Sunday, April 30, 2006
The aivan influenza virus continues to spread throughout the world, infecting thousands of wild bird and poultry every week. Human infections and resulting deaths continue, with Indonesia and China the current major concerns for the World Health Organisation. The human mortality rate for bird flu is still over 50%.
RUSSIA : Human Bird Flu Vaccine Can Be Prepared In A Month After Pandemic-Ready Mutation Occurs
ISLAMABAD : 11 Farms Infected, 60,000+ Birds Slaughtered
CHINA: Denies Cover-Up Of Extent Of Bird Flu Cases, Confirms Eight Year Old Girl Infected
BALI : Ducks Test Positive For Avian Influenza
CZECH REPUBLIC : All Twelve Cases Of Infection Confirmed As Resulting From Dead Bird Flu Virus.
IVORY COAST : Bird Flu Discovered On Farms, Mass Poultry Slaughter To Begin
VIETNAM : Calls For $US400 Million To Continue Fight Against Bird Flu
A senior Russian official has predicted that a bird flu pandemic is highly probable in Russia this summer.
"The epicenter of the bird flu virus ... has shifted to Russia," Gennady Onishchenko, head of the Federal Consumer Protection Service, told a news conference Tuesday.
Unusually warm temperatures in the southern regions of Russia, combined with cooler-than-average weather in Iran and Turkey, have led migrating birds to nest in unlikely places this year, Onishchenko said.
"This explains early bird flu outbreaks in (the southern Russian republic) Dagestan and other locations in the Southern Federal District," he said.
Onishchenko also said uninfected migrating birds would arrive in Siberia and the Urals region by the end of April, and likely would become infected by the summer, RIA Novosti reported.
From the UK Independent : "Britain's defences against bird flu were last night exposed as ineffective, as chickens in two more farms in Norfolk were found to have a strain of the disease. The news came as an Independent on Sunday investigation revealed severe flaws in the Government's surveillance against the infection.
"The two new infected farms are in the same area, near Dereham, as Whitford Lodge Farm, Hockering, where 35,000 chickens are being slaughtered after the disease was found there last week. A worker caught a mild form of the bird flu."
MINIMUM SEVEN DAYS OF WATER AND FOOD STOCKPILES RECOMMENDED DURING PANDEMIC OUTBREAK
There's an interesting Bird Flu Q & A up on the Anchorage Daily News site. Questions focused around Alaska, which has long been expected to be one of the 'gateways' for the bird flu virus into the rest of the United States as a wide variety of migrating birds pass through the region.
Here's of the more interesting Questions and Answers, for the full thing go here.
Q. Are bird flu and a flu pandemic the same thing?
A. No. H5N1 bird flu primarily infects birds. In recent years, 204 people worldwide are known to have become infected; 113 died. The danger is if the bird flu virus mutates and becomes more easily transmitted from person to person. At that point, it could lead to a pandemic, which is a worldwide, rapid spread of the virus. All people would be susceptible, and death rates could be high.Q. Should I keep my cat inside all summer?
A. Domestic and larger wild cats have been infected with and died from H5N1 in other countries. There are no reports of people getting H5N1 from cats.
Because H5N1 is not here, there's no risk yet for an outdoor cat. Still, owners should discourage cats from going outside and catching wild birds because they carry a number of disease-causing bacteria that can affect cats, such as salmonella.Q. During a pandemic, state health officials might ask people to isolate themselves at home for a while to prevent spreading or catching the contagious flu virus. How many weeks of food and water should you stockpile for this time period?
A. Each person should have at least seven days' worth of food, water and other supplies on hand for any kind of emergency, be it an earthquake, storm or flu pandemic.
Pandemics, however, may last much longer than a one-time event like an earthquake. In that case, officials may ask people to prepare for longer periods of time. At the very least, they believe a seven-day stockpile is a good start.Q. Can the virus survive if it's frozen?
A. Yes. The H5N1 virus can survive if frozen and remains dangerous after thawing.Who knew bird flu could survive freezing condiitons? So presumably this means a migrating bird, infected with the avian influenza virus, could die pass through a frozen region of the world, hit the ground, be buried by snow or ice and then years later when the bird's body thaws, the bird flu virus could become active again. Very interesting.
Friday, April 28, 2006
The Wall Street Journal has reported that the human death toll from bird flu in China may be higher than the 12 people officially declared, by the central government, to be victims of the virus.
"A person familiar with the situation told the newspaper some local officials may have concealed suspected cases of avian flu.
'The central government was quite upset from receiving information late from local officials,' said the person, who had spoken with Chinese ministry officials. 'They weren`t happy.'
A Ministry of Health spokesman told the newspaper some hospitals have simply not reported severe pneumonia cases in which the cause is not known.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
NEW REPORT PRIMES EARLY DETECTION AS BEST WEAPON TO FIGHT HUGE DEATH TOLL AND MASSIVE FINANCIAL CHAOS
From The Guardian (UK) : "Within two months of the first pandemic flu case anywhere in the world, it would arrive in the UK. It would peak here two months later with countless thousands likely to have died, but the worst would be over within four months.
"That is the most likely scenario for a flu pandemic, according to results of the first computer simulation of how the virus would spread across the country.
"...the pandemic could be slowed if schools were closed and people living in the same household as those infected by flu also took anti-viral drugs.
"The government's current plans include ordering 14.6m courses of anti-virals by September, enough for a quarter of the UK population. There are plans to buy 120m doses of vaccine for whichever strain of flu ends up becoming a pandemic infection.
"...the computer model...built up a virtual population of UK inhabitants on a computer, and, using real data, simulated their interactions at work, school and in homes.
"The computer simulation showed that treating flu-stricken people would reduce transmission but only if anti-viral drugs were given quickly, within a day of the symptoms first appearing. Vaccines would also need to be available within two months of the start of the pandemic to have any major impact on the spread of the disease.
"Current government plans suggest the ill should be treated within 48 hours of developing symptoms. But this target might be shifted to offer treatment within 24 hours in light of the new models.
