Thursday, March 29, 2007

Afghanistan : New Cases Of Bird Flu Found, Kabul Bird Markets Advised To Close

From Reuters :
New cases of a deadly strain of bird flu have been confirmed in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, and in the southern province of Kandahar over the past week, according to the Afghan health ministry.

On 23 March, two more cases of bird flu were confirmed in Kabul, a city with an estimated population of more than 3.5 million people.

Over the past week, bird flu was also detected in the Damaan and Shah Wali Kot districts of Kandahar province in the south of the country. Officials in Kabul say that insecurity is impeding their efforts to curb the spread of the virus in Shah Wali Kot, where insurgents have repeatedly attacked government employees.

In an effort to mitigate the outbreak of avian influenza in Afghanistan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 25 March called on Afghans to stop buying and selling live birds.

In addition, WHO has requested Afghan bird-lovers to refrain from petting and touching their birds. But given the important socio-economic role of birds in the life of many ordinary Afghans, both recommendations are difficult, if not unrealistic, for civilians.

Afghanistan's first bird flu case was reported in March 2006. More than 20 cases of bird flu have been confirmed in the country since February, many in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Indonesia : 3 More People Die From Bird Flu

Heated Two Day Meetings Sees Indonesia Agreeing To Share Virus Samples With WHO

Three more Indonesians have died from H5N1 infections. Indonesia's confirmed human death toll stands at 69, but due to poverty, the isolation of some communities and the size of the archipelago, it is presumed the true figure is considerably higher.

From The Jakarta Post :
A 22-year-old woman died Saturday in Southern Sumatra's city of Palembang, followed by a 15-year-old boy Sunday in the West Java town of Bandung, and a 40-year-old man early Wednesday in East Java's capital of Surabaya, said Nyoman Kandun, a seniorhealth ministry official.

After a four month long standoff, Indonesia has agreeed to resume sharing samples of the bird flu virus with the World Health Organisation.

Indonesia had good reason to put pressure on the World Health Organisation to control how the virus samples were exploited by pharmacuetical companies.

Indonesia claimed it feared that the virus samples it handed over might be used by drug companies to create vaccines that it would not be able to afford to buy.

From the UK Guardian :
The WHO... promised not to share virus samples with vaccine companies without permission from countries that provide the specimens.

Indonesia had refused to share its samples without a guarantee they would not be used to develop vaccines unaffordable to developing countries.

For weeks the health minister had been demanding that the global body change its 50-year-old virus sharing system, in which it collects regular flu samples from all over the world and makes them available to vaccine makers and others.

International scientists had argued she was making it impossible to monitor the Indonesian virus to see if it was mutating into a more dangerous form.

WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said viruses would be monitored as they always have, but companies interested in using samples for vaccine development would have to get permission from the governments that provided them.

"Industrialized countries negotiate regularly for vaccines, and they've got stockpiles and vaccines,'' said Dr. David Heymann, WHO's top flu official. "There is no reason developing countries should not do the same thing.''

Indonesia's decision to withhold the virus had received support from some other developing nations, many of which sent health chiefs to Jakarta for the gathering that wraps up Wednesday.

Heymann earlier suggested several ways to ensure a fairer distribution of vaccines, including creating stockpiles of vaccines for use in poor countries and transferring technology so they can produce their own.

To ensure it has access to a bird flu vaccine, Indonesia has reached a tentative agreement with U.S. drug manufacturer Baxter Healthcare Corp. Under the deal, Indonesia would provide samples of the virus in exchange for Baxter's expertise in vaccine production.

Indonesia would have been unlikely to have won this concession, and this dramatic restructuring of a key platform of how the World Health Organisation does business with the world's biggest pharmacuetical and vaccines manufacturers had they not taken this stand.

The poorest nations in the world can now thank Indonesia for forcing the WHO to change its rule for the benefit of all humanity.

Egypt : Two More Children Test Positive For Bird Flu Virus Infection

Japan : Tamiflu Stockpile To Be Increased Next Year To Treat 25 Million People

Islamabad : Chicken, Egg Sales Drop Significantly As Consumers Fear Eating Poultry Will Lead To Infections

Myanmar : Bird Flu Virus Detected In Five Townships

Manipur : Military On Red Alert After Bird Flu Virus Outbreaks In Neighbour Myanmar And Bangladesh

Monday, March 26, 2007

Saudis Report First Outbreak Of Bird Flu

From Peoples' Daily Online :

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Agriculture confirmed Friday the first outbreak of H5N1 bird flu virus among birds in the country, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

After the deadly bird flu cases being detected among turkeys, parrots, peacocks and ostriches in eastern part of the country, a number of birds have been ordered to be culled, said SPA.

In addition, the Saudi government has imposed a quarantine blocking the import of live birds into the country and banning the hunting of migrant birds to avoid further spread of the virus.

No human cases have been reported up to now, according to the report.

Bird flu cases have been detected in Kuwait and Egypt in the Arab region.

