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Bird Flu - Archives


May 1st - May 10th, 2006

Bird Flu Masks – Do We Need Them?

NBC2 News in Florida reports on bird flu masks:


At Stuart's Liberator Medical Supply Inc., sandwiched between the bras and toilet seats, sits a mask that owners say could protect you from the next pandemic.


"The mask is designed to seal to the face, provide an air-tight seal to the face which is the type recommended by the Centers for Disease Control," said Liberator president Mark Libratore.


The Nano Mask claims it's 95-percent efficient at filtering out viruses and bacteria.


Even though the avian flu has not spread to North America, or even transmitted from person to person, Liberator labels the "bird flu mask" ideal for home use.


"We liken it to a fire extinguisher, it's too late to get one after a fire so why not have one before a fire," said Libratore.


But –


…Health officials point to government web sites with lists of pandemic preparation tips: stockpile food, washing your hands, but nothing about masks.


"If you go through the lists there's no mention of going out and buying a mask. I think there's no recommendation by the CDC for masks," said [Mark] Chittum [of the Martin County Health Department].


Health officials say if families start stockpiling masks and biohazard suits, they could reduce the supply for the first responders who would need them most.


"We shouldn't be getting people scared, we should be getting people prepared," said Chittum.

May 10th, 2006


“Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America”

It screens Tuesday evening in the US. Here’s some media commentary:


New York Times:

"Fatal Contact" is a May sweeps movie, not a public service message, so it is hardly surprising that it errs on the side of Armageddon.


Louisville Courier-Journal:

Definitely a fright film and not a very good one.


Orlando Sentinel:

The film isn't as stupid as NBC's 10.5: Apocalypse, a cheesy miniseries that arrives later this month. The central problem is that Fatal Contact isn't convincing, either.

As bad as disaster movies are likely to get.



An exceptionally well-made cautionary tale that's more than worthy of its sweeps scheduling.


Washington Post:

Just what the doctor ordered -- Dr. Frankenstein, that is. Who else would find it entertaining to watch 25 million people drop dead as the result of a fanciful worldwide plague?


Boston Globe:

The idea of the ''Fatal Contact" script, seemingly written during morning recess by Ron McGee of ''Atomic Twister" un-fame, is that the human spread of the flu, known as H5N1, would be bad. Really bad. Really, really bad. So bad that ''bad" doesn't even begin to explain just how bad it will be. And that's the only idea here.


Houston Chronicle:

American health experts probably need not worry much about mass hysteria sparked by Fatal Contact. After all, it's competing in a killer time slot and is likely to meet its own end at the hands of something almost as infectious as bird flu: American Idol.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Guaranteed to unnerve even the most committed horror-genre fans. The film not only is frighteningly topical but concise and well-acted enough to make one seriously consider hoarding.

USA Today:

Don't panic. Despite what you may have heard, you can't die from boredom.

May 9th, 2006


Now and Then We Need a Little Pandemic Threat
The US gets ready for Tuesday evening’s movie, “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America.” A TV columnist comments:


Now and then we need a little pandemic threat to ensure that we're sufficiently terrified.


The whole West Nile virus never caught on, but now that we have the avian flu to worry about, people don't seem to be paying much attention.


… This one isn't like the cliche TV disaster movies that depict earthquakes or tornadoes somehow taking down the Space Needle, the Las Vegas Strip and the Statue of Liberty in one fell swoop.


This is about a virus that some say could be unlike any we've ever seen, and all we know is that we don't know how we're going to handle it.


The film starts with an American businessman on a trip that takes him to a market in Hong Kong, where he contracts the virus.


As he makes his way back home to Richmond, Va., we see how he's potentially infecting virtually every person he passes, including airport security, fellow airplane passengers and, eventually, his family.


…This isn't the feel-good movie of the year.

May 9th, 2006


Pandemic Panic (Update)

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said on Sunday that the US is “overdue for a pandemic, but we're under-prepared.”

Ifzal Ali, the Asian Development Bank's chief economist, has warned that bird flu is “one of the most underrated threats to Asia's fast-growing economies and could wipe out over $300 billion of their gross output.”

