Bird Flu - Archives
January 2nd - January
The World Health Organization, which is generally cautious in confirming bird flu outbreaks, has announced that 14 cases of human infection have been detected in the country, including two deaths. WHO officials have said there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
The Turkish newswire Zaman Online carries this highly disturbing report:
Prior to the announcement of bird flu cases at the beginning of January, it was determined the virus was actually first detected in the laboratories of the Agriculture Ministry on December 9. A ministry statement on the same day denied the existence of the disease in Turkey.
Also on the same day, the ministry's Veterinary Control Research Institute Directorate kept secret the autopsy records of suspect chickens, turkeys, and geese. These birds, it was confirmed, were infected with the bird flu virus. In different samples received from laboratories in Erzurum, Kars, Erzincan, and Agri in November, the bird flu virus was also detected. The data was recorded in laboratory reports on December 9-10.
Twenty five days after confirmation of the new diagnosis, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker stated, "There is no bird flu in Turkey."
In other developments, Iran has closed its Turkish border crossing, and Russian officials are advising against holidaying in Turkey.
January 10th, 2006
The governor of Ankara has announced that two children and an adult in the Turkish capital have tested positive for H5N1 bird flu. It seems the unofficial count of cases of human infection in the country is now nine. There are also scary reports of bird flu in Istanbul. Altogether, the flu has been reported in 10 of the country’s 81 provinces, says the New York Times, and health officials say they now believe the disease has been “simmering” in the east of the country for several months.
According to the New York Times article:
The cluster of cases in Turkey is extraordinary and concerning, scientists said. In all of East Asia, where the disease has been running rampant in birds for years, only about 140 people have ever become infected and there has never been this kind of grouping.
Scientists are exploring various theories to explain the Turkish clusters, including biological changes in the virus and behavioral risks. "When the temperatures drop below zero - as they do frequently around Van in the winter - people may be more likely to bring the chickens indoors and that could increase exposure," Ms. Cheng said. "That's not something we'd expect in Vietnam, where it’s much warmer."
January 9th, 2006
A third child has died in Eastern Turkey of bird flu, and at least 23 others in the region – mainly children - are in hospital, one of them in critical condition. Clinical Microbiology Foundation President Professor Haluk Eraksoy has stated that more deaths may occur. Reuters reports that bird flu has been detected in ducks near the capital Ankara, and comments:
suggests migratory birds may be spreading the disease across the large
country, as experts had warned. Bird flu first surfaced in Turkey last
October in a corner of western Turkey near the Sea of Marmara, further west
than Nallihan, but authorities declared that infected area clear of the
disease last month after imposing quarantine measures.
January 7th, 2006
The US government is issuing guidelines on how to cope in the event of a flu pandemic. The advice seems fairly obvious, but it’s always worth repeating these things. For example:
• Stock up: Keep a supply of water and nonperishable food.
• Cover your mouth: Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
• Work: Ask your employer about how business will continue during a pandemic.
• Stay home: Call in if you are sick; consider working at home.
• Family health plan: Include information such as blood types, past and current medical conditions, medications and important phone numbers.
January 7th, 2006
Drug companies involved in bird flu research have seen their stock prices soar in recent months. But, warns a CNN Money report, the end of the flu season might also mean the end of the run-up in the shares.
Flu season typically peaks in the winter. During these months, Wall Street traders ride the subways with thousands of flu-stricken workers, and many of the traders become sick themselves. It's easy for them to imagine a flu pandemic.
So what happens to biotech stocks when flu season ends? "Influenza will become a less topical story come March," said Scott Henry, analyst for Oppenheimer & Co. "The flu does tend to be a seasonal event."
…But Henry added that "most companies that don't earn money are dependent on the news cycle," so if bird flu fails to generate headlines, it could also fail to generate investor interest. "If you think you're going to play the hype, you should probably play the cycle, too," said Henry. "If you're a trader looking for a quick move, you have to recognize the seasonality of the flu and the news cycle. You don't want to be the last one on the block."
January 7th, 2006
The Turkish news service NTV MSNBC reports that a further six people have been hospitalized in the town of Aralik – where two bird flu deaths have already occurred - with bird flu-like symptoms. Altogether, 15 people in eastern Turkey have been hospitalized with the symptoms, according to the report. An official WHO announcement says 11 people have been hospitalized. The Turkish cases bring the number of countries reporting human infection to six, with a total of 144 cases.
January 6th, 2006
Turkey’s Health Minister has confirmed two cases of bird flu human infection. One patient – a 14-year-old boy - has died, and his sister is seriously ill. A third sibling is showing bird flu symptoms. The family live and work on a poultry farm, in the east of the country, near the Iranian border.
January 5th, 2006
Sanofi Pasteur, a unit of Paris-based pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis, is “leading the pack in the race to develop a vaccine that could help prevent an avian flu pandemic,” according to a report in Business Week. The journal says that the company has already signed contracts with the governments of France, Australia, and the US to produce more than five million doses of the vaccine to be stockpiled in case of emergency.
Meanwhile, the Science Daily website reports that The La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology is making “significant strides” in the battle against bird flu, with “pre-clinical trials under way on a potential treatment conceived by one of its scientists.”
Interesting article at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) website on why H5N1 viruses are not all the same.
The answer has to do with the rather outdated conventions for naming influenza viruses, according to David Halvorson, a veterinary pathologist and avian influenza expert at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.
The "H" and "N" in the name of a flu virus stand for hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, two proteins on the surface of the virus that allow it to enter and exit host cells. Sixteen different hemagglutinins and nine different neuraminidases have been identified to date.
Hemagglutinin and neuraminidase were the first aspects of the flu virus to be identified, so the nomenclature was built around the two genes that code for them, Halvorson explained to CIDRAP News. The types are numbered according to when they were discovered; H1 was identified first.
However, a flu virus also has six other genes and corresponding proteins. Thus a name like "H5N1" is a very incomplete description of the virus.
"The H5N1 only describes two of the eight genes, so there are six other genes," Halvorson said. It's possible to have an H5N1 strain with six other genes from an avian flu virus, or an H5N1 with six other genes from a human-adapted or pig-adapted flu virus. "That's how far apart they can be."
For example, the other six genes in a given H5N1 virus could be identical to the other six genes in an H6N2 virus, he said.
In an analogy Halvorson uses with his students, he said that assuming that all H5N1 viruses are identical would be like assuming that all men wearing navy blazers and gray pants are the same in other ways.
"You can have the mafia wearing that outfit or you can have a college professor wearing that outfit—or a used car salesman," he said.
"We're stuck with something we have difficulty explaining because we don't really have good nomenclature," Halvorson summed up.
January 2nd, 2006
A Turkish boy has died after eating chicken, and three siblings are sick. Tests for bird flu are being undertaken. Turkey has previously experienced H5N1 outbreaks, but has not previously reported human infection.
January 2nd, 2006