Egypt has officially reported 26 human infections, resulting in 13 deaths.
Bangladesh : Panic Grips Town As Bird Flu Outbreak Hits Poultry Farms

On the outskirts of Dhaka, the avian influenza virus has been detected on poultry farms, causing panic in towns and villages surrounding the farms.

The army was brought in to oversee the culling of more than 30,000 birds and the disinfecting of dozens of farms.

This report claims the outbreak threatens the jobs of some 500,000 poultry farm workers. Poultry is now a $2 billion industry in Bangladesh and is the impoverished country's fastest growing industry.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Indonesia's Book Stores Packed With Advice On How To Survive Bird Flu

No word on the sales figures, but the most popular non-fiction books to publish in Indonesia right now are books about bird flu and how to survive it.

This story from the Jakarta Post says bookstores across Indonesia are literally groaning with the weight of all the bird flu related tomes.

Let's cut to the chase, the best advice on how to avoid becoming infected with the bird flu virus that the article's writer pulls from all the books reviewed is simple :
Good basic sanitation measures like hand-washing, eating a healthy diet and knowing how and when to relate with our environment are the best defense.
Here's the round-up from the Jakarta Post on some of the key bird flu books available :
Michael Greger's Bird Flu, A Virus of Our Own Hatching (is available on) the web (,

Greger writes a captivating tale of bird flu from various perspectives, both human and poultry.

Indonesian authors, too, have been quick to catch the moment. Some books -- Flu Burung dan Demam Berdarah (Bird Flu and Dengue), Menyingkap Rahasia Flu Burung, (Revealing the Secrets of Bird Flu) and Flu Burung (Bird Flu) -- are already on bookstore shelves.

In his book, The Bird Flu Preparedness Planner, Grattan Woodson says in his introduction: "Chances are, if you opened a newspaper or turned on the news in 2005, you might be worried, perhaps even a little panicked, about the avian flu or bird flu -- and with good reason.

"What many people around the world dismissed as a minor headline in the international section of their newspaper seemed to mushroom overnight into a global health crisis."

In another popular book, Everything You Need to Know about the Next Pandemic (Marc Spiegel, 2006), also has more or less the same purpose: explaining that excessive fear of a pandemic may lead to a paranoia.

Both authors explain why it is essential for U.S. readers to know the facts in detail about bird flu. The U.S. has bitter memories of 1918 and the emergence of a devastating influenza that killed nearly 50 million people. Caused by a different type of virus -- H1N1 -- the Spanish flu, as it was popularly known, resulted in a huge number of fatalities due to the state of medical knowledge at the time, the existing infrastructure and much slower means of communication.

A business editor by profession, Colum Murphy has written an elaborate book, Flu Action Plan, A Business Survival Guide, a must-read book for business people. The book chronicles the business side of any possible pandemic without trying to scare people.

Meanwhile, published by Cambridge-based Icon Books, pocket book-sized Bird Flu by John Farndon is more straightforward in addressing the topic. Eminent virologist from the University of Cambridge Tony Minson says in the foreword that Farndon tells us what we need to know, taking us through the issues in a straightforward style and using plain language.

"Farndon's conclusion is right: we are not ready yet, so keep your fingers crossed," he says.

Authors on the current bird flu outbreak all refer to John Barry's historical account The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, praised as one of the most enriching sources of information.

Through meticulous and detailed studies, Barry pieces together episodes on some of the U.S. states involved in the terrifying epidemic. The book also chronicles the attempts of medical scientists to race against time and rapid deaths to seek a cure for the sick.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Australia : Millions More Protective Masks Needed To Prevent Bird Flu Disaster

Government Estimates 148,000 Australians Could Be Hospitalised During Pandemic

A new study has concluded that Australia faces a more severe threat of a wider bird flu pandemic due to a severe lack of the most basic protection wear for the hospital and medical staff who will have to care for its victims.

From the ABC :
Stockpiles of special masks for hospital staff to wear while treating bird flu patients are likely to be inadequate and quickly run out in a pandemic, an Australian study suggests.

Insufficient stocks of protective wear will lead to more people becoming infected, depleting stockpiles of antiviral drugs sooner, it concludes.

"Until now all the fuss has been about drugs but the crucial thing is if there's an epidemic, masks will protect the drug stockpile," says society president and senior investigator Professor Lindsay Grayson.

"The study shows if we run out of masks, a lot more people are going to need drugs," adds Grayson, who is the director of infectious diseases at Austin Health.

Guidelines recommend high-filtration masks for healthcare workers in close contact with infected patients.

The Federal Government's national stockpile has at least two million of the masks, plus at least 40 million standard surgical masks for the projected 1-7.5 million people who will attend GPs, clinics and outpatients.

The Government projects a maximum 148,000 infected people may be hospitalised.

