Bird Flu - Archives
January 24th - February
Seven Deaths in
Indonesia in 2006
reporting by WHO of two more bird flu deaths in Indonesia brings to
seven the confirmed fatalities from H5N1 in that country in 2006. Turkey is
next, with four deaths during 2006, followed by China with three deaths and
Iraq with one. Vietnam has reported the most bird flu deaths altogether – 42
in total – but none during 2006.
Keep Eating! Keep
Italian news service AGI
words of reassurance from the country’s Health Minister, following the
discovery of bird flu:
"There is no reason
to change food habits." Health Minister, Francesco Storace, thus reassured
the people over bird flu. "We are talking about wild animals, from which
there has never been a case of transmission of the virus to man." With this
in mind the minister also asked the press not to exaggerate the figures and
news so as not to spread panic among the people. "Everything should be done,
except becoming anxious."
Italian poultry sales
plunged more than 50 percent after news that the deadly bird flu virus had
reached Italy, a farmers' group said on Monday.
Reuters also reports
that news of the bird flu discovery have “dominated the newspapers,
eclipsing even the start of the campaign for the April general elections and
the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Turin.”
Europe Good, Africa Bad?
There’s quite a strong
case to be made that the discovery of bird flu in Italy and Greece is a good
thing. The reason? Given bird migration patterns, it was pretty inevitable
that H5N1 would arrive in Western Europe, and its quick detection shows that
systems are working to protect farmers, consumers and the general
In contrast, the
discovery of the flu in Nigeria suggests that H5N1 has been rampant on the
continent for some months.
New York Times sums it up:
The discovery of the
Italian outbreak seemed to be a model of early detection, underlining how
bird flu can be controlled in countries that have the money and the
scientific resources to do it.
Outbreaks in poor
countries like Nigeria, Turkey and Iraq percolated for months before they
were discovered, allowing the virus to spread widely to commercial chicken
flocks and even to humans.
…"There is no
immediate danger for our country," Mauro Delogu, an Italian virologist at
the University of Bolgona, told ANSA, "because our system of surveillance is
efficient and has not contaminated bird farms."
Concerning Nigeria, that
country’s Vanguard newspaper presents a
fascinating interview with Emmanuel Ijewere, formerly president of the
Red Cross of Nigeria and now retired and running a poultry (and other meat)
He explains in
considerable detail why Nigeria is ill-prepared to combat a major bird flu
outbreak, or other kind of emergency. One of his examples:
in Nigeria is almost zap. If there is a major disaster in Nigeria, we
wouldn’t be able to cope. In Lagos, in particular, the fire brigade that was
set up at independence still exists today. But, how many vehicles do they
have? And they have been honest enough to say if your building is above
three floors and there is fire, you are on your own. Because their hoses
cannot get there, even when it gets there, they do not have water….So, there
is this whole problem of lack of preparedness. God forbid, if anyone of us
should have fire in the house, you must put it out by yourself. Because, if
he is going to wait for the fire brigade, the fire would have consumed the
place before they arrive, and when they arrive they will do nothing. We are
all on our own. There is no preparedness, we need to address that, it’s very
Nigeria – Much Worse to
No more news from
Nigeria in the past 24 hours – and that has to be good – but officials are
worried that things could get much worse.
Alex Thiermann of the
World Organization for Animal Health, which works closely with the United
Nations, says Africa's first documented case of avian flu is of great
concern for the entire continent.
"And it's something
the OIC has been saying for awhile, that were the disease to get to Africa -
it's a continent where most countries have very weak veterinary
infrastructure - the rapidity to which the disease can be fought, and how
quickly we can eliminate it, has to do very directly related to the quality
of the veterinary infrastructures," he said.
Experts are concerned
that sub-Saharan Africa, with about 600 million of the world's poorest
people, is particularly ill-equipped to deal with a major health crisis.
They say any mass
slaughters, such as those used to control the virus in Asia, will be
BBC seems to
The WHO's regional
director in Africa said international support had arrived but most of it in
the form of technical advice and not what the region needs most - money.
Police marksmen, ordered to cull 180 ostriches at a farm in the
virus-stricken north, killed only 120 birds before running out of bullets,
the Associated Press news agency reported.
And hints of worse to
come are in this on-the-spot report from
Nigerian poultry farm
workers used their bare hands to throw dead chickens onto fires as village
children stood by to watch in an area where the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus
has been found. Villagers said their domestic poultry were dying too,
reinforcing suspicions that bird flu may be present not only in large
commercial farms but also in people's backyards in Africa's most populous
At a farm near Hawan
Dawaki village in the northern state of Kano, where two farms have confirmed
cases of H5N1, workers in normal clothes and sandals carried handfuls of
dead and dying chickens to a field to burn them.
"We are working on
this farm without taking care of our health, but what else can we do? We are
calling on the government to come and help us," said Alhaj Danliti, the
manager of the farm, which is a stone's throw away from the village.
He said the farm had
lost 10,000 chickens, almost its entire stock, and he did not know the
nature of their disease. Several chickens collapsed and died with a yellow
liquid leaking from their beaks.
