Tuesday, May 23, 2006




Buried way down in this informative, concise update on the human bird flu virus deaths in Indonesia and Iran, we found some very important information.

(It is important because if the man involved turns out to have been infected with a pandemic form of the bird flu virus, then it may already be spreading rapidly through at least one region in Sumatra, Indonesia)

Just over a week ago, a 32 year old Sumatran man watched his ten year old son die from bird flu.

He was interviewed at his home by unknown health officers (presumably locals) on May 17. He had a high fever and was given traditional treatment.

On May 18, the man refused treatment, and quarantine, at a local hospital. He was prescribed the antiviral Tamiflu. Then he fled his village.

He was found sometime on May 21, samples were taken from the man and he died on his way to hospital on May 22. The tests to see if he had been infected with the H5N1 virus were declared positive yesterday.

For at least 72 hours, this man was on the run and was dying from the H5N1 virus, which he presumably caught from his son, or one of the other five members of his family who died from the virus the week before.

Neither the man, or any other member of his family, are believed to have had contact with sick or dead birds.

There has been no official word yet on just where this infected man travelled, and with whom he had contact during those three days on the run.

Should it turn out that the man was carrying a form of avian influenza that can spread more easily, and more rapidly, between humans, then we might be looking at the first week of the long-dreaded human bird flu pandemic.

The World Health Organisation has stated that the virus can be spread from human to human during close contact, closer than strangers or neighbours may interact.

Where human deaths have occurred in Indonesia before, involving members of the same family who had no contact with infected birds, the presumption has been that in caring for the sick, when the virus can "live" outside the body for hours, the other family members have become infected simply by their proximity to the infection.

The World Health Organisation has a little publicised 'Pandemic Alert', comprising of six levels. It is currently set at level three. This indicates "a new flu virus subtype is causing disease in humans, though not yet spreading efficiently and in a sustainable way among people."

Thirteen people have died from the bird flu virus in May alone.

According to Bloomberg.com : Limited human-to-human transmission can't be ruled out as the cause of illness in seven members of an Indonesian family with avian influenza this month, Indonesia's Ministry of Health said yesterday. Six of the people died. Investigators haven't found infected poultry or pigs near where they lived.

Officials from the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined local authorities last week on the Indonesian island of Sumatra to try to pinpoint how the people became infected with H5N1 in the past month. Virus samples isolated from infected family members are also being analyzed.

With no animal identified as yet as the source of infection, this cluster raises the suspicion of human-to-human transmission. It warrants further urgent investigation, especially of people who may have come into contact with the infected people.'

Two-thirds of the 200 or so people around the world who have been infected with the H5N1 virus have died shortly afterwards. This points to the strong likelihood that pandemic bird flu would be an extremely deadly virus, to which humans have no natural immunity.

The H5N1 virus has killed two-thirds of those confirmed to be infected this year, prompting fear that a pandemic form of avian flu would be extremely lethal.

People have no natural immunity to H5N1.

Boy May Have Passed Deadly Flu To Dad

A Plan For Flu, Without The Fear

World Health Organisation Shocked By Sudden Death Of Pandemic Bird Flu Chief


From The Houston Chronicle :
For months, the warnings have been relentless: Bird flu could jump species and kill tens of millions of people, a pandemic to rival the 1918 Spanish flu. Economies would collapse and governments risk catastrophe if they don't put together elaborate contingency plans.

Not everyone is convinced, however.

"It's a great story, a disease that can wipe out mankind as we know it," says Dr. Gary Butcher, a University of Florida veterinarian specializing in avian diseases.

"Fortunately, the facts are contrary to what's being reported. This disease is going to fizzle out, be forgotten in the near future and be replaced by another 'potential worldwide threat."

That view may have received a boost last week when the United Nations' chief pandemic flu coordinator confirmed that the flu virus known as H5N1 largely has been contained in the Asian countries where it first hit.

Public health officials were quick to warn it would be premature to declare victory.

Contrarians such as Butcher say (the hype) is all a bit much, considering that some experts doubt the current lethal form of the virus will ever jump to humans.

Bird flu, they argue, is just the latest in a line of overhyped scares that include anthrax, West Nile virus, smallpox and SARS, which taken together claim a mere fraction of the lives lost every year to, say, pneumonia.

One reason some remain unconvinced of the new virus's potential transmissibility is because it has infected so few people to date. Since 1998, hundreds of millions of chickens in Asia have been infected with the virus. Millions of people lived with the diseased birds, but, as of last Friday, 217 had become infected. Of those, 123 died.

Some critics see a different "agenda" behind the public concern about bird flu funding. Butcher says President Bush's $7.1 billion flu pandemic plan means a bonanza of grant money for researchers and the justification of the budgets and existence of agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Health Organization.

Some mostly just wish the money wasn't being directed so single-mindedly to the new virus.

With nearly 150 different strains of flu viruses with the potential to cause a pandemic, New York University School of Medicine internist Dr. Marc Siegel said he'd like to see more effort aimed at general pandemic preparation, such as developing better methods for making vaccines, and less given to panic-inducing rhetoric.

The whole story is worth a read.

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