about a bird flu pandemic.

In 2005, Tamiflu sales quadrupled again, clocking up more than $US160 million in revenue, with the share price storming up by more than 300%

Rumsfeld waited until 2004 before selling a chunk of shares, drawing capital gains of more than $5 million.

And that was in 2004, before the sales of Tamiflu rose by 400%.

According to The Independent, the financial disclosure report Rumsfeld is obliged by law to file every year showed he still retained some $US25 million worth of shares, at the end of 2004.

As the share price has since soared mightily, the value of those shares are expected to have risen dramatically. By just how much won't be revealed until Rumsfeld files another financial disclosure report in May this year.

Go here for the full story from the UK's 'The Independent' newspaper.

From the New York Times :

"Right now, there are 105,000 ventilators, and even during a regular flu season, about 100,000 are in use. In a worst-case human pandemic, according to the national preparedness plan issued by President Bush in November, the country would need as many as 742,500.

"To some experts, the ventilator shortage (a machine to pump oxygen into the lungs) is the most glaring example of the country's lack of readiness for a pandemic.

"'This is a life-or-death issue, and it reflects everything else that's wrong about our pandemic planning,' said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. 'The government puts out a 400-page plan, but we don't have any ventilators and there isn't much chance we're going to get them.'

"Families are going to be told, 'We have to take your loved one off the ventilator even though, if we could keep him on it for a week, he might be fine....How do you think that's going to go over? It's going to be a nightmare.'"

Sunday, March 12, 2006



Russian scientists are now warning there remains only a few steps of mutation before the H5N1 becomes infectious in humans.

In Russia, in the space of only one month, more than 800,000 birds have been slaughtered to stop the spread of bird flu amongst poultry stocks in the southern regions of the country.

President Vladimir Putin has called for the establishment of a bird flu crisis centre following reports of three new outbreaks.

Russia claims it has developed two new vaccines that should prove effective against the H5N1 bird flu strain, with the government set to buy some 100 million doses from domestic producers.

Russian scientists now say it is only a matter of time before the virus mutates further and begins to infect and spread amongst human populations.

Go here for a report from The Hindu.
Do What The Big Chicken Tells You

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In China, a man hired by the government takes to the streets to spread the word on bird flu prevention.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cook, Cook, Cook That Chook

Pink Meat? Bad Meat

It's Not Bird Flu Safe...Until It's Yellow

The above poster is popping up in Hanoi, Vietnam, warning that chicken meat is only safe when it is boiled to all buggery. Apparently the poster says that pink chicken meat is dangerous, and that advice is now coming from World Health Organisation as well.

How long does it take to boil chicken until it turns yellow? A good half hour, apparently.

(BoingBoing for the heads up, StickyRice for the original posting)