"....new technologies to spot outbreaks of disease early would dramatically cut death rates, avert the need for mass animal cullings and save billions of pounds in battling infectious diseases."
LACK OF ANTI-VIRALS WOULD FAIL TO HALT SPREAD OF THE VIRUS ONCE A PANDEMIC BEGINS
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer : "If pandemic influenza hits in the next year or so, the few weapons the United States has to keep it from spreading will do little, a new computer model shows.
"A pandemic flu is likely to strike one in three people if nothing is done, according to the results of computer simulation published in Thursday's journal Nature.
"If the government acts fast enough and has enough antiviral medicine to use as preventive dosings - which the United States does not - that could drop to about 28 percent of the population getting sick, the study found.
"Measures such as closing schools to halt breeding grounds and the use of the antiviral Tamiflu could reduce the disease's toll, Ferguson said. But efforts to stop flu from entering American borders - usually on planes with sick passengers - won't work, he said. At most, they can buy a couple of weeks of delay before the disease sets in, he said.
"If the United States were like Britain and had enough antiviral medicine for one quarter of the population to be used before people get sick, computer models show that the number of people getting sick would drop from about 102 million to about 84 million in America...
"Bill Hall, spokesman for Department of Health and Human Services, said his agency has 28 million courses of the antiviral (9.3 percent of the U.S. population), but acknowledged that on hand, there's only enough medicine for 5 million people (1.7 percent). The other 23 million courses are on order and should arrive by the end of the year. The plan is to have 81 million courses (27.1 percent) by 2008, he said.
"One course of treatment for people involves ten doses."The recurring theme to a lot of these computer modelling related articles, published around the world in the past few weeks, with more to come, is that anti-virals will help about ten to thirty percent of the population, with the rest going without. The major problem then is that those who aren't dosed up get it and spread it further, therefore increasing the scope of the pandemic once it gets going.
Plus, the pandemics being modelled seem to be lasting eight to twelve weeks, per wave, and the ten percent average of a major country's population who has access to anti-virals will only have enough for for a week or two, not the entire length of each wave of pandemic flu, or avian influenza.
And anti-virals are not a vaccine, they are only expected to reduce the systems, and the growth of the virus, once you're infected. When you are infected, even though you are on anti-virals and not getting sicker, you still might be able to carry the virus in a form that you could pass on.
LESS DEADLY STRAIN, BUT MORE CONTAGIOUS
35,000 BIRD SLAUGHTERED ON QUARANTINED FARM
A dead chicken was found yesterday on a British farm and has tested positive for a strain of avian influenza.
From The Guardian : "Officials have yet to determine how the birds may have become infected,
"Tissue samples and carcasses of dead chickens recovered from the farm were last night rushed to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey where scientists were working through the night to confirm the subtype of virus and whether it was a highly pathogenic strain.
"Veterinarians imposed immediate restrictions around the poultry farm prohibiting the movement of any produce on or off the site.
"....officials said last night that an H7 strain of avian flu was last detected in Britain in 1987. Outbreaks of H7 avian flu have since occurred throughout the world. In 2003, officials in the Netherlands ordered 31m birds to be culled after an outbreak of the H7N7 variant of bird flu. During the outbreak, 89 people became infected, most with flu-type symptoms or eye infections, although one vet working on the outbreak died from the infection after developing pneumonia.
"In 2002 a H7N2 avian flu virus struck poultry farms in Virginia, America, leading to the slaughter of 4m turkeys and chickens. The virus was eventually traced back to live bird markets in New York and New Jersey, where the virus was known to be endemic."From The Independent : "All of the 35,000 chickens at the farm will now be slaughtered, as bio-security measures are put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
"Tests are being carried out today to establish the exact strain of the virus but preliminary test results show that it was likely to be the H7 strain rather than H5N1, which has been responsible for the deaths of more than 100 people, mainly in Asia.
"...restrictions had been placed on the firm, and that further action may be taken when the additional laboratory results were known.
"Although hundreds of wild birds have been tested in the last few months, the swan in Fife remains the only case of H5N1 to have been discovered in the UK.
"While H7 versions of the disease can be highly pathogenic among poultry, and have crossed the species barrier to humans, outbreaks in people have been less serious than those of H5N1."
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
SO WHAT DO YOU THROW IN THE TROLLEY?
The US Government has all but had Bush do a national address and declare : "Here's your Bird Flu survival shopping list. Now go to it!"
There's a lot of talk in the American media about stockpiling food and water, enough for two weeks is the usual recommendation, but what exactly are the best items to stack under the stairs, just in case?
Forget the frozen pizzas and anything you might need to heat up in a microwave or oven. The push is for canned food, bottled water and meals you can prepare on a camp stove (if you remember to stockpile a camp stove, or gas up the barbecue cylinders, that is).
Ready To Eat meals, as used by the Military, can be useful, but they're not cheap, or readily available (yet)
A US newspaper went shopping with a dietician, here's the short list :
* Dried Fruit (good source of calories, vitamins)
* Canned tuna, salmon (protein)
* Canned chicken or meat (more protein)
* Jars of pasta sauce
* Big bag of dried pasta
* Big cans, or bags, of peanuts
* Biscuits, crackers
* Oatmeal or porridge
* Apple juice, sports drinks in large containers
* Water, couple of gallons a day per person
Go here for the full story.
For a family of four, enough food and water for two weeks, came out to more than $US270. That's a big ask for tens of millions of Americans who are barely scrapping by. But interestingly, if 50 million Americans went out and did that kind of stockpiling in the space of a month, a sudden burst of extra shopping, the American economy would boom.
Department of Homeland Security 'Be Prepared' sites also recommend this kind of stockpiling in case of pandemics, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and government-related disasters (as in, when there's a natural disaster, don't rely on the government to get help to you any time soon).
