Bird Flu - Archives
Aussie Scientists Exposed to H5N1
Three Australian researchers have been
exposed to bird flu:
The CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation]
scientists had infected live ducks with the H5N1 strain of bird flu before
killing them to assess the impact of the virus about 1pm Monday.
But the experiment went pear shaped about 1pm Monday when the scientists
realised that they had failed to reactivate air filters in their specially
designed suits, increasing their risk of exposure to the deadly virus.
The trio were immediately removed from the laboratory and taken away for
testing and treatment.
CSIRO media liaison manager Marilyn Chalkley said the treatment was
precautionary and blood tests showed no signs of infection.
March 7th, 2007
Bird Flu - Panic Over?
Australia's top doctor says the world may have
avoided a bird flu pandemic:
Chief medical officer Prof John Horvath said global measures to prevent
the H5N1 virus could have staved off a mass outbreak.
"It may be that the world has already averted a pandemic by the actions it
has taken in response to H5N1, such as extensive culling of poultry and
isolation of infected humans," Prof Horvath said.
Qualified agreement comes from Nobel Prize-winning immunologist Prof Peter
"Australians should rest assured that this country is as prepared for a
possible H5N1 pandemic as any nation on earth, including the United States .
. . however, there are no certainties," Prof Doherty said.
"In general though, the more time goes by, the better off we are likely to
"Even if we duck the bullet this time, the effort and resources expended
here will have ensured that our capacity to deal with an unexpected invader
November 20th, 2006
No Worries, Mate
Bird flu continues to spread in Indonesia, but here in Australia, just
over the seas,
not worried. About 1,000 people are taking part in an exercise to
simulate responses to an influenza pandemic.
[Health Minister] Mr Abbott said it was vital for the nation to know how
its systems would cope if it faced a threat from bird flu.
For the moment, people should not be too frightened of an outbreak occurring
"The threat level is unchanged. So far there have been almost 100 deaths
(worldwide) from bird flu in calendar 2006, there's been another 60 cases of
people who had bird flu but recovered,'' Mr Abbott said.
"That's somewhat up on last year but nevertheless we don't believe that
anything that has happened this year, in reality, is actually something to
change our state of alert.
October 17th, 2006
Once bird flu reaches
Papua New Guinea it will
quickly move to Australia, according to a WHO official.
Two professors say it
from the Dead
drug that just won’t die.” That’s how The Australian newspaper
describes the Relenza anti-flu drug this morning.
In a lengthy article,
the newspaper examines the controversy over the drug, noting that last week
GlaxoSmithKline quietly reopened a Relenza production line at its factory
here in Melbourne. The article suggests that the company is embarrassed at
having earlier effectively deciding the drug had little future. Indeed, the
paper cites court documents in which GSK states that Tamiflu is superior.
Relenza's return is
an obvious by-product of a global hysteria over bird flu and the subsequent
fear that we could face a new global flu pandemic.
The belated embrace
of Relenza by the federal [Australian] Government was confirmed on December
16 with its order for 1.8 million "additional courses" of the home-grown flu
drug. Additional indeed. Until that order, Australia's Relenza reserves
stood at a grand total of 24,570 courses.
Not that we stood
unprepared. Even though Australian taxpayers effectively spent $247 million
on the development of Relenza, the Government ended up building its $555
million pandemic defence around Relenza's dominant competitor, Roche's
So why did we spend
$114 million on a Tamiflu stockpile? Most likely because Relenza's owners,
GSK, had demonstrated such a palpable lack of confidence in the safety,
effectiveness and value of the drug.
authorities have determined that
chicken at a farm in rural NSW does not have bird flu. Earlier, the farm
had been placed under quarantine.
Australia the authorities have quarantined a farm in rural NSW after
concerns that a backyard chicken flock may have been exposed to bird flu.
It is the first time
Australian officials have isolated a property in response to concerns about
avian flu. In October inspectors quarantined 102 pigeons imported from
Canada which had been exposed to the virus. Three of the birds were
Peter McGauran today said the quarantining of the Wentworth property was a
precautionary measure after one of its chickens recorded a weak reaction to
an avian influenza test.
…Mr McGauran said
samples had been sent to the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory for
further testing. "While there is no evidence of any outbreak of avian
influenza on the property, it has been placed under quarantine as a
precautionary measure," he said. "This is consistent with Australia's
conservative approach to managing animal health and disease risks.”
About 40 or
50 years ago it was joked that my city, Melbourne, was so boring that it was
virtually a ghost town. For example, there was the famous “quote” from Ava
Gardner, filming the movie “On the Beach” in Melbourne in 1959, that “’On
the Beach' is a story about the end of the world, and Melbourne sure is the
right place to film it." (It later transpired that a journalist had
manufactured that particular quote. Ava never said it.)
we’re about to become that way again if bird flu arrives. The headline in
our local Herald Sun newspaper says it all “Ghost
city plan to fight bird flu.”
[The state of]
Victoria will be locked down if bird flu strikes here, under radical plans
unveiled by the State Government. Melbourne would become a virtual ghost
town as sporting venues, concerts, churches, cinemas, the casino and other
areas were shut down.
Venues where "many people congregate" would be closed immediately if a case
of human-to-human bird flu happened in a public place in Victoria. The
Commonwealth Games would be cancelled if an outbreak happened before March,
and major shopping centres and public transport could also be shut.
