Bird Flu - Archives
June 1st - June 30th,
1. A bird flu pandemic could send firms with weak balance sheets "spiralling
into bankruptcy," according to a senior World Bank official. Airlines
would be particularly exposed.
2. US funeral companies would be hard pressed to meet demand for their
services in a bird flu pandemic, because of the
sheer volume of dead, and stringent public health rules that would
likely be put into effect, according to Reuters.
Commodity prices would fall less and recover faster than other assets if
there were a bird flu pandemic, according to a prominent fund manager.
June 30th, 2006
Indonesia - Checking Out
No surprises in the headline in The Financial Times: "Indonesia
‘failed in its response to bird flu’."
Among several points in the report:
Indonesia’s response to a fatal bird flu cluster was littered with
failings...and would have speeded rather than slowed the global spread of
the virus had it involved a pandemic strain of H5N1.
Indonesia has asked for a considerable sum of money to fight bird flu:
“It’s a little bit absurd. I don’t know why people don’t call them on
this,” said one expert. “What is this money going to be used for? It’s going
to be used to build government institutions that should be there in the
first place. It’s not [bird flu] specific. It’s things...any civilised
country should have.”
And then there is this:
With no laws to stop him, the father who died in the cluster checked
himself out of the hospital and went into hiding even as epidemiologists
were examining samples from him.
June 29th, 2006
into the mystery of that letter to the New England Journal of Medicine from
eight Chinese scientists:
Had that information been made available at the time, countries in the
region may have been able to respond when the virus appeared within their
borders and lives may have been saved.
China only began reporting cases in November 2005, and has only admitted to
19 H5N1 cases with 12 deaths.
Officials say lives certainly would have been saved in Vietnam and Thailand
and the incident has all manner of implications.
International influenza experts have always suspected China has not always
been totally transparent when it comes to such cases and has thought there
were hidden or missed human cases of H5N1, but none expected those
suspicions to be confirmed in one of the world's most respected medical
June 27th, 2006
First H5N1 Deaths from Wild Birds
German researchers have confirmed that four villagers in Azerbaijan who
died from bird flu contracted the disease after plucking feathers from
dead swans. It is the first reported case of human infection from wild
Andreas Gilsdorf, an epidemiologist at the Robert Koch Institute in
Berlin, who led the team that made the discovery, said: "As far as we know
this is the first transmission from a wild bird, but it was a very intensive
"We know that the virus is carried by swans and we know that you can catch
the virus if you have close contact, so it doesn't change anything, it's
just the first time it has been reported."
Some ornithologists and conservation experts have tried to play down the
role that wild birds could play in spreading the disease. The UN's
Convention on Migratory Species organised a "world migratory bird day" in
April, which it said came "at a time when migratory birds were being
unfairly portrayed as harbingers of death and disease".
Almost all of the 220 other confirmed human cases of bird flu, including 130
deaths, have been linked to infected domestic poultry. A handful are
believed to have caught the disease directly from infected humans.
June 27th, 2006
Zambians Panic, H5N1 Mutates
- Zambians are
panicking after television broadcast reports of dead and dying crows.
Poultry sales have plummeted.
- The H5N1 virus
cause the recent cluster deaths in Indonesia. But WHO says it is "not more
contagious" than before.
June 24th, 2006
More Bird Flu Confusion from China
The current bird flu outbreak is generally thought to date from December
2003 and early 2004, when a wave of infections hit a number of countries in
Asia. Now comes news - or does it? - that a man in
died of bird flu in November 2003.
The "news" comes in the form of a letter from eight Chinese scientists to
the New England Journal of Medicine.
But after writing the letter, the scientists apparently asked that it be
withdrawn. However, the journal's deadline had already passed, and this was
Previously, it was believed that China's first bird flu case was in 2005.
What's going on?
June 23rd, 2006
Human-to-Human Transmission - Why Only Blood Relatives?
The World Health Organization has concluded that
human-to-human transmission probably occurred among seven members of an
Indonesian family who developed bird flu. This, naturally, has some experts
One of the remaining mysteries is why only blood relatives - not spouses
- became infected.
The WHO report theorizes the family shared a "common genetic predisposition
to infection with H5N1 virus with severe and fatal outcomes." However, there
is no evidence to support that.
Keiji Fukuda, WHO's coordinator for the Global Influenza Program in Geneva,
said the Indonesian case appears to resemble other family clusters where
limited human-to-human transmission occurred following close contact. He
said scientists must find out whether anything is different about the way
the virus is behaving.
