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Bird Flu - Archives

 

December 14th - December 31st, 2005
 

Another Chinese Death

The World Health Organization has confirmed a further bird flu death in China, a 41-year-old woman from Fujian province. It is China’s seventh confirmed case, and third fatality. Somewhat ominously, WHO reports:

Agricultural authorities so far have not been able to confirm the presence of the H5 virus subtype in poultry in the vicinity of the patient’s residence or place of work. Investigators have not been able to confirm any direct contact between the patient and poultry prior to the onset of illness. The investigation, however, is continuing and answers to these and other questions are still being sought.

December 31st, 2005

 

The Year of Being Scared by Bird Flu

The media are writing their annual “that was the year that was” retrospectives, and bird flu is getting lots of mentions.

 

According to MedPage Today, 2005 was “the Year of Being Scared of the Bird Flu. Could the virus mutate into an efficient person-to-person transmission agent? Not yet, but the warning signs are posted.”

 

And Forbes writes: “It has yet to sicken a single American, but the potential for a bird flu virus pandemic riveted the attention of health officials and ordinary people in 2005, making it the year's top health news story.”

December 30th, 2005

 

“Pump and Dump” – Bird Flu Get-Rich-Quick Schemes Target the Unwary

US securities regulator NASD has issued an investor alert, “Bird Flu Stock Scam Could Be Hazardous To Your Financial Health”:

 

The threat of bird flu is fueling stock scams touting large gains from companies that claim to be poised to capitalize on helping the world avoid a global pandemic. NASD is issuing this Alert to warn investors that fax and email investment scams may come your way trumpeting the promise of large gains for companies with products and services aimed at fighting bird flu.

 

One fax claimed its company "has the solution for tracking and containing the Bird Flu virus in turn preventing it from spreading." Citing the enormous cost of fighting avian flu, the fax stated the stock was "positioned to gain 250% or more." The fax went on to urge investors not to miss out on a stock that was "clearly missed by Wall Street."

 

In a press release coinciding with the alert, NASD Vice President of Investor Education John Gannon said: "This is an age-old pump-and-dump scheme with a brand new disguise. Unfortunately, fraudsters are quick to exploit every new crisis or catastrophe to peddle their get-rich-quick scams to unsuspecting investors."

December 29th, 2005

 

Super-Tamiflu Developed in China

Forbes is reporting a breakthrough in China, with scientists there apparently developing a new, super-Tamiflu. It is a drug that is said to be superior to Tamiflu in treating humans with bird flu, yet costs one-third the price.

 

According to the report:

 

The Chinese drug was developed by a research group at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, which could not immediately be reached for comment.

'We have completed clinical experiments, and find it is more effective on humans than Tamiflu,' the newspaper [China Daily] quoted Li Song, a leading scientist in the academy's research group, as saying.

No details were given on whether any clinical tests had been conducted on the drug and whether it had been approved for production or sale.

December 28th, 2005

 

Apart from That, It’s Quite Safe

The Free-Market News Network has published what it claims is “an analysis of the potential side-effects from this medicine [Tamiflu], which may make it even less appropriate for consumption.”

 

The list:

 

Aches and pains, allergic reactions (sometimes leading to shock), asthma and aggravation of pre-existing asthma, bronchitis, chest infection, conjunctivitis, dermatitis, diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, ear infections and problems, erythema multiforme, headache, hepatitis, indigestion, liver problems, lymphadenopathy, nausea, nose bleed, rash or rashes, runny nose, sinusitis, Stevens Johnson syndrome, symptoms of a cold, tiredness, tummy pain, urticaria, and vomiting.

December 27th, 2005

 

Shikimic Acid from Discarded Christmas Trees

A Canadian company has found a novel use for discarded Christmas trees. It plans to extract shikimic acid – the base ingredient of Tamiflu - from them. According to Biolyse Pharma, “the trees contain shikimic acid in their pine, spruce and fir needles.”

December 26th, 2006

 

Australia – All Clear

Health authorities have determined that a sick chicken at a farm in rural NSW does not have bird flu. Earlier, the farm had been placed under quarantine.

December 24th, 2005

 

Oh No!