American vets are concerned that Tuesday night’s tele-movie, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America" will “cause unnecessary panic among the public, leading to a destructive, harmful or unhealthy response."
May 8th, 2006

Oh, and Cover Your Mouth When You Cough

Time magazine summarizes the US government’s new pandemic report:

What can individuals and businesses do? Wash your hands. Clean sinks, railings, keyboards and phones--the virus can survive up to two days on hard surfaces. Reduce face-to-face meetings. Encourage telecommuting as well as flexible work hours. Keep 3 ft. of distance from other people ("spatial separation," in governmentspeak). Oh, and cover your mouth when you cough.

May 8th, 2006

More Bird Flu Humor
The Daily Show presents Revenge of the Birds. And David Letterman's opening monologue on Thursday night featured a string of bird flu jokes.
May 6th, 2006


Short-Cut Tamiflu
Professor Elias Corey, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1990, has devised a quick and easy method of making Tamiflu. You can read all about it at this BBC report.
May 6th, 2006


God Help Us

A bird flu expert says the H5N1 virus is “the worst flu virus he's ever encountered, and far too many gaps in planning and knowledge persist for the world to handle it in the event of a pandemic,” according to a report in the Washington Post.


The virus is a vicious killer in poultry, moving into the brain and destroying the respiratory tract, said Robert G. Webster, a virologist at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.


"I've worked with flu all my life, and this is the worst influenza virus that I have ever seen," said Webster, who has studied avian flu for decades. "If that happens in humans, God help us."


So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus will mutate into a form that easily spreads from person to person, potentially sparking a global pandemic.


Webster predicted it would take at least 10 more mutations before the H5N1 virus could potentially begin spreading from human to human, but said there's no way to know when - or if - that will ever happen.

May 5th, 2006


“The Hurricane Cannot Be Kept Offshore “

The White House has released its National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. Some comment from an AP dispatch:


The incremental plan already was drawing complaints that despite months of dire talk about the threat of a pandemic, the administration hasn't accomplished enough.


"Other nations have been implementing their plans for years, but we're reading ours for the first time now. These needless delays have put Americans at risk," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.


…The main defense: Screening travelers from affected countries and diverting or quarantining flights that arrive with possibly ill patients aboard.


But people can spread the flu for a full day before they show symptoms.


Trying to meet and quarantine lots of planes, "I'm dubious, No. 1, that just physically that's feasible. And, No. 2, I frankly wonder exactly what degree of effectiveness can be expected by that," said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, an adviser to the government on flu vaccine.


People must understand that "the hurricane cannot be kept offshore," he added.

May 4th, 2006


Stop Worrying – For the Time Being

A bird flu expert doubts that the H5N1 virus will hit the US this year, at least not from migratory birds. The smuggling of infected birds presents a greater threat, he says. However: "If it doesn't come this year, don't relax, because it will eventually come."

May 3rd, 2006


Bird Flu Pandemic – Forget about the Internet

Yesterday I reported (scroll down) on a Citigroup analysis of stock market winners and losers from a bird flu pandemic. Two “winning” sectors – telecommunications and internet technology companies, as workers are forced to stay at home and telecommute.


But an “Influenza Pandemic Simulation” from Booz Allen Hamilton (pdf file) suggests otherwise:


The telecommunications infrastructure will be severely strained and likely overwhelmed early in the pandemic (some experts opined that the internet would shut down within two to four days of the outbreak). This implies that government and businesses must coordinate and plan for the use of alternative communications channels – telecommuting will not be a viable option. A prioritization scheme for the internet will need to be put in place so that key organizations and individuals can access information and communicate actionable steps.
May 2nd, 2006

China (Again) Denies Bird Flu Under-Reporting

China is once more being forced to defend its bird flu count, following new reports that it is seriously under-reporting the number of cases of human infection. Given China’s record, this is a story that is going to run and run. I’ve written about this a number of times before, here – just keep scrolling down.

May 1st, 2006


Bird Flu Winners and Losers

The Chicago Tribune carries a lengthy report, titled “Wall Street placing bets on bird flu outcomes,” on stocks to buy and sell in the event of a bird flu outbreak. It evaluates the sectors as follows, based on research from Citigroup:


Drug companies that make antiviral medicines

Drug companies that make vaccines

Hospital health care

Cleansing product-makers

Home entertainment providers


Internet technology companies




Luxury goods



Shopping malls

Major oil firms

Mining and metals

Travel and hospitality


May 1st, 2006