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Bird Flu - Archives


April 13th - April 29th, 2006

This is the Wrong Advice

Pakistan’s Daily Times reports that the Punjab Minister for Health, Dr Tahir Ali Javed, has said that there are no human cases of bird flu infection in the country. However, “consumers should avoid using chicken.”

April 29th, 2006


British Poultry Worker Has Bird Flu

A worker at the Norfolk farm where the H7 strain of bird flu was confirmed this week has developed an eye infection caused by avian flu. He has been given the drug Tamiflu, but has no respiratory symptoms and is not in hospital.

April 29th, 2006


Bird Flu and Face Masks

The Medical News Today website reports that the US Institute of Medicine has advised that face masks may offer only modest protection against bird flu.


The report concluded that we really do not know how much protection face masks could offer during a pandemic. There is no compelling evidence that they would be able to stop the pandemic virus from entering and infecting the human body, i.e. the evidence is not there.


The report expressed concern about people putting on a mask, feeling protected, and going into crowded places or areas where infected people may be.


Quite bluntly, the report says it does not know. It is not telling us not to use a mask, it is not telling us a mask would protect us. All it is really saying is that respiratory protection is the last resort to control the spread of infection.

April 29th, 2006


Did a Workman's Boot Cause a Bird Flu Outbreak?
Britain's latest bird flu scare is still thought to be the H7 strain. How did it begin? The Times reports:

Infected faeces from a wild bird carried into a chicken shed on a workman’s boot are thought to be the most likely source of a bird flu outbreak on a farm in Norfolk.

Such a breach in biosecurity will be of major concern to Britain’s £3 billion-a-year poultry industry, which prides itself on the strict hygiene, cleansing and disinfecting standards observed on commercial farms.

April 28th, 2006


More Bird Flu in Britain
Some 35,000 British chickens are to be killed, after bird flu was found in samples of dead birds. Early tests suggest it is the H7 strain, less dangerous than H5N1.
April 27th, 2006


No More Touchy-Feely

The people of Hawaii will need to greet one another with fewer kisses and hugs if a bird flu pandemic comes to the islands, according to the state’s health director.


"Here in Hawaii we're very touchy-feely people -- we kiss each other when we say hello," Dr. Chiyome Fukino told reporters on the sidelines of a state influenza summit. "What we do know is that in a pandemic, those simple social graces will need to be set aside for a period of time ... Don't kiss everybody all over the place."

April 27th, 2006


Latest Outbreaks

The Ivory Coast has become Africa’s sixth country – after Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Egypt and Burkina Faso – to report H5N1.


Hundreds of ducks have been culled in Bali after samples tested positive for H5N1.


Ten domestic hens have died from suspected bird flu in a village in central Kazakhstan.


All 12 cases of bird flu detected in the Czech Republic in the past month were the H5N1 strain.


Meanwhile, the world must prepare for “a long-term fight” against bird flu and not give in to fatigue that seems to have set in, according to a senior World Health Organisation official.

April 27th, 2006


Bird Flu Pandemic – Coming to Russia This Summer?

A bird flu pandemic is highly probable in Russia this summer, said Gennady Onishchenko, chief of Rospotrebnadzor, Russia's consumer rights watchdog, according to a report from the Interfax news agency.


"The epicenter of the bird flu virus's pandemic strain formation has shifted to Russia," Onishchenko told a news conference on Tuesday.


Therefore, Rospotrebnadzor and other agencies' serious and successful work will largely determine when the pandemic strain strikes our planet, he said.


Due to unusually cold temperatures in the Southern Caspian region - in Iran and Turkey - and rather warm weather in southern Russia this year, migrating birds nested in unlikely places. "This explains early bird flu outbreaks in Dagestan and other locations in the Southern Federal District," Onishchenko said.

April 26th, 2006


Iran Develops a Bird Flu Bomb?

Yes, according to this report:


Iran today announced successful testing of what it calls the world’s first bird flu-based weapons system.


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, acknowledging that his nation’s campaign to develop nuclear weapons has ruffled feathers internationally, said Iran would abandon nukes in favor of bird flu bombs, which he claimed are just as effective and far less expensive.


"Cheap, cheap, cheap," said Ahmadinejad, who made the announcement with a brightly colored parrot perched on his left shoulder. "You just take some avian flu — only the finest H5N1 strain of course — swab it onto the tip of a missile and, kablooey, a million dead infidels."


NB: The website is “John Breneman’s ‘Fake News.’”

