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Bird Flu - Archives


March 2007

Y2K With Feathers
Some commonsense from New Zealand, which has been taking bird flu pandemic planning to extremes:

The panic over a possible bird flu pandemic is simply Y2K with feathers, according to a Health Waikato Advisory Committee member.
March 31st, 2007


Biota Vs GSK - The Battle Gets Hotter
The Australian newspaper reports:

Australian biotech company Biota Holdings could increase its claim for damages against business partner GlaxoSmithKline, alleging it has evidence that reveals GSK concealed a decision to stop marketing the anti-influenza drug Relenza.

...In an amended claim filed yesterday, Biota CEO Peter Cook said a two-year review of almost 300,000 GSK documents showed the company failed to disclose its decision to abandon Relenza.

"Initially our claim was based on a relatively limited number of documents from GSK, maybe 1000 or so," Mr Cook said.

"We now have greater detail that we feel establishes that they concealed their intentions around the product."

Relenza, the world's first broad-spectrum anti-flu drug, was launched in 1999, capturing almost half of the global market for flu medication within a year.

Relenza's main competitor, Tamiflu, was launched by rival pharmaceutical company Roche two months later, but it has since established itself as the market leader, attracting 97 per cent of sales of anti-flu drugs.

Biota's amended claim states there was a strategic shift by GSK away from Relenza, especially after the 2000 merger that combined Glaxo Wellcome and Smith Kline Beecham.

Biota claims GSK failed to disclose its decision to close manufacturing lines and stop promoting the drug, prompting sales to plummet by more than 80 per cent.

March 30th, 2007


Tamiflu Warnings - "At Long Last"
Reuters has a good round-up of Japanese opinion on the Health Ministry's warning that Tamiflu should not be given to teenagers:

"At long last they have taken action, but it is extremely slow and half-hearted," Rokuro Hama, a doctor who runs a watchdog group on side effects of drugs, said in a telephone interview.

Hama says there should be similar warnings against the use of Tamiflu for all age groups, because influenza is essentially a minor disease that need not be treated with drugs.

Haruhiko Nokiba, the father of the youth killed in the truck accident, told the Sankei [newspaper]: "The fact that a series of victims has emerged is due to the negligence of the ministry. Just as with previous drug problems, they are dealing with it too late."

The ministry had previously warned that children taking Tamiflu should be supervised and has maintained that warning for younger children, who are seen more at risk of dying from flu. In the new warning it recommends that children aged 10-19 should not be given the drug at all.

March 23rd, 2007


Finding the Real Killer
Local "backyard" poultry producers in poor countries have been blamed for most bird flu outbreaks. But a report on places the blame elsewhere:

The authorities dealing with bird flu finally are acknowledging the role played by the poultry trade in spreading the virus. This is long overdue.

The first bird-flu outbreaks in southeast Asia in early 2004 - in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia - occurred in closed, intensive factory farms. But no investigations were ever made into why the disease broke out on these farms and how it subsequently spread.

The same happened in Turkey and Egypt; wild birds and backyard flocks were quickly blamed, while the poultry companies, which supplied markets and "backyard" producers with birds, were exonerated.

It was only in the United Kingdom in February 2007 that the myth that large farms are "biosecure" was shattered and the secrecy over the way that bird flu can spread through the trans-national poultry industry was partly lifted.

It's a lengthy report, but well worth reading in full.
March 21st, 2007


When Chickens and Ducks Start to Wobble
Egypt has problems. Reuters reports:

When Attia Abdel-Hamid Hassan notices the chickens or ducks that he keeps at home in Egypt's Nile Delta starting to wobble on their feet, he puts them in a sack and drowns them in an irrigation canal.

His neighbours, afraid of catching the deadly bird flu virus that has so far killed 13 Egyptians, do the same.

That is how residents in the red-brick farming hamlet of Ezbet Sidi Omar, 40 km (25 miles) north of Cairo, are trying to protect themselves from avian influenza in Egypt, which has the largest number of confirmed human cases outside of Asia.

Health officials say the cultural practice of keeping birds at home, often in secret, is aiding the spread of bird flu in the most populous Arab country, where 24 people have contracted the disease since it emerged in Egyptian poultry a year ago.

Things aren't getting better. Read the whole story.
March 14th, 2007


Aussie Scientists Exposed to H5N1
Three Australian researchers have been exposed to bird flu:

The CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] scientists had infected live ducks with the H5N1 strain of bird flu before killing them to assess the impact of the virus about 1pm Monday.

But the experiment went pear shaped about 1pm Monday when the scientists realised that they had failed to reactivate air filters in their specially designed suits, increasing their risk of exposure to the deadly virus.

The trio were immediately removed from the laboratory and taken away for testing and treatment.

CSIRO media liaison manager Marilyn Chalkley said the treatment was precautionary and blood tests showed no signs of infection.

March 7th, 2007

Indonesia - Flexing Muscle? Holding Hostage?
I thought it was irresponsible of the Indonesian government to attempt to withhold samples of the bird flu virus from international health authorities. But it seems they might have a case. Here's Business Week:

Indonesia's bold decision to withhold human bird flu virus samples from the World Health Organization has created an international ruckus, but it has also sent a clear message that poor countries have some leverage over the rich.

But will developing countries band together to try to ensure their people have access to a bird flu vaccine that could potentially save hundreds of millions in the event of a pandemic?

Indonesia, currently alone in flexing its muscle, has been accused by some experts of holding hostage a virus that could be the key to survival during a human flu pandemic. But the cash-strapped government says it has to make sure that any vaccine produced globally -- likely to be expensive and scarce -- does not just reach wealthy countries like the United States.

March 6th, 2007


Tamiflu - More Deaths in Japan?
The Daily Yomiuri reports:

A second-year middle school boy died after falling from the 11th floor of his condominium building in Sendai on Tuesday, police said. The boy had taken the influenza medication Tamiflu several hours before the fall.

A similar fatal accident occurred on Feb. 16 in Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, when a middle school girl died after falling from an apartment building after taking Tamiflu.

In light of these two incidents, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced it will gather information on the side effects of Tamiflu from pharmaceutical companies.

March 3rd, 2007


Dead British Aristocrat to Help Bird Flu Fight
In Britain The Sun newspaper reports:

Scientists described today how they are planning to exhume the body of an aristocrat who died almost 90 years ago in an effort to help them combat a potential bird flu pandemic.

A team has been granted permission to examine the body of diplomat, politician and landowner Sir Mark Sykes, who died of Spanish Flu in France in 1919, aged 39.

It's fascinating. Read it all.
March 2nd, 2007