Bird Flu - Archives
January 14th - January
New Zealand’s Pandemic
What is it with New
Zealand (where I was born)? It’s unlikely to be any more affected by bird
flu than any other Western nation, and as a remote island country might be
even less hurt. Yet it seems the government and media there have gone
bananas over the prospect of a pandemic. It’s prompted
government's preparations for a possible outbreak of bird flu are being
panned as being completely over the top.
This week the Ministry of Health began distributing leaflets explaining how
New Zealanders should prepare for a possible pandemic. It is already
stockpiling shots of the ant-viral drug Tamiflu.
But Macquarie University professor Peter Curson, from Australia, said New
Zealand is getting into a flap over nothing. He said the government is
reacting to something that is very unlikely to happen.
Peter Curson said the country would be better off declaring a pandemic of
some of the real health problems it has, like diabetes and obesity.
Is it not time the
New Zealand Herald [the country’s biggest daily newspaper] was renamed the
New Zealand Hysteria? Such a change would certainly seem justified after a
bizarre article this week on how to survive the eschatological ravages of
Readers were advised
to stock up on bottled water, to buy a barbecue to cook on and to remember
that hot water cylinders are drinkable.
Who would have known
that a flu virus would knock out electricity, water and gas supplies? There
were other such helpful hints - that empty plastic bottles are dandy for
storing water, swimming pools can be used for sanitation and canned food
does need a can opener.
The best advice was
at the end. "Supermarkets," the newspaper breathlessly advised, "would
remain open, but with fewer staff." So why do I need all those cans? And
won't my neighbour get upset if I use his kidney-shaped bather for my
This pandemic panic
is being fuelled by health policy advisers to justify their jobs, the media
to fill an otherwise bare news desert, and local bodies to justify their
excessive rates demands.
New Drug from Avi
Avi BioPharma, a small
biotech company based in Portland, Oregon, has announced that three
independent laboratories have confirmed that its new drug, Neugene, appears
effective in fighting H5N1 flu. The company now
file with the Food and Drug Administration to begin human clinical trials.
Shares in Avi BioPharma rocketed 50% on the news.
The Staying Power of
Bird flu can
bird droppings for more than a month in cold weather, and for nearly a
week in hot weather, according to a new, updated
WHO fact sheet, which suggests that droppings are one of the keys to the
spread of the disease.
Tamiflu – Good Cop, Bad
Two stories today.
surprising study researchers have urged against wide usage of the popular
Tamiflu and similar antiviral drugs during flu season. The study, published
Thursday in the London-based medical journal the Lancet, concluded that the
drugs aren't likely to help many patients with flu-like symptoms. The
authors also said they found no "credible evidence" that Tamiflu works
against bird flu.
But then there is this,
Oxford Press in Ohio:
The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention's unexpected recommendation that doctors
begin prescribing Tamiflu for everyday influenza could have far-reaching
ripple effects, according to pharmaceutical and flu experts.
…The CDC said
Saturday that physicians should cease prescribing two older drugs,
amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine), as protection against
the worst side effects of flu because most of the flu now circulating
in the country has become resistant and the drugs no longer work. To
adequately protect against serious illness or death, physicians should
substitute Tamiflu, CDC said.
H5N1 in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has sometimes
been the transit point – between East and West - for flu outbreaks. Now
H5N1 has been confirmed in a bird in the region.
down 90% in Turkey in the wake of the bird flu outbreak, according to
Reuters, and poultry farmers are suffering:
"We can hardly sell
any eggs. People are scared to buy eggs and poultry," Ahmet Sisman, the
owner of the Buyuk Sismanlar egg production company, said on Wednesday at
his farm housing some 300,000 egg-laying chickens in the Cubuk area, 40 km
northeast of the capital Ankara.
customers cannot pay us back, but we have to feed our chickens. We can feed
our poultry for the next week or 10 days, but if the situation remains
unchanged and nobody buys our eggs, then we won't be able to feed our
chickens any more. It is not like just shutting down a manufacturing
factory," he complained.
