Bird Flu - Archives
April 1st - April 12th,
authorities have announced the country’s 12th case of human
bird flu infection.
has also reported another case.
An official World Health
Organization statement has confirmed an additional case of bird flu human
Azerbaijan, bringing the total there to eight, of which five were fatal.
complacency” about bird flu is spreading in Asia, because it has not
killed as many people as initially feared, according to a senior United
noisy seagulls in Scotland has been abandoned due to fears that
volunteers could contract bird flu.
Who Needs Experts?
British bird flu
split on whether a bird flu pandemic is looming. According to The
Yesterday Sir David
King, the Government's chief scientific adviser in the DTI [Department of
Trade and Industry], said a human flu pandemic was "not inevitable". That
flatly contradicted remarks by the Government's chief medical officer, Sir
Liam Donaldson, of the DoH [Department of Health], that a human pandemic was
inevitable. Sir Liam has said several times it was a question of "when, not
if" a pandemic struck.
Global Pandemic –
Will It Start in Hawaii?
Health officials in Hawaii fear the state could become the launching
place for a new
bird flu pandemic:
The islands are vulnerable because they're
a tourism gateway for
visitors from around the world, authorities said.
officials have launched an airport screening program, planned limited
quarantines and amassed a supply of protective gear for doctors and nurses.
In May, the state
will hold a seminar to help employers learn how a pandemic may affect their
workers and businesses.
Dr. Chiyome Fukino of
the Hawaii Health Department said a good number of Hawaii's visitors come
from the Far East, where a large number of emerging diseases are
Global Pandemic – Will
It Start in Myanmar?
Last October came
concerns that, as I wrote at the time, “Myanmar [Burma] could become the
breeding ground for a bird flu that mutates into a virus that infects humans
and begins to spread globally.”
Then, last month, we
learned that bird flu had been confirmed in the secretive country.
Now we hear
Bird flu has spread in
Burma with more than 100
outbreaks across the country, a UN official has said.
He Changchui of the
UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told a press conference the
situation was "more serious than we imagined".
…Mr He, who is the
FAO's Asia-Pacific representative, was speaking after two teams from the
agency visited Burma to assess the situation.
He said it had not
been easy to find accurate information.
"The issue there is
that awareness is rather poor," he said. "The information is not that
He said Burma lacked
scientific equipment and facilities to deal with the outbreaks and would
need international assistance.
UN bird flu
co-ordinator David Nabarro, who is currently visiting South East Asia, said
there were major problems in Burma.
Let’s Hear It for
artists have gathered in Kenya to celebrate
migratory birds, and to dispel concerns that these birds are the main
factor behind the global spread of bird flu.
From Kenyan children
reciting poems on birds to Peruvian and Turkish artists portraying different
stages of migration, dozens of performers descended on the lush green hills
of central Kenya's Laikipia to launch World Migratory Bird Day.
…The role of
migratory fowl versus the trade in bird products in the spread of avian flu
has been the source of much debate, with conservationists contending the
disease's spread has not closely followed known bird migrations.
Scientists have not
reached a consensus on the issue.
"Because the role of
migratory birds is a very obvious one, it's often very tempting to say that
migratory birds are bringing the disease," Robert Hepworth, executive
secretary of the Convention on Migrating Species, told Reuters.
"Migratory birds have
been involved of course, but the actual evidence of migratory birds
spreading this disease across continents on a large scale is very patchy."
Chelsea Football Club manager Jose Mourinho is
worried: "For me, pressure is bird flu; I am feeling a lot of pressure
with the swan in Scotland,"
Twelve swans and two other birds are being
in Scotland for bird flu.
have been "irresponsible" and "outrageous" in their response to bird flu,
Scotland's environment minister said.
It's Your Fault (Part II)
A couple of weeks ago the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
group launched a new website, called
Avian Flu: It’s Your Fault,
and blaming poultry eaters for the bird flu.
Now Grain, "an international campaigning group promoting agricultural
biodiversity in the developing world", has issued a report,
the virus on "the insatiable demand for cheap food, the global poultry
industry and the giant factory farms of south-east Asia."
Bird Flu Bites Britain
Villagers in Cellardyke,
where the infected swan was found, have
authorities for their lax response:
The woman who found the dead bird complained that it took until the next
day for government vets to collect the carcass.
the fact that no police or health officials initially rushed to the site of
what became Britain's first confirmed case of the H5N1 virus.
Villagers were left
to take their own precautions, one resorting to fashioning a simple scrawled
cardboard sign - "dead swan do not touch" - to warn holidaying children and
A leading vet says the
virus has probably
already spread to other birds in the vicinity.
The Scottish environment
attacked the Waitrose supermarket group for apparently saying that it
did not stock eggs or poultry from Scotland, where the diseased swan was
found. In fact, egg and poultry sales have so far
remained strong, in sharp contrast to most other countries hit by bird
Aussie company Ansell
Healthcare, best known for its condoms, has issued
concerning gloves and other protection for health care workers wishing to
avoid bird flu.
Time to Panic?
H5N1 has been
confirmed in the UK. But the real panic probably won’t begin until it
hits the US,
Bird Flu Conspiracy
"We see some
international conspiracy in the entire episode,” say poultry farmers in
India. Egg and chicken sales have plummeted, and 16 poultry farmers have
reportedly committed suicide.
Walking the Walk to
Help Other Flu Heads
press release says that songwriter Cornelius “Popcorn” Robertson has
assembled a collection of 14 songs plus a “bonus live” track to help raise
funds for AvianFluTalk.com.