Premier Steve Bracks
told the Herald Sun the State Government would be forced to ban people from
gathering in public places. "If a pandemic affected 30 per cent of the
Victorian population, estimates in the plan say this could lead to almost
25,000 hospitalisations and more than 10,000 deaths," he said.
Flu Vaccine Could Take Two More Years
newspapers are carrying some
useful reports on the rush to develop new bird flu vaccines, based on
remarks by Brian McNamee, the chief executive of local pharmaceuticals
"I think it likely
that there will be a prototype vaccine that stimulates the immune response,"
Dr McNamee said. "What we don't know is what the dose is and whether we need
an adjuvant (an ingredient or treatment that enhances the immune response) –
they're the two questions.
"I think those
questions will be answered in the next two years. It could be faster than
that, but if you need an adjuvant it may take that long. We need to be
Dr McNamee said CSL
was optimistic and working hard on developing a vaccine for the H5N1 strain
of bird flu as soon as possible, but the company could not forecast the data
it needed to develop a vaccine….CSL was one of four major companies globally
trying to develop a bird flu vaccine, but all of the companies had agreed to
"We would feel that
Sanofi and ourselves probably have the best data coming out shortly, GSK (GlaxoSmithKline)
have some interesting data as well, and Chiron are doing some interesting
work with an adjuvanted vaccine," Dr McNamee said. "We well know that
there's not enough manufacturing capacity in the whole world so we have to
behave this way."
Australian government has launched a
new website, with
information on bird flu. It includes medical information, corporate pandemic
planning guidance and travel advice.
Announces Bird Flu “SWAT Teams”
plans to form
rapid deployment teams to combat bird flu outbreaks in Asia, as part of
a A$100 million aid program announced by Prime Minister John Howard.
that “Australia had sophisticated public health expertise that should be
shared with neighbouring countries to bolster their disaster planning.”
greatest thing we can do is to help them build their own capacity," he said.
"It's a much easier thing for a country such as Australia or the United
States or Japan that has a very high per capita GDP and has a very
well-developed public health system, but even those systems can be put under
enormous strain in exceptional circumstances. It's a lot more difficult for
countries that are less developed and plainly we want to be a good neighbour
and we want to help build their capacity."
close its borders in the event of a global flu pandemic, according to
Health Minister Tony Abbott, just back from the international avian flu
conference in Canada.
work? According to WHO’s
excellent booklet “Avian Influenza: Assessing the Pandemic Threat” (p25,
during the disastrous 1918-19 pandemic,
quarantine and isolation were widely imposed, but probably did little to
stop the contagion. Predictably, quarantine could delay spread somewhat but,
having no impact on population susceptibility, could do nothing to reduce
the numbers who would eventually fall ill. Australia was the notable
exception. By maintaining a strict maritime quarantine, that country managed
to stave off arrival of the epidemic until the start of 1919. By that time
the virus had lost some its lethality, and Australia experienced a milder,
though somewhat longer, period of influenza activity than elsewhere.
according to the excellent
Effect Measure blog:
it will shut its borders to keep human bird flu in, while most other
countries are making plans to keep bird flu out. Nice ideas. Neither will
likely work….It is inevitable that these kinds of restrictions will come
into play if a pandemic is starting. It is just as inevitable they will be
costly and will fail. It isn't even sure they will slow things up much. This
is apparently an obligatory response that can't be stopped. But it shouldn't
also prevent us from beginning the kind of community mobilization that will
really make a difference in managing the consequences of a pandemic, should
Newspapers Whip up a Panic
about a possible bird flu pandemic sweeps the nation,” according to the
Daily Telegraph in Sydney, citing as evidence a doctor who said “patients
were swarming into her Eastern Suburbs practice claiming they were
travelling to Asia or had been placed on a waiting list for the drug by a
chemist and wanted a script.”
And on the
News.com.au website of the Telegraph’s parent company is a report that,
doctors and medical workers have devised ‘exit strategies’ to flee their
homes if human-to-human bird flu takes hold.” Not a shred of evidence is
News Round-Up (Most of
The Thai government has
confirmed its first
bird flu fatality in a year. It is the country’s 13th bird
flu death. The official WHO announcement is
Australia, three pigeons – part of a shipment of 102 racing and show
pigeons from Canada – were found to have bird flu antibodies.
quarantine authorities had reportedly certified the infected birds as
has reportedly discovered H5N1-infected birds that were being smuggled in
A lengthy report in the
Washington Post says Indonesia has been engaged in a two-year cover-up
of its growing bird flu problem.
has an excellent report on the global fight against the virus.
Thumbs Up for Tamiflu
Aussie scientist has said Tamiflu will likely be effective against any
bird flu that hits Australia.
Bill Rawlinson, a virologist from the Prince of Wales Hospital, said there
was no need for people to panic that Tamiflu was no longer an effective
vaccine….A bird flu outbreak in Australia would be the result of a new
strain able to spread from humans to humans, and such a strain was more
likely than not to be sensitive to Tamiflu, he said. Australian health
officials have stockpiled Tamiflu, as well as a similar drug, Relenza.
Professor Rawlinson said any strain of flu resistant to Tamiflu was likely
to also be resistant to Relenza. "If bird flu comes to Australia, it is
possible that resistance will be a problem - but it is unlikely," he said.