…"After news of the
first human deaths from bird flu in the east of the country, our sales came
to a virtual halt. Now we sell only 10 percent of what we used to trade
before," Yusuf Zafar Kaya, Vice-President of the Turkish Association of Egg
Producers (TAEP), said. "The consumers are afraid to buy our product because
of a lack of awareness. This is despite the fact that eggs and poultry from
organised farms do not pose any health threat and all safety measures in the
production facilities are strictly followed," he said.
More Cases Expected, But Situation Improving
The World Health
Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it expected more human cases of bird flu
following the death of four people in Turkey, but said the risks to humans
were steadily diminishing.
…"We do expect to see
some (more) cases because it takes time before the virus in birds has
completely disappeared," Dr. Guenael Rodier, who heads the WHO mission to
Turkey and is an expert in communicable diseases, told Reuters in an
interview. "We know that the risk remains with close interaction between
people and birds but we believe it is going down daily."
Latest – Human to Human Transmission?
Or Is It All
A girl has
suspected bird flu in Turkey and her brother is in a critical condition.
If confirmed, it would bring to 20 the number of human cases of bird flu
infection in Turkey, including four deaths. And WHO officials now wonder if
human-to-human transmission of the disease is occurring in Turkey.
Nevertheless, Time magazine asks, “Is
Bird Flu Overhyped?” and suggests that “the virus may turn out to be far
less deadly than we have been led to believe.”
authorities have seized a haul of
5,000 packets of Tamiflu – apparently genuine - being hawked over the
internet, and believed to have been stolen.
Alert - Travel Advisory
Observer newspaper carries an excellent summary of precautions that are
international travelers, to guard against bird flu. A couple of
What are the symptoms?
Fever, cough, sore
throat and trouble breathing. The CDC [the
American government's Center for Disease Control and Prevention]
advises checking for
these symptoms for 10 days after you return from an affected country.
Should we take
special medical kit?
As with most
infectious disease, hand washing is one of the most important preventative
measures. The US CDC recommends you take a bottle of alcohol handwash so you
can clean your hands even when not near soap and water.
excellent report in the Financial Times suggests that Turkish
winning the bird flu battle. One interesting statistic:
The greatest source
of comfort for [Health Ministry official] Dr [Mehmet
amid the turmoil and dislocation of the outbreak is that the death rate
among people in Turkey from infection by H5N1 is much lower than in
southeast Asia – 16.6 per cent against 58 per cent (his calculations). “The
outbreak is coming down from the peak point, but we cannot be certain about
what will happen next. For the moment, this is not an epidemic,” he says.
fascinating first-hand account of the Turkish situation, read the
blog from AP reporter Benjamin Harvey.
development, The Guardian reports that an analysis of the Turkish
victims is leading scientists to believe they may have found
more effective treatment for the H5N1 strain of the virus.
We Should Keep These Thoughts to Ourselves.”
Boston Herald felt free to editorialize in its report of comments by
Dell Corporation CEO Kevin Rollins. Under the headline “Bird-brained
Dell exec sees profits in flu” it wrote:
In a remark that
raised eyebrows for its apparent lack of sensitivity, Dell Inc. Chief
Executive Kevin Rollins said the avian flu now spreading through Eastern
Europe could help the made-to order PC company reap profits.
‘‘We deliver to
homes,’’ Rollins said in an address at a business luncheon in Boston.
‘‘People don’t have to come to stores.’’
Explaining his logic,
he said when panic surrounding the SARS virus took hold of China, Dell’s
business in the emerging technology market picked up when people were forced
‘‘Our business in
China boomed,’’ he said, because people were either quarantined or
sequestered themselves at home in order to avoid coming in contact with the
matter-of-fact phrasing drew an astonished chuckle from one veteran retail
analyst. ‘‘It’s certainly putting it in its bluntest terms, isn’t it?’’ said
Wendy Leibmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail, a retail consulting firm
in New York. ‘‘It’s perhaps not politically correct or even appropriate.
Sometimes we should keep these thoughts to ourselves.’’