April 26th, 2006


Bird Flu Tourism
The discovery two weeks ago of an H5N1-infected dead swan at the Scottish village of Cellardyke was expected to spell economic disaster for the region. Instead, reports Britain's Sunday Times, there's been a modest tourism boom.

What attracted the tourists, apparently, were pictures of Cellardyke’s whitewashed harbourside cottages and its craw-stepped gables flashing up on television screens. These images were supported by reports that conjured up the sound of little fishing boats knocking against the harbour wall. 

...“The pictures were brilliant,” says Eleanor Bowman,...proprietor of the Craw’s Nest hotel in Anstruther, just half a mile from Cellardyke. “The place looked lovely. The weather was terrific.”

April 24th, 2006


Indian Vet Did Not Have Bird Flu
An Indian vet who died after working with infected birds (scroll down) did not have bird flu, authorities have reported.
April 24th, 2006



Health authorities in India have requested tests to determine if the death of a vet – who had been engaged in bird culling operations – was from bird flu. According to the Times of India: “His death has created panic in the entire veterinary fraternity, prompting many veterinary officers to abandon duty in the bird flu-affected areas.”

A new poll suggests only half of all Americans have confidence that their government will be able to effectively handle a bird flu outbreak.


Britain’s Daily Mail reports that 99.8% of H5N1 germs can be eradicated in 30 seconds by a $5.35 hand cleanser – No-Germs – that is on sale in British supermarkets and pharmacies. (The Daily Mail also carries an excellent feature: “Bird flu: How it spread across the globe.”)


The World Health Organization has confirmed a fourth bird flu death in Egypt and a 12th in China. It brings to 204 the total number of human cases since December 2003, including 113 deaths.


Eight penguins have become the first birds in Norway to be vaccinated against bird flu.

April 22nd, 2006


Pandemic Panic

In America:


“I have a bunch of patients coming in here who are more worried about bird flu than they are about heart disease,” said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist and associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. “The fear is out of proportion to the current risk.”


On the stock market:


Shares of Tyson Foods Inc., the nation's largest chicken and beef producer, fell Thursday after the company slashed its earnings outlook because bird flu fears are suppressing demand and prices for exported chicken.


In Denmark:


Danish airport authorities briefly quarantined a Singapore Airlines flight on Thursday over fears a passenger might have bird flu.


In Europe:


A study published in The Lancet today claims Europe is only "moderately prepared" ahead of a potential flu pandemic.


…Dr Richard Coker, the report's lead author said: "Wide gaps exist in the pandemic preparedness of European nations.


"With the ongoing spread of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in birds and the impending threat of a pandemic, European nations need to work together to adequately prepare for the onset of such a pandemic."

April 21st, 2006


Bird Flu Humor - David Letterman Top Ten List
From the Late Show with David Letterman, Top Ten Features Of President Bush's Bird Flu Pandemic Plan:

10. Hang "Mission Accomplished" sign in every Kentucky Fried Chicken

9. Torture some Perdue employees until they talk

8. Scare birds away with giant radioactive kitties

7. Be on the lookout for any bird which looks "fluey"

6. Build wall along border so birds can't walk in from Mexico

5. Never leave the house, avoid human contact -- like Letterman

4. Tax cuts for the rich

3. C'mon, it's a Bush plan -- you actually think there's ten items?

2. If you see a bird, run like you're being chased by a tiger

1. Hang on until 2009 when it becomes Hillary's headache
April 20th, 2006


Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America

ABC television has announced that its “May Sweeps” promotion will be the just-produced movie, “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America.”


"Fatal Contact," airing May 9, stars Stacy Keach, Joely Richardson, Ann Cusack and Justine Machado in a tale of a worst-case scenario, if the bird-flu virus was transmitted to humans in America.


"We feel we're providing a level of awareness and we've gone to great effort to make sure the film is accurate," co-producer Judith Verno said. "We've included a lot of information we believe people need to know."


"We had wonderful consultants who were actually ahead of the [bird-flu] curve," Kerew said. "The way the disease popped up in China, then moved to Turkey and Africa, were things we already knew about."


"Our movie has a character who was in Iraq and got the bird flu there and survived - and, as we were shooting, the bird flu hit Iraq," Verno said.

April 19th, 2006


Myanmar (Burma) – Getting Worse?

