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Bird Flu - Archives


March 22nd - March 31st, 2006

A Deadly Quarter

This March quarter just ending has probably been the deadliest three months since the current bird flu outbreak began in December 2003, according to a lengthy round-up in the Bloomberg news wire. If the World Health Organization confirms that two recent deaths in Egypt were the result of bird flu, then the total deaths for the quarter will climb to 31.

March 31st, 2006


Gumballs – the New Source of Shikimic Acid

Scientists in the US report that the fruit known as gumballs, from the sweetgum tree, contains shikimic acid, the raw ingredient of Tamiflu. The tree grows throughout the US, and is especially common in southern states. Until now, the anise spice plant has been the main source of shikimic acid. Nevertheless, scientists have also developed artificial shikimic acid, and it is expected that this will increasingly be used to make Tamiflu, obviating the need for anise and other natural base materials.

March 31st, 2006


The Avian Flu Index
I didn't know about this. A US fund management advisory firm, Trend Macroanalytics, has created a stock market "avian flu index", based on 17 stocks in the health care sector. These include Embrex, Hemispherx, BioCryst and Generex. The index has more than doubled since August last year, and is up 40.5% in 2006. You can read more about the index here.

March 30th, 2006


Bird Flu Unites, Divides

A week ago we learned that bird flu fears were leading to a rare display of cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Now comes news that Indonesia is holding up aid it was to receive from Australia to combat bird flu, because it is unhappy that Australia has granted asylum to refugees from Indonesia-controlled Papua.

March 29th, 2006


It’s Your Fault

The Asia Pacific branch of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has launched a new website - Avian Flu: It’s Your Fault. According to the site:

When we asked nicely, you didn’t listen. We spent years exposing the cruelty of factory farms and the dangers of eating fat-, cholesterol- and drug-laden animal flesh. We appealed to your sense of compassion, but you didn’t care enough to make the switch to a cruelty-free diet. And most of you ignored the warnings about animal-borne diseases such as mad cow and SARS.


Now we face a new threat, avian flu, which seems likely to make mad cow and SARS look like a head cold….Why do we face this grave threat? Because every time you buy a bucket of fried chicken, every time you eat an egg, every time you choose to eat any animal products, you fuel the animal agriculture industry and bring the world one step closer to catastrophe.


Here are the facts: There would be no avian flu if humans didn’t bring birds into the world for the sole purpose of slaughtering and eating them. History shows that each and every pandemic within the last 100 years arose because of animal agriculture.

March 29th, 2006


Influenza Report

Check out an excellent website, Influenza Report, which bills itself as “a medical textbook that provides a comprehensive overview of epidemic and pandemic influenza.”  Chapters of the book already on the site are: Influenza 2006, Avian Influenza, Virology, Pathogenesis and Immunology, Pandemic Preparedness, Vaccines, Laboratory Findings, Clinical Presentation, Treatment and Prophylaxis and Drugs. More are promised.

March 29th, 2006


Good News for Animal Rights Activists?

Surely this will put a dent in mink coat sales – Swedish vets have found a mink infected with bird flu.

March 28th, 2006


This Is Sad
India’s Financial Express reports a “suicide spree” by poultry farmers, reeling from the impact of bird flu.

March 28th, 2006


Worldwide Bird Flu Angst

The only bird flu in Greece has been detected in wild birds, not in domestic poultry. Nevertheless, chicken sales have plummeted 75% this month. Yesterday, television stars and 200 children in chicken costumes took part in a Chicken Fest, with free chicken dishes, to revive sales. Last month, Bollywood stars performed similar duties throughout India. Meanwhile, consumers in Pakistan are cutting back on chicken dishes over fears that bird flu vaccines being administered to the birds will cause hazardous side effects. In Britain, the Three Owls bird sanctuary has seen a sharp reduction in visitor numbers, due to bird flu fears.

March 27th, 2006


Signs of the Times in Canada
I don't know if this is a big deal or not, but it's certainly a sign of the times. The Greyhound bus company in Canada says it will stop transporting live birds, animals and insects, due to the threat of bird flu.
March 25th, 2006

Let Them Die

Tough talk from the Edmonton Sun:


To prevent the collapse of health care during an influenza pandemic, doctors shouldn't bother treating those seriously ill with the virus because they're going to die anyway, says a local physician.


"I don't think health care is ever going to be able to deliver the resources that are required ... in the middle of a crisis," says Dr. Louis Francescutti, associate professor at the University of Alberta's department of public health sciences.


"You can't build that much capacity in the system to deal with (an influenza pandemic)," he told me yesterday.


If 60% of those infected with influenza are expected to die, health-care officials should withhold treatment from those who aren't likely to survive, says Francescutti.


"Don't try and do anything heroic," he says. "Those people should be isolated and made comfortable but let them die because they're going to die."


Perhaps it sounds cold-hearted but Francescutti says he's just being realistic. "It's called triage. You've got limited resources. You'd better use them as efficiently as possible."

March 24th, 2006


Bird Flu Probably in Gaza

Palestinian officials believe the bird flu has spread to the Gaza Strip. In what Reuters describes as “a rare show of cooperation,” Israel is conducting the tests for bird flu on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. An Israeli business website reports that gefilte fish sales are rising, in advance of Passover, with poultry demand down.

March 23rd, 2006


Bird Flu – Latest Threat to Endangered Mammals

Here’s something new. The United Nations Environment Program has warned that bird flu could pose a threat to endangered mammal species, including tigers and leopards.

March 23rd, 2006


One Hundred Deaths

The World Health Organization has officially confirmed what was already assumed – that the deaths of five people in Azerbaijan brings the number of bird flu deaths worldwide to more than 100, since the current outbreak began at the end of 2003. Meanwhile, Egypt fears a third case. And a fourth one.

March 22nd, 2006


Punishment from God, Part II

An Israeli rabbi has blamed the country’s flu outbreak on election campaign ads by left-wing Israeli parties calling for the legalization of gay marriage


“The Bible says that God punishes depravity first through blights on animals, and then on humans,” David Basri, a top kabbalist, was quoted as writing this week in an edict.

March 22nd, 2006


Sell, Sell

A major stockbroker is advising clients to start adjusting their portfolios in readiness for the arrival of bird flu in the US. According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph:


Investment bank Bear Stearns has advised investors to start dumping airline and retail stocks in favour of blue-chip utilities as a hedge against bird flu, warning that a full human pandemic of the H5N1 virus could set off the worst global stock market crash since the 1930s.


In the first detailed study of its kind, the US bank suggests buying Scottish Power, biotech companies such as Amgen and Medimmune, and the US health group St Jude Medical Inc, citing them as the sort of companies that would hold up well or even rise in the first phase of a pandemic.


"We believe the imminent arrival of bird flu in the United States will bring this potentially devastating disease back into the limelight," said the report. If bird flu turns out to be a 'worst event in 100 years' then extreme risk analysis suggests it could push the market down 46pc over a 12-month period. "We believe investors should consider a basket of stocks to inoculate their portfolio from this source of risk," it said.


Any stock slide would most likely be followed quickly by a V-shaped recovery, creating a rare chance to snap up shares at super-cheap prices.

March 22nd, 2006