Saturday, April 22, 2006
FIRST TIME MAJOR MEDIA HAS AIRED THEORIES THAT BIRD FLU VIRUS SPEAD RESULTED FROM INTENSIVE POULTRY FARMING PRACTISES, RATHER THAN THE MIGRATION OF WILD BIRDS
The MSNBC media portal has today launched a major awareness and information campaign through its vast stretch of media outlets.
The full range of articles, interactive maps and video presentations aims to provide a balance between hosing down any rising panic, while at the same time spelling out clearly just how intense the risk of an avian influenza outbreak in birds and poultry actually is, and what would be the effects and societal damage from a full scale human bird flu pandemic.
The coverage is unique in its scope, but it is also the first time a major American news organisation has aired the rapidly solidifying theory that bird flu originated, and spread, through the volumic poultry farming industry, rather than "on the wing" of migrating birds.
From the main MSNBC site lead story : "The virulent H5N1 strain erupted in Asia and has now spread to Europe and Africa, killing or causing the slaughter of more than 200 million animals — and killing 110 people who had close contact with sick birds — since 2003. Health authorities worry that eventually this virus could become easily spread person-to-person, sparking a global epidemic.
"For birds, H5N1 already is an epidemic in much of the world, and authorities fear it could finally reach birds in North America sometime this year.
"H5N1 is most lethal to poultry, and outbreaks originated from chickens in China, not from wild birds..."The question is what role wild birds now play as the virus hops across continents. There’s growing suspicion that international smuggling of contaminated live poultry or poultry products, such as fertilizer, may be playing a bigger role."
Here's a selection of stories from the MSNBC coverage :
'SHOULD YOU FRET ABOUT BIRD FLU? THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN' - Interesting Q & A with 'acknowledged' bird flu experts. Readers were invited to sen in their questions, and a panel of three experts answer the Qs.
'SKEPTICS WARN BIRD FLU FEARS OVERBLOW' - Solid arguments about why the threat of a bird flu pandemic should not take precedence over such high death tolls concerns like heart disease and obesity, which are killing tens of thousands of Americans every year.
"Doomsday predictions about bird flu seem to be spreading faster than the virus itself. But a small group of skeptics say the bird flu hype is overblown and ultimately harmful to the public’s health.
"There’s no guarantee bird flu will become a pandemic, and if it does there’s no guarantee it will kill millions of people. The real trouble, these skeptics say, is that bird flu hysteria is sapping money and attention away from more important health threats.“'I have a bunch of patients coming in here who are more worried about bird flu than they are about heart disease,' said Dr. Marc Siegel..."
LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS BRACE FOR BIRD FLU - This story looks at how medical clinics of small to medium US cities would cope today if a bird flu pandemic broke out.
And the short answer is : Not good at all.
One staffer at a medical centre says it is more important to change medical liability laws than it is to stockpile antivirals, so that volunteer nurses could be brought in at short notice, but not be put off doing so for fear of being sued.
It's a chilling portrait of just how under-resourced the American health care system actually is. The concept of coping with an influx of millions of new patients, sick with bird flu, who would need medical attention, and even quarantine, is beyond the scope of the centres discussed in this story. They can barely cope with the everyday influx of new patients.
There's some interesting interactive maps charting the spread of the avian influenza virus and the migratory routes of wild birds in and out of the United States that are worth checking out.
Go here to access the main page of the MSNBC Bird Flu Special.
Friday, April 21, 2006
UP TO $50,000 A DAY PAYOUTS....WHILE YOU DROWN ON YOUR OWN MUCUS
That headline is not exactly accurate, but it was an inevitability that an insurance company, somewhere, would crunch the numbers and come up with a profit margin that made cashing in on the threat of an avian influenza pandemic worthwhile.
Small business and major corporations across Canada and the US are now examining what a bird flu pandemic would mean for their bottom line. The US government's pandemicflu.org site states that outbreaks during a pandemic could occur two or three times in a year, and last for six to eight weeks at a time, meaning that not only will offices and businesses be shut down, but staff will be told to stay home.
One World Health Organisation study put the costs of a worldwide pandemic at reaching towards $1 billion in losses to businesses.
From The Toronto Star : "A speciality insurance firm is set to launch a novel policy designed to pay up to $1.5 million to small business owners ordered to shut down because of the avian flu or another contagious outbreak.
"Payouts on the policy will range from $5,000 to $50,000 per day up to a maximum of 30 days, for a maximum total payout of $1.5 million.
"The cost of the premiums is being finalized...Payouts would be premises-specific...That means to qualify for coverage, a business would have to be specifically ordered to shut down by a public health official or another independent, third party (for quarantine reasons).
"For instance, if four people working in an office on the 57th floor of First Canadian Place turn out to have avian flu, and the office is closed and placed under quarantine, that business would be covered.
"More than 13,000 Toronto residents were placed under quarantine in 2003 because of potential exposure to two cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, known as SARS."
Thursday, April 20, 2006
"Eighty per cent of all common illnesses are spread by hand to mouth, nose and eye contact. Killing the H5N1 virus before it has a chance to enter the body is the key. If you can't get ahold of No-Germs, you can always use a mix of water and lemon juice. Citrus juices, and even honey, are some of the most powerful anti-bacterials ever disccovered.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
AUTHORITIES NOW BELIEVE IT WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO ERADICATE
From The Khaleej Times : "Bird flu is spreading across one of the most crowded places on earth and, far from being brought under control, (it) looks almost certain to remain a long-term menace in South Asian poultry, officials say.
"Since February, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar have culled hundreds of thousands of chickens and shut poultry farms, yet the virus has kept spreading to new areas. "But fears over the H5N1 flu virus have slashed demand for chicken meat and eggs, ruining the livelihoods of countless workers in India�s $7.8 billion poultry industry and even leading to the suicides of nine Indian farmers, an industry group said. T"he World Health Organisation (WHO) and some Indian officials say that once the virus takes hold in any country -- developed or not -- it is just about impossible to eradicate. "In a region where many have little or no access to stretched health services, a mutated strain could spread rapidly among humans, leaving countless numbers of people to fend for themselves. "While officials might feel a sense of crisis, the reaction of many ordinary people is slowly turning from panic to cautious resignation. "In a region of more than 1.3 billion people, bird flu is just one of many threats they face as they try to overcome poverty, the danger of other illnesses, militancy and natural disasters. "In Pakistan, a small number of people, mostly in cities, have stopped eating chickens but the majority seems indifferent to the disease and chicken sales are largely normal."
