Sunday, May 28, 2006




UPDATE : The World Health Organisation continues to deny there is a bird flu pandemic underway in Indonesia, claiming the rising tide of deaths and infections are "localised" and not spreading.

Another four suspected deaths in the last few days, but WHO is pushing the line that one of the most respected labs in the world for confirming the presence of H5N1 in samples (located in Hong Kong) is misreading the data, or that the samples collected have been contaminated.

One of the strangest possible sources of infection we've heard of so far is that of an Indonesian man who worked as a shuttlecock maker, which uses feathers from poultry. There is no confirmation that the man may have been infected from simply handling feathers, but it is already being floated in various media as a potentiality.

There is also more talk of a genetic vulnerability
to the H5N1 virus in humans. Meaning that a number of people can be exposed to someone dying of bird flu, but only those with the genetic disposition will catch the virus and get sick themselves.

This may lead to a mandatory DNA screening program if this theory pans out and there is a way of reading DNA to pick up the genetic anomaly.

Very, very curious indeed.

H5N1 has now killed the 18 year old brother of a West Java girl who also died of the same bird flu virus. They are reported to have died within hours of each other less than 24 hours after they were admitted to the Hasan Sdikin hospital in Bandung.

The WHO quarantine zone enforced around the village of Kubu Sembelang, in North Sumatra, where seven members of the same family died from bird flu has now been expanded to take in more than 50 people.

WHO officials claim that more than half of those quarantined are now on Tamiflu and none have shown symptoms of being infected with H5N1. The only people inside the quarantine zone who are not on Tamiflu are pregnant mothers, babies and small children.

A WHO official told Reuters, "What we're finding out the longer our team stays up in that area is that there are many, many outbreaks in chickens that always go unreported. Just in the past couple of weeks, they have found a couple of outbreaks of chickens dying in various villages in that area.

WHO now believe the virus was picked up by at least one family member from chickens because they have no other explanation for how else the family would have come to be infected.

WHO won't yet raise the Global Pandemic Alert level from Phase 3 to Phase 4 because no other humans who came into contact with the infected family members have shown signs of being infection.

Phase 3 translates as Human Infection : Rare Human To Human Transmission

Phase 4 translates as Human Infections : Small Clusters With Limited Human To Human Transmission, but during which the spread is highly localised.

There is good reason for the World Health Organisation to be reluctant to go with Phase 4.

When they officially confirmed that seven members of the same family had died of the bird flu virus, the Indonesian currency plummeted and stocks in airliners and travel companies plunged on fears of a pandemic cutting into airline industry profits, and of a general weakening of the Indonesian tourism industry due to decreased tourists, scared off by fears of the virus.

ROMANIA : At least 70 outbreaks of bird flu in chickens, and on poultry farms, in some 13 counties have now been confirmed by WHO. Some 35 more outbreaks are suspected and awaiting confirmation.

NIGERIA : The northern state of Kano has reported an outbreak of bird flu amongst poultry in at least one district. 16,000 bird have been destroyed on one farm to try and halt the spread to other farms.

RUSSIA : Three regions in Siberia have reported a total of eight villages reporting avian influenza in poultry and domestic birds.

Since February this year, more than 1.1 million birds have died from the virus in Russia, and more than 300,000 have been culled.

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