"The really critical factor is why did that cluster develop?" he said.
"What's the reason why people in a cluster got infected?"
June 22nd, 2006
Devastating for Restaurants
This is no surprise - the
National Restaurant Association is worried:
The restaurant industry will face a slew of issues during the next year,
but none has owners and operators more nervous than one they’ve never
experienced before: avian flu.
...The potential of a pandemic was on the mind of the convention’s surprise
keynote speaker, President Bush.
According to news reports, the president said the federal government has a
strategy in place for a bird-flu outbreak in the United States, but he added
that, "Whether or not it would work to perfection, you hope you never have
to find out."
Another keynote speaker, television newsman Ted Koppel, was less optimistic.
"If avian flu breaks out in this country, I don’t think you’ll be keeping
your restaurants open," he reportedly told attendees. "You’ll be staying at
That scenario would be devastating for the economy, considering that the
restaurant industry is the nation’s biggest employer with 12.5 million
June 21st, 2006
Indonesia - Where's Plan B?
row has broken out between Indonesian authorities and aid donors in the
West over what is perceived as Indonesia's lack of action in fighting bird
The Financial Times reports:
Experts from the WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO),
Unicef and agencies including the US and European centres for disease
control will meet in Jakarta from Wednesday, almost a year after Indonesia
reported its first human fatality.
The meeting comes amid growing criticism of Jakarta’s response to the H5N1
threat, in particular its failure to control the spread of the virus in
animals. There has also been criticism that while Indonesia continues to
convene meetings with international experts it is doing little to implement
...Suspicion on both sides appears to be contributing to a stalemate with
donors over how to finance Jakarta’s plans.
...Indonesia’s plan was fine as it stood, one expert said yesterday. “But
it’s sort of academic if you’re not going to implement it. And if you’re not
going to implement it unless you get grant financing then what’s your Plan
B? Right now they don’t have a Plan B.”
June 19th, 2006
Middle East - Getting Better
Reuters carries a very interesting bird flu "situation report" from the
looking at developments in the leading countries.
Essentially, the news is good. Chicken sales - which plummeted throughout
the region earlier in the year, when bird flu was reported in several
countries - have recovered in many areas. And preventative measures,
including a mass poultry culling in Egypt and quarantining in Iran, seem to
have had an effect.
Now, if only something can be done about Asia...
June 17th, 2006
Bird Flu? Just Another Western Conspiracy, Says an Adviser
to the Iranian President
"Ramin also claimed that the spread of bird flu was a conspiracy plot
cause[d] by the failure of America, Israel and Britain in the Middle East.
Ramin pointed out that to cover up and hide their failures, these countries
have spread the news about the bird flu to preoccupy and distract public
opinion for some 5 to 6 months. 'Nobody asks how a bird that had the flu
could fly from Australia to Siberia,' he said, adding that even the Iranian
minister of health had claimed to have stopped the disease at Iran's
borders. He claimed the holocaust story and bird flu rumors are
interrelated. He attributed the killing of millions of chicken was to
control the price and amount [of] chicken in the market."
June 16th, 2006
Mystery Chinese Bird Flu Case Worries Hong Kong
Hong Kong authorities are concerned about a bird flu case in Shenzhen,
and are considering a ban on poultry imports from mainland China.
A 31-year-old man was suspected of having contracted the deadly H5N1
virus in Shenzhen, which is located right across the border from Hong Kong.
'We are very concerned about this bird flu case in Shenzhen (as the patient)
didn't make any contacts with poultry and birds,' [Health Secretary York]
'(This) makes us think there is a possibility that there might be poultry
which might not have clear flu symptoms but can spread virus to humans.
That's what we are most worried about,' he said.
June 15th, 2006
Bird Flu - Americans Worry, Asians "Unconcerned"
A leading US finance strategist is surprised - Asian investors
don't seem concerned by bird flu. This is despite the recent cases of
suspected human-to-human transmission in Indonesia, which had a short-term
negative impact on stock markets.
But back in the US many businesses are very
Some companies are going so far as to set entire buildings aside as
"clean facilities" in which workers and families would remain during a bird
flu outbreak. At least two financial institutions are setting up such
voluntary quarantines and two utilities are considering it, according to
Gary Lynch, national practice leader for business continuity risk management
at Marsh Inc. He said the companies plan to pay premiums and offer antiviral
drugs to employees who take part.