"I've been following the spread of Avian Flu and preparing for over a
year now and I'm serious about getting the word out to others. This is
something I am doing personally. It is the best I can do to help other flu
heads and one way I can show my support for a forum that doesn't just talk
the talk, but walks the walk,” said the songwriter.
You can listen to the
song, “Time Will Tell”,
Somewhat Explosive -
Bird Flu in Britain and Beyond
in Scotland has the H5 flu virus. We’ll know within 24 hours whether
Meanwhile, Germany has
confirmed for the first time the discovery of
H5N1 in domestic fowl. “This makes it somewhat explosive," said Saxony's
minister of social affairs.
Egypt has reported its
of human infection.
boy has died in Cambodia.
Bird flu has spread to
villages in western India.
people for possible bird flu.
Yesterday I reported
(scroll down) that domestic pets may be the “canary in the mine” in warning
us of the arrival of bird flu.
comes in a
in The Times:
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.
The pets’ role in the
spread of the H5N1 virus, and the potential risk they pose to their owners,
have been underestimated by public and animal health bodies, according to a
team of leading virologists from the Netherlands.
Research at the
Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam has shown that the cats catch bird flu
reasonably easily, either by close contact with infected birds or by eating
them, and that they can transmit the virus to other cats.
This could give the
H5N1 virus new opportunities to adapt to mammals, including humans, making
the emergence of a pandemic strain that spreads easily from person to person
more likely, the scientists said in the journal Nature.
A reader has alerted me
to the DeadlyFlu.com website,
which carries an extensive file of flu-related reports.
Our Pets – the Canaries
in the Mine
If/when a bird flu
pandemic arrives in the West, it will likely affect pet dogs and cats before
it hits humans. Scientists at Purdue University in the US have now launched
the National Companion Animal Surveillance Program, an early-warning system
that will monitor household pets.
"We know that approximately three quarters of all emerging epidemics that
occur in humans come from animals," said Larry Glickman, professor of
epidemiology at Purdue's veterinary school. "It's very likely that problems
would occur in animals before they would occur in people."
The idea is to catch
a potentially infected pet while they are still in the hospital so that
samples can be extracted for further testing. With over 500 hospitals in 44
states treating 80,000 animals a week, Banfield Animal Hospitals can collect
data from sick pets, in real time. Probing software will scan each
hospital's database every 30 seconds to determine if pets are reporting
symptoms of avian flu such as fever and coughing. The algorithm is
especially sensitive to "hotspots": where four or more pets brought to one
hospital within five days display symptoms.
"If we detect the
presence of a hotspot, then samples would absolutely be quickly sent off to
be analyzed," said Hugh Lewis, Banfield's senior vice president. "And if it
turned out to be avian flu, then we'd know that it existed in that part of
the country, and we'd know who'd been in contact with that cat."
The World Health Organization has confirmed
four cases of human
infection (not five as I reported yesterday) from bird flu in Egypt,
including two deaths. A fifth case is pending.
The WHO announcement notes that nine countries have now experienced
confirmed cases of human infection from bird flu since December 2003. Four
countries - Turkey, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Egypt - reported their first cases
April 4th, 2006
Life Style Extra -
Here’s an expression I
didn’t know – plague pits. And, of all places, I found it on the
Life Style Extra website:
More than a third of
a million British victims of bird flu are to be buried in plague pits if an
outbreak of the deadly disease takes hold, a leaked government report
Mass burials similar
to the plague pits used when the Black Death swept through Britain in the
17th Century will be enforced should the H5N1 strain of the virus mutate and
Egypt – Getting Worse
The Egyptian Health
Minister has reported
cases of people infected with bird flu, bringing the total in the
country to eight. (So far the World Health Organization has confirmed only
five of the
cases, including two deaths.)
And the Egyptian
government has blamed a
refusal by poultry farmers to follow sanitation instructions for the
continuing spread of the disease.
Coverage – Not Yet at Peak Intensity
media coverage of bird flu comes from Donald Luskin, who has originated
his own investment index of bird flu stocks. His article discusses whether
it’s time to start selling stocks in his index, on the ground that they have
made good profits. He reasons that it is still too early, because media
coverage of the flu outbreak has still not peaked.
Here’s a little of what
he has to say:
As both an investor
and a journalist, I think I'm pretty good at judging when stories have
reached their peak intensity in the media. That's when you want to sell.
We're not there yet.
Yes, there's been a
lot of coverage, as more and more nations in Europe and Asia deal with an
increasing number of infections and deaths in humans and animals….The
publicity has spread as rapidly as the disease. On just a single day this
week — Tuesday — the New York Times ran no fewer than six stories about
But I'm not concerned
that the theme has become overexposed yet. That's because so far the media
hasn't quite figured out what the conventional wisdom on avian flu is going
to be. As media critics put it, they have yet to settle on a consistent
"narrative." That means that public perception is still in flux, and still
has room to go.
Let me give you a
sense of what I mean. Of those six Times stories Tuesday, some were
end-of-the-world apocalyptic and others were don't-worry-about-it
reassuring. In one Times story, a United Nations official who is terribly
worried about a catastrophic global pandemic is nevertheless quoted griping
that the media always hypes the risk by quoting only his worst-case global
death estimate. Then another Times story — the very same day, mind you, and
this time a story intended to be reassuring — does just that: It quotes only
his worst-case death estimate.
Until the media is
unanimous — until there's a deeply embedded "narrative" — the avian-flu
stocks are going to continue to soar.
In unrelated media news,
the Israeli Health Ministry wonders if
journalists covering the bird flu outbreak in the country have actually
become responsible for helping it spread further.
The Canadian government
has launched a new website,
Pandemic Influenza, to
keep people informed on the latest developments.