Nigeria (and Greece?)
Agricultural Ministry says bird flu has
now been found at two more states. The first case was in Kaduna state.
It has now been reported at farms in Kano state and Plateau state.
Greece has found the
H5 virus in three swans. It has arranged tests to learn if it is the
Bird Flu in Africa
It’s the news we have
all been dreading – poverty-stricken, AIDS-weakened Africa has been hit with
bird flu. I have already
written several times about experts’ fears of the havoc that could be
unleashed were H5N1 to reach the continent. So far no human infection has
According to the
World Health Organization:
At present, the only
confirmed H5N1 outbreak is thought to be confined to a large commercial
farm, located in Kaduna State in the northern part of [Nigeria], where
thousands of chickens were kept in battery cages. Investigations are
urgently needed to determine whether the outbreak, which began almost a
month ago, has spread from the farm to affect household flocks. Poultry
deaths in the adjacent province of Kano have been reported, but the cause
has not yet been determined.
The most immediate
public health need is to reduce opportunities for human infections to occur.
Investigations of human cases in Asia and elsewhere have identified close
contact with diseased or dead household poultry as the most important source
of human exposure to the virus.
In Nigeria, as in
other parts of Africa, most village households maintain free-ranging flocks
of poultry as a source of income and food. Close human contact with poultry
Washington Post and
Herald Tribune have further reports.
from the Dead
drug that just won’t die.” That’s how The Australian newspaper
describes the Relenza anti-flu drug this morning.
In a lengthy article,
the newspaper examines the controversy over the drug, noting that last week
GlaxoSmithKline quietly reopened a Relenza production line at its factory
here in Melbourne. The article suggests that the company is embarrassed at
having earlier effectively deciding the drug had little future. Indeed, the
paper cites court documents in which GSK states that Tamiflu is superior.
Relenza's return is
an obvious by-product of a global hysteria over bird flu and the subsequent
fear that we could face a new global flu pandemic.
The belated embrace
of Relenza by the federal [Australian] Government was confirmed on December
16 with its order for 1.8 million "additional courses" of the home-grown flu
drug. Additional indeed. Until that order, Australia's Relenza reserves
stood at a grand total of 24,570 courses.
Not that we stood
unprepared. Even though Australian taxpayers effectively spent $247 million
on the development of Relenza, the Government ended up building its $555
million pandemic defence around Relenza's dominant competitor, Roche's
So why did we spend
$114 million on a Tamiflu stockpile? Most likely because Relenza's owners,
GSK, had demonstrated such a palpable lack of confidence in the safety,
effectiveness and value of the drug.
France's Sanofi-Aventis appears to be
the most advanced in the race to develop a new bird flu drug.
Confirmation comes with the news that it has completed production of an
additional $50 million worth of bulk-concentrate vaccine for the US
And Didier Hoch, president of Sanofi Pasteur, has told the Financial
Times that Europe’s readiness for pandemic flu could
deteriorate into a “nightmare” unless EU members start to co-operate
more closely over vaccines. He warned that each European country was only
focused on its own national priorities, in a way that risked jeopardising
supplies to the rest of the world
February 7th, 2006
Bird Flu Sleuth
Enjoyable piece in the Washington Post, "Three
Days with a Bird Flu Sleuth." Excerpt:
If the source was not chickens, could it have been another person? If so,
it might mean the virus had mutated into a form more easily transmitted
among humans -- signaling the earliest stages of a global influenza pandemic
that could potentially kill millions.
That ominous prospect seemed to grow for a time as this influenza gumshoe
followed a trail of clues that led her unexpectedly into a neighboring
province and back again.
February 6th, 2006
Bird flu is probably
in Hong Kong.
Two more Indonesians
have died of
suspected bird flu.
WHO has confirmed
Iraq’s first bird flu
death. WHO teams are also investigating possible outbreaks in nine other
countries in the region:
Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Iran, Lebanon, Moldova, Syria, and Ukraine.
has discovered its
of H5 bird flu. Tests are being carried out to see if it is the H5N1
Public Radio has
interview with Dr Marc Siegel, author
of the newly-published
Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic.
“Bird Flu” takes on
the issues that are injected with a sense of panic and dread, as many parts
of the world have grown to fear the spread of a deadly influenza outbreak in
That outbreak, says
Siegel, is a distinct possibility. But he urges those who may be at risk to
trust in reason -- and ignore the hype -- in judging the risks they face.
In making his case
for an honest appraisal of those risks, Siegel cites progress in vaccine
work and improved living conditions world-wide as two improvements that
should make any epidemic far less deadly than that of 1918.
And Siegel urges
practical changes in policy -- in Asia and in the United States -- that he
says will make the world better prepared to resist a pandemic.
Bird Flu Boost to Drug
reports that stockbrokers are
raising their profit forecasts for Tamiflu developer Gilead Sciences,
such is the strength of demand for the drug. Tamiflu marketer Roche is
higher-than-forecast profit growth.
A team of WHO experts is
travelling to Northern Iraq to
investigate the bird flu
death there of a 15-year-old girl. WHO says that two other cases –
including the girl’s uncle, who has also died – are also being investigated.