The Australian government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars stockpiling anti-viral medications that are expected to expire shortly. Unlike anti-virals, the report points out, protective wear like high-filtration masks do not have a use-by date.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Indonesian Man Dies Of H5N1 - 65th Person To Die In Region Since First Human Infection In 2005

Bird Flu Has 76% Fatality Rate In Humans In Indonesia

The avian influenza virus has claimed yet another victim in Indonesia. The 32 year old man is the 65th confirmed person to die from the virus, so far :
A 32-year-old Indonesian man has died of bird flu, bringing the death toll in the country from the virus to 65, a health ministry official said on Friday.

The man died at a hospital in the capital Jakarta on Thursday morning, Ahmad Prihatna, an epidemiologist at the health ministry's bird flu information center said by telephone.

The man, from east Jakarta, kept a pet bird in his house, the official added.

"But it has not been determined whether the bird was infected with bird flu," he said.

Bird flu is endemic in fowl in many of the 33 provinces in Indonesia and there was a sudden increase in the number of human deaths from the virus early this year after a brief lull.

The country has tried to intensify efforts to control the disease by banning backyard fowl in Jakarta and surrounding provinces, and increasing culling.

A particularly disturbing set of stats collected from this article on Indonesia's attempts to fight the endemic 'plague' of the H5N1 virus :

* The H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus was first detected in Indonesia in 2003.

* The Indonesian government first denied the flu strain detected was of avian influenza origin, instead claiming birds had died from 'Newcastle Disease'.

* Within months of the virus first being detected in birds, it was present in nine of Indonesia's 33 provinces. It has now been detected, and categorised by the World Health Organisation as "endemic" in virtually every province.

* Indonesia reported its first human cases in July 2005.

* To date, 84 cases of confirmed bird flu infection in humans have been reported. Officially 65 people have now died from the virus, though the true count of infections and deaths may be higher. This means the bird flu virus has had an official human fatality rate of 76%, the highest in the world.

* 11 million birds, mostly chickens and ducks, have died from either direct infection or as a result of poultry culls to contain the spread of the virus.

Dozens Of Books About Bird Flu Crowd Shelves In Indonesian Bookstores

Indonesia's Strategies To Fight Bird Flu Run Afoul Of Reality

US Officials Now Target Food Products In Expanded Program To Detect Presence Of Virus - 360,000 Pounds Of "Prohibited Poultry Products" Seized In Dozens Of Raids Through 2006

Monday, March 12, 2007

Public Interest Drops, But Bird Flu Continues To Spread Across The Planet

We've been well away from all computers for a couple of weeks, travelling through outback and coastal Western Australia. If you're interested enough in bird flu to check this blog, then you're probably well aware of the major stories that have broken during the time we've not been updating. For the historical aspect of this blog, here's a list of the stories we missed that we think need to be included :

On March 11, Egypt announced that a 4 year old boy was its 24th victim of bird flu.

Vietnam announced that bird flu had infected five provinces, killing thousands of poultry birds.

On March 8, South Korea announced yet another outbreak of the bird flu virus. Officials ordered the culling of more than 55,000 birds within a three kilometre radius of the infected farm. By the next day, at least human was believed to have become infected by the virus.

On March 7, like an incident straight out of Stephen King's The Stand, it was announced that at least three researchers in an Australian lab were "accidentally" exposed to the virus.

Vietnam announced that the avian influenza has reached the capital, Hanoi, after weeks of outbreaks throughout the country.

In Laos, officials confirmed that at least one person had died from the virus, following dozens of outbreaks across the country since early February.

On March 5, Kuwait announced more than 50 locations were now confirmed as being infected with the bird flu virus.

China announced it intended to vaccinate billions of birds against the virus in the coming months.

US researchers claimed the Guandong province, in Southern China, was the area from which the current H5N1 strain of avian influenza originated. Chinese officials swiftly denied the US researchers theory.

On March 1, a group of experts announced it was forming a "prediction" market table aimed at more accurately prophetising future outbreaks of the bird flu virus, which could also beat the World Health Organisation to eventually announcing the beginning of the long-feared worldwide H5N1 pandemic.

On February 27, Laos confirmed it had its first human bird flu infection case, a 15 year old girl.

The EU announced it was forming a 'swat team' to provide a fast response to bird flu outbreaks.

On February 26, Kuwait announced that it had confirmed some 20 cases of bird flu infection in falcons, turkeys and chickens.

General public concern about the spread of the H5N1 virus seems to have peaked in mid-2006 and has not yet shot back up, at least not on a worldwide scale of relevance. But this may soon change, as the frequency of bird flu outbreaks amongst human and avian populations grows by the month.

Friday, March 02, 2007

News From Around The World

18 teenagers who committed suicide in Japan were given a bird flu vaccine. A connection between the vaccine and the suicides is now feared.

China has confirmed a new case of human bird flu infection.

Russia is now cleaning up after at least two bird flu outbreaks. They fear more in the future.

Bird flu has made yet another return to Southern Vietnam

There is no solid proof that a new bird flu vaccine will actually save human lives, but US experts are now pressing a key drug agency to approve the vaccine anyway.