"Since February, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar have culled hundreds of thousands of chickens and shut poultry farms, yet the virus has kept spreading to new areas.
"But fears over the H5N1 flu virus have slashed demand for chicken meat and eggs, ruining the livelihoods of countless workers in India�s $7.8 billion poultry industry and even leading to the suicides of nine Indian farmers, an industry group said.
T"he World Health Organisation (WHO) and some Indian officials say that once the virus takes hold in any country -- developed or not -- it is just about impossible to eradicate.
"In a region where many have little or no access to stretched health services, a mutated strain could spread rapidly among humans, leaving countless numbers of people to fend for themselves.
"While officials might feel a sense of crisis, the reaction of many ordinary people is slowly turning from panic to cautious resignation.
"In a region of more than 1.3 billion people, bird flu is just one of many threats they face as they try to overcome poverty, the danger of other illnesses, militancy and natural disasters.
"In Pakistan, a small number of people, mostly in cities, have stopped eating chickens but the majority seems indifferent to the disease and chicken sales are largely normal."
POULTRY AND POULTRY PRODUCTS SEEN AS MAIN CAUSE IN OUTBREAKS, RATHER THAN THE TRAVAILS OF WILD BIRDS
From The East African magazine : "While countries in the region have been quick to form task forces to control bird flu, and have also responded swiftly to protect their poultry industries, some observers say little has been done to cushion the tourism industry from the likely shocks. This is despite the fact that tourism is a key income earner for East Africa, and that birding in particular is becoming an important attraction for high-spending tourists.
"In Africa, bird flu has been reported in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Egypt, which raised the prospects of hard times for East Africa's main birding destinations, even though there has been no trace of the virus in the region. Thousands of wild birds have been tested (both dead and apparently healthy) throughout major migratory bird stopover sites in Mauritania, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Senegal, Botswana and Cote d'Ivoire.
"....the feeding of poultry manure/ poultry litter should be banned in countries affected by or at risk from avian influenza, even if it is correctly composted, ensiled or dried with heat treatment. The use of poultry litter in livestock feeding is widespread in East Africa and across the continent.
"At the beginning of February, the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said the deadly strain of bird flu had been found in poultry in northern Nigeria. This was the first time that the disease was detected in Africa.
"Birds infected with the H5N1 excrete virus particles in their faeces. Putting untreated faeces from infected birds into fish ponds and on to fields provides a potential new source of infection. Researchers say although recognised as early as 1988, the risks of this practice for spreading influenza viruses remain little investigated."
Monday, April 17, 2006
Below you will find one of the many 'heads-up' lists circulating in the US for how medium to large companies and corporations should start taking steps now, not later, to get ready for what is widely termed to be an "inevitable pandemic."
The consensus in the United States, at least, seems to be a pandemic will strike, if not this year then sometime in the next few years.
The www.pandemicflu.gov site and the US Department of Health and Human Services is pushing a 'Fend For Yourself' line, as in "Don't wait for the government to help save your business during a pandemic. It's up to you."
Not very reassuring, but with tens of millions of workers being out of action during a pandemic, and with limited resources available, the White House and the US government in general would seem to be left with little choice but to hard-sell the harsh 'Your Problem, You Take Care Of It' mantra.
Here's some of the tips circulating now and being discussed in boardroom across the US :
• Assign a coordinator or team responsible for preparedness and response planning.
• Identify the company's essential functions and employees who perform them. In case of a pandemic, the absentee rate can be 20 percent to 60 percent. Build in redundancy training to ensure others can perform those tasks.
• Expand Web-based tools for employees to work from home and customers to access information.
• Develop and plan for scenarios likely to result in an increase or decrease in demand for your products and services.
• Plan accordingly for interruptions of essential government services like sanitation, water, power and disruptions in food supply.
• Determine potential impact of a pandemic on business-related domestic and international travel.
• Maintain a healthy work environment with adequate air circulation. Promote hand and respiratory hygiene.
• Inform employees about pandemic flu and what the company is doing to prepare.
• Update policies for sick leave, family leave and medical leave.
Source: CDC, Trust for America's Health, BMO Nesbitt Burns
(No link, as yet, to source available online. But you can check for yourself by Googling : 'CDC, Trust For America's Health')
BY THE NUMBERS OF HOW A PANDEMIC WOULD CRUSH ONE U.S. CITY
"What we have faced with Katrina is pale by comparison," said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, head of the Delaware National Guard, which has been participating in tabletop exercises on avian flu pandemic response. "It underscores our need to be prepared to do whatever is necessary."
The Delaware Online (United States) has crunched some of the numbers on how a bird flu pandemic would smash the US economy and cause havoc to businesses, large and small :
Retail businesses, depending on foot traffic, would suffer extensively as people would be warned away from public spaces during pandemic influenza outbreaks.
Quotes from a Canadian economist's report of March 13 :"Inevitably, an influenza pandemic would disrupt travel, transport and trade, even if no country were to officially shut its borders. Any breakdown in global flows of goods, services, financial capital and people can send shock waves through the entire system."
The Delaware Online quotes federal agencies' estimates that the death toll could range from 89,000 to 207,000 deaths, and that is only for a medium level pandemic.
In a severe pandemic, the death toll could be as high as two million.
In the city of Delaware alone, estimates of up to 400,000 residents falling ill.
World Health Organisation estimates worldwide business losses could reach $800 billion.
With such high numbers of workers falling ill, up to 60 percent of the workforce in Delaware could be absent at any on time during a pandemic outbreak.
But that is not just the sick, there would be those caring for the ill and those terrified of catching it and therefore not wishing to leave their homes.