I’ve written several times about fears that Myanmar (Burma) could be the source of a bird flu pandemic, due to a backward economy and a government dedicated to intense secrecy. So here’s further cause for concern – the alternative Democratic Voice of Burma website is reporting that a “Burmese vet who doesn’t want to be named” has said that the disease is still spreading, despite official denials.


The disease is particularly spreading in periphery areas such as Mandalay Kwet Thit Ward and the border areas of Amarapura Township, the vet said.


As some bigger chicken farms are worried that their farms will be destroyed if smaller farms around them are reported of the outbreak of the disease, there have been cases of bigger farms bribing smaller farms not to report the outbreaks in their farms to the veterinary departments.


You can read a lot more disease news (all of it highly alarming) from Burma at The Irrawaddy website.

April 19th, 2006


Pandemic Planning

The US government is finalising a program of counter-measures should a bird flu pandemic strike, according to Fox News, which adds: “Federal officials say the first case of bird flu could show up in the United States in the coming weeks or months as birds migrate from overseas.”


Among the measures: US money would be printed overseas and drive-through bird flu tests would be conducted in hospital parking lots. The large number of employees working from home would likely put pressure on internet capacity.

April 18th, 2006


Has Any Disease in India Gone Away?

The headline to this excellent Reuters report says it all: “Ill-equipped South Asia looks resigned to bird flu.”


It discusses how bird flu looks like becoming entrenched in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar, despite all the efforts of the authorities. A few excerpts:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and some Indian officials say that once the virus takes hold in any country -- developed or not -- it is just about impossible to eradicate.


"Has any disease which has come in the last 50 years into India gone away?" said H.K. Pradhan, head of India's only animal diseases laboratory that carries out tests for bird flu.


…"I hope bird flu does not become part of our lives," said Faiz Qureshi, a young restaurant owner in New Delhi.


"There are car accidents in the streets everyday, but people don't stop driving, do they?" he said, surveying his almost empty restaurant known for chicken and mutton dishes.

April 18th, 2006


Human Infection in Denmark
A 25-year-old Dane has been transferred to Copenhagen's Royal hospital after testing positive for bird flu in a local clinic, the Danish news agency Ritzau is reporting.
April 15th, 2006

False alarm.
April 16th, 2006

News Flash

Panic over possible bird flu has broken out in the Ivory Coast after the mystery deaths of 100 chickens and of four dogs that ate their carcasses.


Russia has lost nearly half of its farm poultry because of bird flu, according to a health official.


Japan’s Health Ministry plans to designate H5N1 as a Category IV infectious disease, the most severe level.


Key West (US) officials are concerned that the area’s famous roaming chickens could spread bird flu.

April 15th, 2006


Paranoia in Egypt
Yesterday I reported (scroll down) on the sad case of the Cambodian mother abused by fellow villagers after her daughter died of bird flu. The New York Times has a similar report from Egypt:


Given the choice between the possibility her children would fall ill from bird flu or the certainty they would go hungry if she got rid of the ducks she raised in her home, Hamida Abdullah said there was really no choice at all.

…Telling poor Egyptians in the countryside they cannot raise poultry at home for food and extra income would be like prohibiting Russians from growing vegetables at their dachas. It would cut off not only a crucial source of nutrition, but also a lifestyle that has deep cultural roots.

April 14th, 2006


Paranoia in Britain

The headline in Britain’s The Times says it all: “Never mind H5N1: virulent outbreaks of bird flu phobia are on the horizon.”


No sooner had Sir David “Don’t Panic!” King, the Government Chief Scientist, reassured us at the weekend about the “very low” chance of a human outbreak, than a letter from Sir Liam “We’re Doomed” Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, revealed plans to close all schools if and when that outbreak occurs, supposedly to limit the predicted death toll to 50,000 rather than 100,000 children. Just the thing to jolly up the holidays.

April 14th, 2006


Uh Oh
Seven people have been admitted to hospital in India with suspected bird flu.
April 13th, 2006


Covering Up Bird Flu In Cambodia

Sad story from Cambodia:


When her 3-year-old daughter died of bird flu, Choeun Sok Ny expected sympathy from fellow villagers in Cambodia. All she got was abuse after the death drew government culling teams but no compensation.


It’s an excellent report, the story of all poor countries, and why it’s so hard in those places to beat the flu. As the article says:


If governments in countries like Cambodia, where most people have to get by on a dollar a day, do not compensate properly for poultry lost in anti-bird flu culls, villagers will do all they can to ensure possible outbreaks are covered up.

April 13th, 2006