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Bird Flu - Archives


Vietnam Again
Bird flu is not now suspected in the deaths of 4,000 chickens in France. But Vietnam has reported its first outbreak since August.
December 20th, 2006


The BBC Reports from Vietnam

Vietnam accounts for two-thirds of the 66-odd bird flu deaths reported since December 2003. The disease is said to be spreading rapidly through the country’s domestic bird population. Yet a BBC reporter found Vietnamese health officials surprisingly optimistic about the prospects for beating the problem.


Mr Quang, our Foreign Ministry minder, radiated confidence - as no doubt he was required to - in front of journalists. But he was also articulating the self-belief of a country which once defeated the Japanese, the French and the Americans. Where other countries are floundering in panic over the arrival of bird flu, Vietnam says it will prevail.


…The government has announced that all 260 million birds in the poultry industry will be inoculated over the next few months with new vaccines developed in China. A near impossible task, you might think, given the number of households which own just a handful of ducks and chickens. "You see, that's the advantage of living in a communist system," said Nguyen Xuan Vui, the animal health director in Ha Tay, the province we were permitted to visit. "Once the central government gives the order, the entire country can be mobilised to fight bird flu."


It’s an excellent report, and well worth reading in full.

November 20th, 2005


Vaccinations in China, Mutations in Vietnam

China plans to vaccinate all five billion of the country’s poultry against H5N1 bird flu. The announcement comes after a series of flu outbreaks in birds.


According to the New Scientist:


The move will slow the spread of the virus and reduce human exposure to it, but will also make any remaining virus hard to detect….Officials have blamed outbreaks in Liaoning, where a woman is suspected of contracting the disease, on the use of faulty or fake vaccines on poultry. But it is known that the virus can persist and spread even in properly vaccinated birds unless stringent precautions are taken.


The journal also confirms alarming news from Vietnam:


H5N1 has already been mutating rapidly in Vietnam, where few chickens are vaccinated. Cao Bao Van, head of the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, told the Vietnamese press this week that 24 isolates of H5N1 from poultry and humans, taken between December 2003 and March 2005, show “significant variation”.


Cao was also quoted as saying a mutation had been observed in the PB2 gene of a virus isolated from a human case in March, which “allows more effective breeding of the virus in mammals”. PB2 codes for part of the polymerase enzyme which replicates the virus.


That mutation, at amino acid number 627 of the protein, changes the glutamic acid of bird flu to the lysine typical of human flu. The change allows the virus to replicate in the human respiratory tract, which is cooler than the bird guts where bird flu normally replicates.


The same mutation has been turning up since 2004 in several isolates of H5N1 from humans and other mammals in East Asia and shows the virus is adapting to mammals while infecting them. It was also a feature of the 1918 pandemic virus, which was a bird flu virus that adapted to humans.

November 16th, 2005


Today’s News Is Not Good

Item 1 – The Japanese health ministry has revealed that two teenage boys who took Tamiflu subsequently exhibited abnormal behavior that led to their deaths. A 17-year-old boy took Tamiflu, then left home in his pajamas and jumped in front of a truck. A 14-year-old boy fell from the ninth floor of his apartment building after taking the drug.


In Japan the drug carries a warning of possible impaired consciousness, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, and other psychological and neurological symptoms. The ministry is considering issuing a fresh warning….The Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency said there were 64 cases of psychological disorders linked to the drug between fiscal 2000 and 2004.


Item 2 - The Chinese government says an eighth outbreak of bird flu within a month is creating a "very serious situation" because the virus seems to be spreading.


Item 3 - Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City Pasteur Institute has found that the bird flu virus strain H5N1 in the country has mutated to make it more dangerous.

November 13th, 2005


Vietnam – Worse to Come?

Another bird flu death in Vietnam – the 42nd - has led to fears that “the virus has hit the Asian nation earlier and on a larger scale than last year.”


According to a Reuters report:


The victim was a 35-year-old Hanoi man who died after eating chicken, said Nguyen Van Binh, deputy director of the Vietnamese Health Ministry's Preventive Medicine Department. "This is the first death since the start of this year's epidemic season," Deputy Health Minister Trinh Quan Huan was quoted as saying by the state-run Tien Phong newspaper.


The first Vietnamese death last winter, the season when the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain seems to thrive, was in December. WHO spokeswoman Dida Connor said it was too early to know if the latest death meant the virus had become more virulent. But Tien Phong quoted a Vietnamese government report as saying bird flu had spread on a wider scale and had arrived in the north of the country earlier than last year.

November 9th, 2005


More Deaths in Vietnam?

Reuters is reporting that two people who died in hospital in Vietnam over the past week showed symptoms of bird flu. The two victims, a 14-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man, had eaten duck and a chicken's eggs before they fell ill. A local newspaper quotes doctors as stating that both had severe respiratory problems, fever and lung infection. A third person is being treated for milder symptoms. According to WHO figures, Vietnam has suffered 91 cases of H5N1 human infection, with 41 deaths. This is around two-thirds of the total human cases reported in all countries since the end of 2003.

October 29th, 2005


The Latest

China and Croatia have both confirmed new H5N1 outbreaks, while India investigates. The BBC reports: “Authorities on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion say three tourists who returned from a trip to Thailand may have contracted bird flu.” The Vietnam News Agency reports that three Vietnamese pharmaceutical companies are to begin producing Tamiflu.

October 27th, 2005


The Headline Says It All

Bird Flu Virus That Is Drug-Resistant Is Found in Vietnamese Girl
Washington Post


In other drug developments:


The Philippine Department of Health has urged local drug manufacturers to try to make their own versions of Tamiflu. “[Health Undersecretary Alex] Padilla said the Bureau of Food and Drugs would issue a certificate of product registration authorizing the sale of a locally produced vaccine in the Philippine market. ‘It’s up to (Roche) to file a complaint.’”


Sanofi-Pasteur is to begin clinical trials in (northern) spring 2006 of its vaccine.

Two bloggers, Stephen Gordon and Andrew Sullivan, call for Roche to be forced to allow generic production of Tamiflu. Says Sullivan: "We have no time to waste."

October 15th, 2005