Critical services like garbage collection, airline travel, banking, would be disrupted, and shopping malls would be virtually empty, of shoppers and workers.
International trade, by air or sea, would break down and financial markets would "come to a standstill."
The Delaware Online story discusses how few in the city seem to be aware of how to plan for a pandemic, and claims most city businesses are woefully unprepared for a pandemic outbreak.
"The worst time to begin planning is when we are in the middle of a crisis," said Paul Silverman, chief of disease prevention at the Delaware Division of Public Health, who has been reaching out to the business community to help them develop plans for a potential pandemic. "Now is the time for businesses, small and large, to be thinking about the potential impact on them and how they would deal with absenteeism and maintain their productivity"
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Itar Tass news agency is reporting : "Russia has lost nearly half of farm poultry because of bird flu, Chief Public Health Official and head of the Federal Consumer Rights and Human Well Being Service Gennady Onishchenko said at a Friday meeting of the Central Federal District Council
“Bird flu has affected nine constituents of the Russian Federation. Wild birds will fly to Siberia in late April, and a pan-epidemic may spread onto the Urals."
HUMAN AND ANIMAL BIRD FLU INFECTIONS CONTINUE TO SPREAD IN INDONESIA
The Jakarta Post is reporting : "A growing number of bird flu cases in Indonesia, both in birds and humans, suggests there is a breakdown somewhere in the country's crackdown on the disease, an expert at the World Organization for Animal Health said.
Indonesia has seen 31 humans infected with lethal bird flu, with 23 fatalities, the second-highest of any country, the World Health Organization says.
EGYPT : FOURTH PERSON DIES OF BIRD FLU
African News Dimension is reporting that an eighteen year old woman was admitted to a Cairo hospital on Monday suffering symptons of bird flu infection, and died during the week. She is the fourth victim of bird flu in Egypt.
The virus was first found in poultry in February. The first human infection occured in March.
Twelve people are now reported to have the infection.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Two articles from The Guardian archive give interesting insight to the influenza pandemic that swept the world through 1918 and 1919, killing an estimated 40-60 million people.
Many researchers today believe The Great Influenza, as it was then known, was a human form of avian influenza, not altogether different from the bird flu virus now present in more than 50 countries across the planet, though not yet in a form transmissable between humans.
The first story, which you can read in full here, discusses the contentious issues of how the virus came to England and how it spread so far and fast :
"Although he could not say definitely that the American troops introduced it to this country, it certainly broke out shortly after they were landed. To be quite sure whether or not the Americans did bring it here, it would be necessary to discover whether the London outbreak preceded or followed the arrival of American troops."
The second story is a doctor's opinion piece where he refutes the suggestion that the conditions under which soldiers lived in battle, in World War 1, was responsible for the growth and spread of the virus' killing power. He also details how to best care for a person sick with the deadly flu :
"Whenever possible, the sufferer should have a separate room. The room should be ventilated by an open window, so as to lessen the risk to others, but as the sick are liable to develop pneumonia, they must be kept warm by a sufficiency of bedclothes. When there is fog, the window should be closed and a fire kept in the room. Sick persons should not return to work except under medical advice.
"The outset of the attack is the most infectious period. Warm clothing should be worn during the outbreak and, in order to resist the disease, a sufficiency of proteid food - such as oatmeal, flour, peas, beans, lentils, herrings, mackerel and milk - is needed by both healthy workers as well as school children."
UNITED STATES : Top Official Predicts Reduced Avian Influenza Threat
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
From the Independent : "A dead swan which tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu came from outside the UK, government scientists have confirmed.
"DNA tests showed the dead swan, found in the coastal village of Cellardyke in Fife, was part of a whooper population which migrates from Scandinavia, and northern Russia.
"The first UK occurrence of bird flu now looks more likely to be an isolated case."
HAWAII : Early Preparations For Vius To Protect Tourist Mecca Status
Interesting story about how one American family has prepared for a bird flu pandemic by stocking up on essential food, water and energy alternates. With a fuel stove, fruit and vegetable plots, a milking cow and a big emergency stockpile, they won't need to rely on the government or on local food stores being open to stay alive if pandemic bird flu spreads across the US.
From the Jacksonville Star : "Most of Idaho only runs a backlog of about three days worth of food in their grocery stores, because we don't have any warehouses. If you don't have shipments backing that up, you could potentially have problems.
"The federal government has recommended that people keep a supply of water and extra food on hand in case of a pandemic. Mike Leavitt, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, said during a recent summit on pandemic flu that people should consider storing powdered milk and canned tuna fish under their beds, just in case.
"A pandemic could cripple the nation's transportation system, as the illness strikes drivers, pilots and train conductors. That means medications and food could be hard to come by."
Monday, April 10, 2006
OUTBREAKS ANNOUNCED, SMALL FARMERS FORCED TO CULL ENTIRE STOCK OF POULTRY, CANNOT AFFORD TO START OVER, FARMS ARE THEN SWALLOWED UP BY INTERNATIONAL POULTRY CORPORATIONS
India poultry farmers now plunged into even deeper poverty by the outbreaks of the avian influenza virus are not the first in the world to claim there is an "international conspiracy" behind the spread of the virus, the massive culls of bird stocks and the dangerous gaps in official confirmations of outbreaks.
Vietnamese farmers made the same claims back in 2004, as did Rusisan poultry producers in 2002 and 2003.
The problem seems to be the disjointed and occasionally bizarre way the virus has spread around the world over the course of the last eight years. While there are many claims that the virus "takes wing" and spreads from country to country in infected flocks of wild birds, the scientific evidence for this is actually quite thin on the ground. And in some infected regions of India, there are no gathering points for migratory birds at all.
Recently, there has been a number of scientists who've claimed the virus is actually a product of the horrific conditions in which many poultry birds are kept in high volume farms, where hundreds of thousands of birds are packed into sheds the size of football fields.