Here in 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 destroyed.

 

Agriculture Minister 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.”

December 23rd, 2005

 

Tests to Begin for Tamiflu Rival

A little Alabama biotech firm is “gaining on the front runner” in the race to develop an effective anti-flu treatment, according to a CNN report.

 

The company is BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, and it has just received US Food and Drug Administration approval to start human testing of its new drug, peramivir.

 

According to CNN:

 

Should the tests prove successful the drug could become an alternative to Tamiflu, the medicine currently considered the leading treatment for bird flu. And the effectiveness of that treatment has been called into question this week, with a report in the New England Journal of Medicine that bird flu patients died despite taking Tamiflu.

However, at the same time Business Week is reporting that Sanofi Pasteur of France "is leading the pack in the race to develop a vaccine that could help prevent an avian-flu pandemic."

December 23rd, 2005

 

British Turkey Sales Remain Firm

Bird flu fears didn’t seem to hurt US turkey consumption this Thanksgiving. In the UK, where turkey is the most popular Christmas dish, it also seems likely the impact of bird flu will be muted, although some industry sources are reporting a slight move towards roast beef.

 

According to Reuters:

 

Britain's major supermarket chains have reported that turkey demand has held up well so far this year but sales and prices are down at London's Smithfield market where meat has been traded since the 12th century.

 

"Orders (for fresh turkey) are down 35 to 40 percent. It is because of bird flu without a doubt," said Smithfield meat trader Greg Lawrence, adding he mainly supplies small butchers.

 

…Peter Bradnock, Chief Executive of the British Poultry Council, noted that only a small proportion of turkeys were traded at the wholesale market in Smithfield with most consumers buying from supermarkets or even direct from turkey farms.

 

"We don't think that stories about bird flu in late October are going to influence any purchasing decisions before Christmas," he said, noting the widespread media interest in the bird flu virus which followed news it had reached eastern Europe in late October had now died down.

December 22nd, 2005

 

Sting Operations Target Illegal Tamiflu

The British Financial Times newspaper reports that health regulators around the world have launched a wave of sting operations designed to stop increasing numbers of illegal Tamiflu sales. In many cases, fake Tamiflu – generally sourced from Asia – is involved. In other cases, genuine Tamiflu is being sold, at inflated prices.

 

According to the report:

 

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said on Tuesday it had found nearly 20 websites around the world illegally selling Tamiflu. It had placed orders with several so it could analyse the drugs on offer and begin prosecutions of those involved.

 

…The UK actions mirror similar operations by the US, Sweden and other European nations. All are co-operating with their counterparts in Singapore, South Africa and Australia.

 

The US Customs and Border Protection service said on Tuesday it was continuing to impound regular air freight deliveries to San Francisco of “generic Tamiflu” that had been ordered over the internet by US customers. Since interceptions began one month ago, it had seized 51 shipments.

 

These shipments, along with supplies identified by Austrian and Dutch officials, appear to be from the same source in China. The packets bear Chinese writing and are accompanied by a crude letter from the internet supplier saying that drugs from a generic supplier are being offered because of supply shortages at Roche.

December 21st, 2005

 

“We’re Losing the Battle”

A man who should know says the bird flu outlook is grim:

 

David Nabarro, avian-flu coordinator for the United Nations, said Monday that the world is "losing the battle" in regard to avian flu in birds. "We are losing the battle against this particular (avian-flu outbreak in birds and domestic poultry). We must focus on stamping it out.

 

"This H5N1 virus is slowly changing though genetic re-assortment or mutation. The change is slow, but if this virus undergoes the change that leads to sustained human-to-human transmission, then we have a major problem. Then we probably will have the next human pandemic influenza. This is (a) serious risk.

 

"Virologists who study these things say do not get complacent. It is quite feasible that H5N1 could mutate. The fact that it has taken some years should not lead you to believe that we are through the worst. We believe that it is starting to spread into Africa."

December 20th, 2005

 

First Fake Tamiflu Seized in US

Counterfeit Tamiflu from China has been seized by customs agents in San Francisco.