June 14th, 2006
Business Travel and Bird Flu
You're going to want to wash your hands after reading this, warns USA
Today business travel columnist David Grossman at the start of a lengthy
report, titled "What
business travelers should know about avian flu."
Here's some of what he advises:
• Develop a plan for each individual traveler and each business...
• Work closely/share information with other departments like Human
Resources, Safety and Security.
• Ask airline, hotel, car rental, and travel agencies for a copy of their
pandemic plans; make this a condition of your contract.
• Implement system to track location and communicate with travelers at all
• When traveling abroad avoid live poultry markets.
• Monitor websites for updated information...
• Get involved with national and local business travel organizations...that
could issue guidelines and recommendations.
• Get vaccinations when available.
• Get a pneumonia shot.
• Stock antiviral drugs like Tamiflu.
• Develop a relationship with companies like iJet which provide information
on conditions in locales all over the world, and companies like
International SOS that can help evacuate employees or obtain medical
assistance on your behalf in an emergency situation.
• Stock preventative items like NIOSH-Approved N95 Disposable Particulate
Respirators that block out 95% of all viruses.
• Teach employees and practice personal hygiene: Wash hands frequently
especially after shaking hands. Wash hands after touching any surface that
might have been touched previously by another person who might be infected.
Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes at all times.
June 13th, 2006
Indonesian Health Authorities - Can We Trust Them?
Some people in Indonesia are
An animal health expert with the Surabaya-based Airlangga University,
Chairul A. Nidom, said he would not be surprised if the government had
kept...information to itself for a time.
"The question is: who has actually panicked -- the government or the
public?" said Chairul, who claimed that his laboratory research in Japan
last year showed some of the H5N1 virus spreading in Indonesia had adopted
into forms receptive to humans.
Chairul said the government must be more transparent on this issue by giving
detailed information to the public to involve them in containing bird flu.
"If only the government had started being honest three years go, we wouldn't
be in the present situation," he said.
Kemal [Siregar, who chairs the Association of the Indonesian Public Health
Experts] further warned that if the government fails to share vital
information on the virus' spread, it would not only put the public at
greater risk of being uninformed, but also would draw international
criticism should a pandemic occur.
Incomplete information given to the public can only let the virus keep
spreading among humans, and that could lead to a pandemic, he said.
"If a pandemic occurs in Indonesia due to public ignorance, the world will
condemn us," he added.
June 12th, 2006
Bird Flu in Hungary
Bird flu has been confirmed in
Hungary, though further testing is needed to determine if it is the H5N1
June 10th, 2006
Alaska in the News
I guess there's a whole heap of journalists up in Alaska right now
covering official US efforts to track the spread of bird flu. Read reports
June 10th, 2006
A growing number of Americans are
to Tijuana to buy Tamiflu, according to a Biowire report:
"For the past month, we have had an abundant supply of Tamiflu and are
selling the FDA-recommended 10-pill dosage for $58, versus about $100 in the
United States," said Mario Zamudio, Medicine Store manager.
...."Many people want to have their own supply on hand to treat themselves,
their family and their friends if an outbreak occurs," said Elba Orozco,
sales manager of Drug Discounters.
"U.S. customers frequently were asking us for Tamiflu, but it was only about
a month ago that Roche was able to make supplies available to us," Orozco
The Tamiflu available in Tijuana is the same strength and quality of that in
The Mexican government keeps drug prices in that country low so more people
can afford them. That's why Americans have gone to Mexico for decades to buy
prescription drugs at 30 to 80 percent savings, said Gerardo Rosales of
June 9th, 2006
Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Protective Masks - Looking for a
Bird Flu Cure
sauerkraut cure bird flu?
No, it doesn't, say the experts. But the pickled cabbage dish is still one
of many bird flu "remedies" - from kimchi to alkaline water - being touted
to a nervous public, according to an amusing article from Bloomberg News.
This week, 235 items related to bird flu were for sale at the U.S.,
British and German Web sites of the online auctioneer eBay, from
disinfectant sprays to treatment advice including books.
A Web site in Germany,
has a waiting list for protective masks, Klaus Forsthofer, the head of
distribution for ACE, the company that runs the site, said in an interview.
The British Web site UK Survive advertises a family pack including face
masks, five single-use medical suits and 600 powder-free latex gloves for
£493.50, $917, marked down from £869.