The virus can live for days in the droppings of infected birds, and it makes sense to assume that poultry trucks and workers clothes, boots and vehicles could be contaminated.
As many poultry trucks, and workers, move from farm to farm, and crates of live and dead birds were, and are still are, being shipping internationally and across many borders, the virus could easily move great distances in only a matter of days.
In some cases, when you chart the spread of the virus on a map, with the dates of the outbreaks logged, you can see that the virus sometimes leapfrogs countries and regions and appears to broach great distances in time periods that would appear to be much faster than the speed of migrating birds. More like the speed at which poultry trucks move from one of Europe to the other, for example.
This is why it is not impossible to immediately discount the concerns of Indian farmers that the virus appears to be tied up within the high-volume end of the international poultry industry. By blaming the migratory birds, many farmers claim, the mass-production poultry industry can plead ignorance and claim they are not responsible for the spread of the virus.
The conspiracy that some Indian farmers see is a massive cover-up on behalf of the international poultry industry, shippers and traders, while small and independent poultry farmers are forced to sacrifice their entire stock of birds to culls designed to stop the virus from spreading further.
We are not responsible, they claim, but we have to give up our birds and we are not
compensated enough to start over again.
The conspiracy then would be that the spread of the bird flu virus is being used as an excuse to put independent poultry farmers out of business forever. If they can't afford to re-stock and start over, then the farms go up for sale, and they are being brought by the big players in the quarter trillion dollar per year world poultry market.
Such events, and the subsequent sale and changeovers of farm ownership, have occured throughout Vietnam, Indonesia, Russia, China, India and now in Europe as the bird flu virus wreaks financial devastation on the independent farmers.
At a recent meeting organized by the Bombay Veterinary College in India last Monday, representatives of poultry farmers and the poultry industry were furious and voiced their anger at government and international health officials.
"We see some international conspiracy in the entire episode," a number of representatives claimed, in official documents logged at the meeting. The poultry industry in India has lost, literally, billions of dollars and caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Millions of birds have been culled in an affort to stop the spread of the virus and compensation has been small, compared to the eventual market price for the birds that were killed, and slow in coming to the farmers, if they get any compensation at all.
From Express India : "Some of the senior executives of poultry farms from the affected area wanted to know why there was ‘an enormous delay’ between the confirmation and announcement (of tests on affected chickens) and why the industry was not taken into confidence before the announcement.
"They also questioned the place of the outbreak, which had remote chances of getting the bird flu, as the theory of migratory birds does not apply there.
"The poultry industry representatives claimed 16 farmers have reportedly committed suicide after suffering loss in the wake of bird flu outbreak and if the disease recurs there could be more suicides of poultry farmers."
SPAIN : Bird Flu Alert Still On
CLAIM : There Is An International Conspiracy Behind Spread Of Avian Influenza
The UK Government's chief scientific advisor has claimed the chances of the avian influenza virus mutating into a form that could be passed easily between humans, and therefore kicking off a pandemic, is "a very low possibility".
Professor Sir David King made the announcement as a slow-burn panic spread across the UK after the discovery of dead swan infected with the bird flu virus.
More than 3500 people flooded the phonelines of the Department of Rural Affairs on Friday and Saturday of last week.
But it wasn't just the discovery of the dead swan that fired up the concerns. There was also the media coverage of a leaked government report that stated a pandemic could kill as many as 100,000 children in the UK alone.
Sir David King used an interview on the UK's ITV to try and hose down the fears and concerns of Brits, but his reference to the chances of a pandemic breaking out as "a very low possibility" did little to calm nerves as he revealed this in the context of the contingency plans of the government.
So they are planning for the likelihood of a pandemic breakout of avian influenza, but that planning is chugging along on the expectation that the chances of such an event occuring are "very low," which is not what the Brits wanted to hear, according to numerous polls published by the BBC, Sky News and the tabloid press.
Sir David Keith : "The one swan doesn't mean it has arrived here. We need to see more evidence of spread before we can say that it has arrived in the UK."
He also revealed that the contingency plans placed particular emphasis on how to protect children from possible exposure to a pandemic form of the virus. Children are particularly vulnerable to the virus, scientists believe, and Sir David said that even if only one school student or teacher became infected, then all the schools in the area would be closed for as long as ten weeks.
UK CHIEF SCIENTIST MOVES FAST TO PREDICT DOOM
NOT SO FAST, SAY FREE RANGE FARMERS
In the past twelve months, free-range chickens and organic poultry have moved from the specialist shelves of UK supermarkets to front and centre. A little more expensive, but you fans of organic farming claim you can taste, and see, the difference in the quality of the cooked poultry meats.
Organic farmers are getting rich, and the 'battery-farm' producers have been watching these newbies drive a fat wedge into their profit margins as supposedly stress-free chicken raising techniques have become stunningly popular with the public.
They are prepared to more for something better.
But does the arrival of Bird Flu in the UK pose a serious threat to the farms where poultry are allowed to spend their days scratching in the dirt and wandering open fields?
From the UK's The Mirror : "Tony Blair's top scientific adviser yesterday warned that the arrival of bird flu may herald the end of organic and free-range poultry.
US SCORES 40% OF RUSSIAN MARKET
From Novosti : "The agriculture minister called on the president (Putin) Friday to increase support for domestic poultry farmers following a drop in U.S. poultry prices over bird flu fears.
"'The situation on the poultry market is alarming,' Alexei Gordeyev told the council for national projects.
"The minister said global concerns over bird flu had cut poultry consumption and sent U.S. prices down. Gordeyev said the U.S. had gained 40% of the Russian poultry market since April thanks to the low prices."
Sunday, April 09, 2006
PANDEMIC PREDICTED TO LAST SIX MONTHS
The London Sunday Telegraph claims today that the British government was anything but prepared for the confirmation of the UK's first case of avian influenza, and are desperately trying to get up to speed, terrified that a bird flu pandemic would cripple the nation and cause widespread panic.