 

The seizures of 51 packages marked "generic Tamiflu" began Nov. 26 and continued through last week, Roxanne Hercules, spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, said Sunday. "They were actually in containers that stated they were generic Tamiflu, but there is no generic Tamiflu, so that's a pretty big tip off,'' said Hercules.

December 20th, 2005

 

High-Risk Bird Flu Vaccine Trials

Interesting report in the Chicago Sun-Times about planned human experiments on a new anti-flu drug.

 

In an isolation ward of a Baltimore hospital, up to 30 volunteers will participate this April in a bold experiment: A vaccine made with a live version of the most notorious bird flu will be sprayed into their noses.

 

…It's high-risk, high-reward" research, said Dr. Brian Murphy, who heads the NIH lab where Dr. Kanta Subbarao is brewing the nasal sprays -- including one for a different bird flu strain that appeared safe in the first crucial human testing last summer. "It might fail, but if it's successful, it might prevent hundreds of thousands of cases" of the next killer flu, Murphy said.

 

In a separate development, Gemini Science, owned by Japan’s giant Kirin Brewery, says it has developed an antibody that could prove effective in fighting bird flu.

December 19th, 2005

 

Betting on Bird Flu

An article in the New York Times, reporting on a survey in Salon.com, examines Intrade, a kind of online futures market that has, apparently accurately predicted election results, the selection of Pope Benedict XVI and the severity of Hurricane Katrina.

 

And what does it say about bird flu? That there is a 65% chance that someone in the US will contract the virus by March.

December 19th, 2005

 

Relenza “Better Than Tamiflu”

The boss of Australian company Biota, which developed the Relenza flu drug, has claimed that it is superior to Tamiflu.

 

"Relenza has not demonstrated the resistance that Tamiflu has and appears to be efficacious in conditions where Tamiflu is not," he said.

December 17th, 2005

 

Japan – More Tamiflu Deaths?

A vague story, appearing on the Japan Today website – and, apparently, nowhere else - and sourced from Kyodo News Service (one of the two big Japanese news agencies), says that two local men have died after taking Tamiflu.

 

The entire story reads:

 

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Thursday that two men in their 50s and 80s have died after taking the anti-flu drug Tamiflu either by developing a serious skin disease or by kidney failure.

 

The ministry, however, denied there are "serious concerns" about the safety of Tamiflu at the moment, because the two men had been taking three other medicines such as antibiotics or drugs to treat high blood pressure, which could cause similar symptoms. The number of people aged 17 and above who died after taking Tamiflu stands at 26 since drug importer Chugai Pharmaceutical Co started selling Tamiflu in Japan in February 2001, ministry officials said.

December 16th, 2005

 

A Pandemic in Two Years

A Russian scientist has stated bluntly that a bird flu pandemic will arrive in two years.

 

The director of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences’ Influenza Institute, Oleg Kiselyov, said that a global epidemic of bird flu will occur in two years, Interfax reported Wednesday. “A pandemic will occur, and it will occur in two years,” Kiselyov told journalists at a science workshop conference in the Russian Agricultural Sciences Academy.

December 15th, 2005

 

Bogus Bird Flu Remedies

The US Food and Drug Administration has warned nine companies to stop marketing fake bird flu cures. These include capsules allegedly containing bacteria from dirt and other immune system "boosters" and claiming to help prevent or treat bird flu.

 

According to a report by Reuters:

 

"FDA is not aware of any scientific evidence that demonstrates the safety or effectiveness of these products for treating or preventing avian flu and the agency is concerned that the use of these products could harm consumers or interfere with conventional treatments," the agency said in a statement.

 

"The use of unproven flu cures and treatments increases the risk of catching and spreading the flu rather than lessening it because people assume they are protected and safe and they aren't," said Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, acting FDA commissioner. "I consider it a public health hazard when people are lured into using bogus treatments based on deceptive or fraudulent medical claims."

 

All of the companies sell via Internet Web sites and the FDA complained about several claims, including "prevents avian flu," "a natural virus shield," "kills the virus," and "treats the avian flu."

Most are promoted as being "natural" or "safer" treatments that can be used in place of approved drugs.

December 14th, 2005