But Reuters reports that
are being investigated as possible sufferers.
NBC reports that “Iraq
is on high alert,” but then – confusingly – adds:
The announcement that
bird flu has arrived apparently has caused little concern to a populace
hardened by years of war and death. Many simply don't believe it. Others,
however, are culling their own flocks.
The Pentagon said
U.S. troops in Iraq won't be taking additional health precautions, but they
will be on the lookout for flulike symptoms. "It's a situation that is being
monitored closely," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. Whitman said no
symptoms of bird flu have been detected among the approximately 138,000 U.S.
troops in Iraq.
Questions in Turkey
fatality rate among Turkish sufferers of avian influenza is triggering
questions about the virulence of the virus. The possibility that the H5N1
virus might "trade" some of its virulence for increased levels of
transmission has sparked hope that an eventual human-to-human
avian-influenza pandemic may be no more dangerous than the annual seasonal
scientists have raised the possibility that this may be beginning to happen
already, citing the Turkish avian-flu statistics as an example. Others are
not so sure. In Southeast Asia, where bird flu first emerged, the death toll
from the disease hovers around 50 percent. In Turkey, however, there have
been only four deaths from a suspected 21 -- 12 confirmed -- cases of avian
influenza, or a death rate of between 20 percent and 35 percent.
Cihan news agency
reports, without further elaboration, that “the
World Health Organization on Monday expressed puzzlement at the young age of
bird flu victims in Turkey during the recent outbreak of the virus in the
Iraqi Death – Health
A laboratory in Egypt
has reportedly confirmed that an
Iraqi girl has died of bird flu. If verified by WHO, it will be the
first case outside East Asia and Turkey. It is not good news. As the
New York Times reports:
The confirmation of
the cause of the girl's death also suggests, officials said, that the
disease may be spreading widely — and undetected — among birds in the
countries of central Asia, which are poorly equipped to identify and report
infections. Avian flu has never been reported in birds in Iraq.
As happened in Turkey
earlier this month, the spread of the H5N1 strain of bird flu to a new part
of the world became evident only through a human death. That is notable, and
alarming to health officials, because bird flu rarely infects humans, and
usually does so late in the course of an animal outbreak, after close
contact with sick birds.
New Discussion Forum
H5N1 Avian Flu Forum is a new
online bird flu discussion forum.
Everyone’s Talking About
Bird flu has been
detected (in birds) in
Hong Kong and Saudi
Arabia. The possibility of a bird flu pandemic in
high. Tests are being carried out on a
dead Iraqi man to determine if he had bird flu. World business leaders
meeting at Davos in Switzerland are
more concerned about
bird flu than about terrorist attacks.
42 Tamiflu Deaths in
Daily News is reporting that
42 people have died in Japan after using Tamiflu, though in only two
cases is a direct causal link apparent.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said on Friday that officials
had received reports of three new deaths after the victims used Tamiflu.
Including the three latest victims, the number of deaths after taking the
drug stands at 42 nationwide, as of Jan. 20.
Of the 42, 14 were 16
years of age or younger, officials said. Only two cases, men in their 50s
and 80s, were causally related to the use of Tamiflu, they added. After
questioning experts, the officials suggested that the remaining 40 people's
deaths were not particularly related to the drug.
North Korea has denied
reports of a
bird flu outbreak in the capital Pyongyang.
"They said there is
no outbreak and all the media reports about North Korea's cases were not
true, just a rumour," Dr. Noureddin Mona, the [Food and Agricultural]
organization's representative in China, said in an Associated Press report.
Mona said the UN agency has no choice but to accept the official story. "We
are in no position to make an investigation," he said.
Bird Flu Virus Different
from Other Kinds
massive Memphis study of influenza viruses has led to the discovery that
flu viruses have a gene that may make them especially destructive to cells.
All the bird flu viruses studied had the gene and none of the human
influenza viruses did. However, much more work is needed before a full
understanding can be reached of the bird flu virus.
A Quick Round-Up of
Breaking Bird Flu News:
* Algerian health
authorities have denied reports that a poultry breeder in Oran has
* A Japanese group
helping North Korean defectors claims that a woman in Pyongyang was
bird flu last month.
expects to have a new
bird flu vaccine in production by the end of the year.
* An Israeli virologist
believes she has found a
new remedy for bird flu, based on elderberries.
Turkey’s bird flu
outbreak is no longer much in the news, and it appears that that’s good
news. But concerns remain. As
Director-General, Lee Jong-Wook, notes,
in Turkey was unique.
He says the
appearance of human cases of avian influenza in that country was unexpected.
This is different from Asia where outbreaks of the H5N1 virus were detected
in poultry well before the virus occurred in humans.
The WHO Chief says
there was almost no prior warning of infection in poultry in the eastern
part of Turkey.
experience demonstrates the dangers posed by avian influenza in birds and
the vital importance of surveillance and effective early warning systems,"
said Dr. Lee. "It also reiterates the threat of a pandemic of influenza in
humans. A pandemic could arise with little or no warning from the animal
January 24th, 2006