"It is going massively, yes, massively," Nick Powell, the managing director
of UK Survive, said in an interview. The company has sold 20,000 packs of
face masks for £24.99 since January, an increase from about 200 a month last
"Gowns and boots are not something for the general public," said Maria
Cheng, a spokeswoman for World Health Organization.
Masks effective enough to stop the virus are so uncomfortable that they are
difficult to wear for more than an hour, said Gundula Jaeger, a virologist
with the Max von Pettenkofer Institute in Munich.
June 8th, 2006
US Tests Birds
Officials in the US have begun
testing wild birds to check if bird flu has arrived. A new test gives a
result within four hours.
June 7th, 2006
UK Tests Vaccine
Oxford scientists are excited about an
experimental new vaccine, which has proved highly effective in producing
immunity to bird flu in a group of volunteers.
The DNA vaccine, developed by PowderMed, of Oxford Science Park, has
passed safety tests and will now be tried on larger groups of volunteers.
The virus's genetic material DNA is coated with gold particles which are
propelled into the skin with helium gas, instead of using a needle.
...Powdermed's chief executive, Dr Clive Dix, said current stockpiles of
bird flu vaccine could only treat 75 million people worldwide, because high
doses were needed. But just one kilogram of his company's DNA vaccine could
potentially treat 500 million people.
"The advantage of a DNA-based approach is that the vaccines can be
manufactured very rapidly and in large quantities, while yielding an immune
response at low doses," he said.
PowderMed will now start phase II trials later this year using both annual
flu and bird flu strains. A vaccine against bird flu could be ready by 2008,
said Dr Dix.
June 7th, 2006
Human-to-Human Transmission - a Grimmer Picture
Cases of bird flu human-to-human transmission are probably
greater in number than generally acknowledged, according to a report in
the New York Times.
The numbers are still relatively small, and they do not mean that the
virus has mutated to pass easily between people — a change that could touch
off a worldwide epidemic. All the clusters of cases have been among
relatives or in nurses who were in long, close contact with patients.
But the clusters — in Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq and
Vietnam — paint a grimmer picture of the virus's potential to pass from
human to human than is normally described by public health officials, who
usually say such cases are "rare."
June 5th, 2006
Out of the Frying Pan...
Merlin, a British charity working in the earthquake zone in Java, has warned
disease risks to survivors taking shelter in chicken sheds.
Dr Yolanda Bayugo, Merlin's health director in Indonesia, raised concerns
today with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization in
Yogyakarta and has asked for more tents to be supplied.
"We are concerned that people using poultry sheds as shelter are at risk
from avian flu and salmonella," said Dr Bayugo.
"In Pundong sub-district of Bantul, where about 35,000 people are homeless,
we found more than 100 people taking shelter in six large poultry sheds,"
she continued. "The sheds, built from bamboo, are each about 200 metres long
and are the only surviving structures in the area. One shed was new and had
not yet been used to keep chickens. Others, which had been cleared recently,
were only partially cleaned and still had chicken droppings lying on bamboo
Also in Indonesia, a nurse who has not had contact with poultry, but who had
treated two children who died of H5N1, is
herself now in hospital with "bird flu-like" symptoms.
June 3rd, 2006
Fighting Bird Flu, Fighting Indonesia's Bureaucracy
The headline is pretty blunt: "Bird
Flu Explodes in Indonesia."
Here is how the story begins:
Indonesia averaged one human bird flu death every 2 1/2 days in May,
putting it on pace to soon surpass Vietnam as the world's hardest-hit
The latest death, announced Wednesday, was a 15-year-old boy whose
preliminary tests were positive for the H5N1 virus. It comes as
international health officials express growing frustration that they must
fight Indonesia's bureaucracy as well as the disease.
Even worse, Indonesia is probably
under-reporting bird flu outbreaks:
Indonesia's decentralized government system has made controlling the
disease particularly difficult, experts from the United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization said, allowing the virus to skip from one village
to the next.
While some countries meticulously report every single outbreak to the World
Organization for Animal Health, which tracks the disease, there has been no
reporting from the Indonesian government since April 24, even though
scientists presume that outbreaks crop up constantly.
"In their decentralized system, information does not always get back to
Jakarta," said Juan Lubroth, a senior veterinarian at the F.A.O. "The
information in Jakarta doesn't reflect what's happening on the ground."
June 1st, 2006