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Bird Flu - Archives


April 1st - April 12th, 2006

News Round-Up

Egyptian authorities have announced the country’s 12th case of human bird flu infection. Indonesia has also reported another case.


An official World Health Organization statement has confirmed an additional case of bird flu human infection in Azerbaijan, bringing the total there to eight, of which five were fatal.


A “dangerous complacency” about bird flu is spreading in Asia, because it has not killed as many people as initially feared, according to a senior United Nations official.


A crackdown on noisy seagulls in Scotland has been abandoned due to fears that volunteers could contract bird flu.

April 12th, 2006


Who Needs Experts?

British bird flu “experts” are split on whether a bird flu pandemic is looming. According to The Independent:


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.

April 12th, 2006


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.


State health 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 originating.

April 11th, 2006


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 this:

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 comprehensive."


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.

April 11th, 2006


Let’s Hear It for Migratory Birds

Conservationists and 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."

April 10th, 2006



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 tested in Scotland for bird flu.

Supermarkets have been "irresponsible" and "outrageous" in their response to bird flu, Scotland's environment minister said.
April 8th, 2006

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, blaming the virus on "the insatiable demand for cheap food, the global poultry industry and the giant factory farms of south-east Asia." 

April 8th, 2006


Bird Flu Bites Britain

Villagers in Cellardyke, where the infected swan was found, have criticized 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.


Astonishment greeted 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 dog walkers.


A leading vet says the virus has probably already spread to other birds in the vicinity.


The Scottish environment minister has 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 flu.

April 8th, 2006


Glove Guidance

Aussie company Ansell Healthcare, best known for its condoms, has issued instructions concerning gloves and other protection for health care workers wishing to avoid bird flu.

April 8th, 2006


Time to Panic?

H5N1 has been confirmed in the UK. But the real panic probably won’t begin until it hits the US,

April 7th, 2006


Bird Flu Conspiracy Watch

"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.

April 7th, 2006


Walking the Walk to Help Other Flu Heads
A 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

"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”, here.

April 7th, 2006


Somewhat Explosive - Bird Flu in Britain and Beyond

A dead swan in Scotland has the H5 flu virus. We’ll know within 24 hours whether it’s H5N1.


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 ninth case of human infection.


A 12-year-old boy has died in Cambodia.


Bird flu has spread to 14 new villages in western India.


Azerbaijan is testing 43 people for possible bird flu.

April 6th, 2006


Don’t Under-Estimate Cats

Yesterday I reported (scroll down) that domestic pets may be the “canary in the mine” in warning us of the arrival of bird flu.


Further confirmation comes in a report 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.

April 6th, 2006

A reader has alerted me to the website, which carries an extensive file of flu-related reports.

April 6th, 2006

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.

According to Seed magazine:

"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."

April 5th, 2006


It's Official
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 this year.
April 4th, 2006


Life Style Extra - Plague Pits

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 revealed.


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 infect humans.

April 3rd, 2006


Egypt – Getting Worse

The Egyptian Health Minister has reported two more 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.
April 3rd, 2006


Media Coverage – Not Yet at Peak Intensity

An interesting commentary on 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 avian flu.


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.

April 1st, 2006


New Canadian Website

The Canadian government has launched a new website, Pandemic Influenza, to keep people informed on the latest developments.

April 1st, 2006