There is also a serious lack of long distance drivers for heavy goods vehicles who would be willing to transport food and water into affected areas, and firemen and retired drivers are expected to be called in to meet the shortfall, should a pandemic break out.
* Anti-virals will be supplied to British embassy and consular staff in foreign countries in the event of a human-to-human outbreak, but not to British nationals or holidaymakers.
* The Blair government believes a pandemic could last longer than six months, and there may be successive waves of infection.
* Prime Minister Tony Blair would eventually take charge of managing a pandemic crisis, and Whitehall refers to a pandemic event called a full-scale "battle rhythm".
* Large numbers of schools would be closed.
* Large numbers of masks would be provided to the public.
* Families may have to wait up to four weeks to bury dead relatives.
BBC CONSTANTLY REASSURES VIEWERS "THERE IS NO NEED TO PANIC"
From The Guardian :
"The dead swan that signalled the arrival of highly pathogenic bird flu on British soil is believed to have contracted the disease up to a month ago, experts said yesterday. The carcass was so badly decomposed that it had probably been dead for three weeks when it tested positive for the H5N1 virus, having become infected several days earlier, they said.
"Efforts to check whether the virus had spread to other birds were stepped up yesterday. Veterinarians were swabbing birds in poultry farms and officials were scouring for dead birds in the 3km protection zone around Cellardyke, where the swan was discovered."
Tests on 12 swans and two other wild birds found dead in Scotland revealed that nine had died of other causes. The results of the other tests were unknown last night."
As one poster pointed out, "The more you get told that, the more you wonder why they keep telling you not to panic. I wish they'd just shut and stop treating us like frightened children."
Another poster said : "I didn't even feel like panicking until they kept telling me not to panic."
HOW THE BIRD FLU VIRUS COULD SPREAD ACROSS THE UK
BIRD FLU FEARS STALK ENGLAND'S SUBURBIA
BRITAIN ROLLS OUT BIRD FLU CRISIS PLAN
Saturday, April 08, 2006
$3 Billion Poultry Industry Grows Nervous
Within hours of confirmation that the avian influenza virus had reached the United Kingdom, restuarants across the country began changing their menus.
Gone, for now, are any dishes that contain raw eggs or half-cooked/under-cooked poultry.
This includes :
Freshly made mayonnaise.
Mousses made with raw eggs.
Poultry dishes where the meat is pink.
Any egg dishes where the white yolk is not hard.
In a break with World Health Organisation guidelines, food authorities in the UK have decided that eggs where the yellow yolk is runny are safe to eat. The WHO does not regard runny yellow yokes as safe enough.
It's not Christmas, so few are making egg nog, the traditional recipe of which includes raw eggs.
The Independent reports that major supermarket chains are not planning to remove poultry products from shelves, or stop the sale of barbecued chickens, turkeys and ducks.
"Sales of poultry on mainland Europe plunged by as much as 80 per cent in the weeks after cases of avian flu were discovered in Turkey. France said last month its poultry industry, the largest in Europe, was losing £27m a month."
Although the British poultry industry is nowhere near as large as Europe, it still grosses around $3 billion a year from the sale of almost a billion birds prepared for eating.
More than 76,000 are employed by the UK poultry industry. If outbreaks of the avian influenza virus continue, poultry producers are expecting "a dip" in poultry sales, which could lead to job losses.
Friday, April 07, 2006
CATS COULD BRING ON THE WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC
DEAD CAT INFECTED WITH VIRUS FOUND
In less than a week, the idea that cats could help spread the avian influenza virus to humans, and even act as incubators for the virus to mutate into a human pandemic form, has gone from being a widely discounted theory to the chilling possibility of actually being true.
After the discovery of a dead cat infected with the virus, this theory is now being taken very, very seriously indeed.
In at least four European countries, governments have demanded cat owners keep their animals inside, or face prosecution.
"Cats are significantly more likely to catch and pass on bird flu than has generally been thought and could help the virus to mutate to cause a human pandemic, scientists said today.
"Four European countries today imposed restrictions on the movements of cats after a dead cat in Germany was discovered to have been infected with bird flu."
This is from The Times of London :
"The dead cat was found yesterday on the Baltic island of Ruegen, where more than 100 wild birds have died of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus. Experts say that the cat probably fell ill after eating an infected bird.
"As experts in many European countries took to the airwaves to offer advice to animal owners, alarmed that they might catch the human form of the virus from their pets, the German Government announced that all cats must be kept indoors in bird flu-affected zones. In addition, dogs must be kept on leashes, and all animals watched for signs of strange behaviour."
"It is important that pet owners keep a close eye on their animals for symptoms of a cold, diarrhoea, abnormal fatigue, fever, and if these signs emerge a veterinarian should be contacted."
By Darryl Mason
No sooner had the avian influenza virus been confirmed as the cause of death for a swan found in a small Scottish village then the outrage began over why it took eight long days for the virus' presence in the UK to be announced.
The outrage and anger is totally justified. By being so afraid of possibly causing a panic, and by trying to delay the flow-on effects to the British poultry industry, there is a very real chance now that the virus has spread far and wide across the UK.
The always excellent The Scotsman newspaper (registration required) has a timeline from when the corpse of the swan was discovered to when the announcement was made. Here's the link to the timeline, and here's a few excerpts from it :
Also from The Scotsman :
"• Wednesday, 29 March, 5pm - a dead swan lying on the harbour slipway in Cellardyke, Fife, is reported to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The swan had earlier been reported to police, who told the caller to contact an animal welfare charity. The mangled bird is said to have probably been dead for "a few days".
• Thursday, 30 March, 12:30pm - the bird is collected by a vet. Samples are taken and sent to the world reference laboratory for avian flu at Weybridge, Surrey.
• Friday, 31 March - samples are received by scientists.
• Monday, 3 April - testing begins. Scotland's chief veterinary officer, Charles Milne, later insists procedures carried out were are in line with "routine surveillance".
• Wednesday, 5 April - Mr Milne is made aware in early afternoon that the swan had tested positive for bird flu.
• Wednesday, 5 April, 8:30pm - the Scottish Executive issues a statement confirming the swan had bird flu.
• Wednesday, 5 April, 10pm - local people, including the owner of a large poultry farm at Kingsbarns, less than six miles from Cellardyke, learn from news bulletins that the swan had bird flu.
• Thursday, 6 April, 10am - Mr Milne gives a press conference and defends the time taken to confirm the bird flu infection.
• Thursday, 6 April, 2:15pm - RSPB confirm it was told by DEFRA that the test results for the H5N1 strain were positive.
• Thursday, 6 April, 4pm - Scottish Executive confirms the swan had the H5N1 strain."
"Britian was supposed to be on bird flu alert but it still took eight days to confirm that the dead swan in Fife had H5N1 - a delay heavily criticised yesterday.
"Dan Young, a local resident, reported the dead bird lying on the harbour slipway at Cellardyke last Wednesday evening, but it was not picked up that night because officials did not work after 5pm.
"I was a little surprised, possibly, that they didn't come out the same evening. It ended up being picked up about midday on the Thursday - so it was there for 16 hours or so."
UPDATE :Thanks to The Scotsman for not screaming at us to take down this full timeline. Repay the kindness shown by visiting their site. Definitely one of the best media websites out of the UK.
THE DELAY BETWEEN WHEN THE SAMPLES WERE RECIEVED ON MARCH 30 AND TESTING FINALLY BEGAN IS DUE TO THE FACT THAT THEY DON'T DO TESTING OVER THE WEEKEND! That is so absurd it's almost funny. Almost.
UK PRIME MINISTER SAYS "DON'T PANIC!"
Tony Blair on the annoucement : "It is very important that people understand this. This is not a human-to-human virus, it is something that is transmitted to poultry.
"It is only if humans are in direct and very intensive contact with poultry that there is any risk involved."Or in very close contact with someone who is already infected with the bird flu virus from being in contact with an infected bird, but we digress.
The UK Soil Association has been far more open and to the point about the possible risk associated with infected poultry :
"...as long as you are not drinking the raw blood of chickens, then your risks are very low," a spokeman said on Sky News.
And here's a selection from the thousands of articles already generated by this announcement :
Famers Told To Isolate 3 Million Birds In Massive 1000 Mile Wide 'At Risk' Zone
"Sloppy Response" To Avian Flu Threat Is Inexcusable
14 More Birds Now Being Tested For The Virus
Goverment Attacked Over Bird Flu 'Delay'
UK Bird Flu Crisis Committee Meets
Dead Swans Found In Glasgow Park Test Negative
By Darryl Mason
The avian influenza virus has reached the shores of the United Kingdom and anarchy has broken out in the corridors of the Scottish Parliment, and Whitehall, as arguments rage on what to do now to contain the spread of the virus.
And once again, a swan has been confirmed as the carrier.
A dead swan washed up on the shoreline of a small village called Cellardyke, in Fife, eight days ago. A woman found the corpse, was already informed enough to be suspicious and called the local police. The police took it from there.
But the corpse of the swan remained on the shore for up to 24 hours from when it was believed to have first washed up until it was removed.
During that time any number of dogs and cats and other birds may have come into contact with the virus, still alive, still fermenting, within the corpse of the swan.
A massive ten kilometre surveillance zone has now been established around the village, taking in more than 170 homes and properties holding at least 3 million birds and at least one free-range poultry farm.
BIRD FLU VIRUS ALIVE IN THE UK FOR AT LEAST EIGHT DAYS
Eight days pased by between when the corpse of the swan was discovered and when the surveillance zone, with its strict checkpoints and decontamination areas, was locked into place.
Eight days to confirm the presence of H5N1 in a dead swan? The WHO has previously reached such findings 72 hours or less.
All poultry transports in and out of the surveillance zone have now been stopped, but that only began in the past 24 hours. Before that, poultry flowed in and out of the area now locked down for at least six days.How many cats, dogs and birds came into contact with the dead swan in the time it lay uncollected on the shoreline is not known, but it would only take minimal contact to infect a cat, and the theory that cats in particular can now pass the virus onto other birds, or worse, onto humans, is gaining credibility.
More updates will flow.
The BBC is carrying a load of reports and thorough backgrounders here.
The Independent has a straightforward accounting of how the virus was found and confirmed here, and see the sidebar on the site for more backgrounders and 'How Do We Stop The Spread?' type stories.
A BIRD FLU VIRUS FACTFILE from the BBC site.
Four types of the virus are known to infect humans - H5N1, H7N3, H7N7 and H9N2
Most lead to minor symptoms, apart from H5N1
H5N1 has caused more than 100 deaths in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam
The World Health Organisation says not all H5 or H7 strains are severe, but their ability to mutate means their presence is "always a cause for concern".
Thursday, April 06, 2006
CATS MAY BE 'GATEWAY' FOR BIRD FLU TRANSMISSION TO HUMANS
Dutch researchers are raising the alarm about the increasing number of domestic cats in Europe and Asia who are dying of bird flu.
Experiments on cats undertaken at Rotterdam's Erasmus Medical Centre indicate that cats may be acting as 'gateways' in passing the avian influenza virus from infected birds to humans.
Not only that, the researchers claim "cats could play a role in allowing the virus to change in such a way that the feared human pandemic could become a reality.
Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers said, 'Apart from the role that cats may play in H5N1 virus transmission to other species, they may be involved in helping the virus to adapt to efficient human-to-human transmission."
And that is bad news for humans. There are almost as many domestic cats in the world as there are human beings, but cats are more likely to catch the avian influenza virus on exposure.
The World Health Organisation has distanced itself from the ca-thuman virus link, and issued a statement in February saying there was "no present evidence that domestic cats play a role in the transmission cycle of H5N1 viruses.'
Experimnets showed the H5N1 virus had an usually high death rate in domestic cats, and the researchers report highlighted the fact that cats can become infected after contact with wild birds and are also capable of passing it onto other cats.Go here to read the full story