Bird Flu - Archives
May 11th - May 31st,
Mapping Bird Flu
application for Google Earth - preventing bird flu:
"Twenty years ago we had to drive around the countryside and find the
chicken farm that reported a disease, but now everything is on a mapping
system," [avian medicine professor Sherrill] Davison told Reuters in a
"Now, we can very quickly, within about an hour, know exactly how many farms
are in an (affected) area. Then we can know which farms to send teams to for
May 31st, 2006
He Didn't Believe Us
Excellent on-the-scene reporting from the AP of the North Sumatra
The sole survivor in a cluster of Indonesian relatives infected with bird
flu lies in an open-air hospital room, chickens pecking outside his door and
visitors shuffling in and out without masks or protective gear.
The patient, Johannes Ginting, is still very weak but seems unconcerned. He
even fled the hospital when he first fell ill with the H5N1 virus, and has
since resisted treatment, balking at the bird flu drug Tamiflu and other
"We had actually given masks and gloves to the family, and we informed them
how dangerous this disease is, but they didn't cooperate with us," said
Nurrasyid Lubis, deputy director of Adam Malik Hospital. "We also informed
him how dangerous it is, but he didn't believe us."
Separately, the World Health Organization has reported
Indonesian bird flu cases, three of them fatal. It brings to 48 the
number of cases in the country, including 36 fatalities.
May 30th, 2006
The World Health Organization has put the maker of the anti-viral drug
on alert for possible shipment of the global stockpile for the first
WHO has also confirmed
another Indonesian death, the country's 35th.
McDonald's, known for its hamburgers, is becoming increasingly dependent
on healthier dishes such as chicken. It plans an advertising campaign
advising that its meals are free from bird flu.
May 29th, 2006
Indonesia – Not Pretty
Reuters reports that
dying in “unusually large numbers” in a remote area in Indonesia where
bird flu killed several members of a family.
epidemiologist Steven Bjorge: ”What we're finding out the longer our team
stays up in that area is that there are many, many outbreaks in chickens
that always go unreported."
tests indicate that a brother and sister in West Java are the
victims in Indonesia.
And check out
a report from
The Jakarta Post, suggesting that Indonesia could get a lot worse
before it gets better:
One trader in
Medan, Yakin Rusli, does not use any sort of protective gear
during his daily contact with hundreds of chickens.
we be afraid of being infected with the bird flu virus? If it's time for us
to die, then surely we'll die, no need to be afraid," says Rusli, who has
been in the business for 30 years.
chickens and birds from his house, where he also sells animals like puppies,
rabbits and even monkeys as pets, all from a single room.
67-year-old is assisted by five of his children. Like Rusli, they also
handle the poultry without using protective gear.
May 27th, 2006
You'll Never Know the
Cause, and That's a Problem
newspaper carries a good report on the bird flu
cluster outbreak in Indonesia, which has killed six members of one
A team of the world's
leading avian flu experts has arrived in the remote village of Kubu
Sembelang in North Sumatra to investigate the deaths, which occurred during
the past three weeks.
However, the director
of the World Health Organisation's Collaborating Centre for Reference and
Research on Influenza in Melbourne, Ian Gust, said most of the evidence
would already have been destroyed.
"We've found with the
investigation of clusters in the past that by the time the investigators get
there, it's too late," he said yesterday. "Any infected birds that might
have been around have gone or been killed.
"You can't take the
adequate samples and you'll never know the cause, and that's a problem."
officials were not responding quickly enough to potential cases of the
disease, Dr Gust told The Australian.
So what happened? The
general consensus seems to be that human-to-human transmission has occurred,
but that the virus has not – so far - mutated.
The WHO has said it
is possible the disease may have spread through limited human-to-human
transmission in the latest cluster of cases, but it doesn't appear to have
spread outside the family.
So far, most human cases
have been traced to direct contact with infected birds.
Steven] Bjorge said the family members were in close physical proximity
while they were sick, including sleeping near one another.
He said there is no
reason for alarm because rare cases of human-to-human transmission have been
"Even though so many
people were tragically affected in this case, it hasn't really changed the
picture of avian influenza in Indonesia at this time," he said.
Update: The best analysis I've yet seen on the Indonesian
this report from Bloomberg.com.
Global Market Players Are Worried
Bird flu fears have
hit the stock market.
Investor fears of avian flu, which started in Asia and other emerging
markets, rippled through to U.S. markets and helped drag down many stocks
"Asian markets took this seriously and started the sell-off," said David
Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer of Cumberland Advisors, a New
Jersey-based money management firm supervising about $800 million in assets.
"In the last 48 hours, the global market players have started paying
attention to bird flu, because it's suddenly front-page news."
Indonesia Bird Flu
Has human-to-human bird
flu transmission occurred in Indonesia? We still don’t know, but many are
worried. It is even one of the factors in the current shakiness in global
A lengthy report on the
CTV website includes the following:
"We think that it may have been possible for the initial case to pass
H5N1 bird flu to her nephew who is 10 years old who may have then passed it
to his father -- that would be two generations of spread," the WHO's Maria
Cheng told CTV Newsnet.
…"They are examining
what is going on and they can't find an animal source of this infection,"
Peter Cordingley, spokesman for the Western Pacific region of the World
Health Organization, told The Associated Press.
"This is the first
time that we've been completely stumped" by a source for the infection, he
…Steven Bjorge, the
WHO team leader in the village of Kubu Sembelang, told the wire agency none
of the poultry in the area had tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus.
"We're not surprised
that there is possible human-to-human transmission," Bjorge said.
"The thing we're
looking for is whether it's sustained beyond the immediate cluster."
Isolated cases of
very limited human-to-human transmission have been documented but such cases
do not necessarily mark the emergency of a pandemic flu strain.
has a good on-the-spot report, suggesting that if/when a global pandemic
begins, Indonesia could well be the starting point.
The government says it can not afford to kill that many animals and it
admits its education of the farmers and peasants is off to a slow start.
That was evident in
Kubu Sembilang where the people told this reporter they had never heard of
avian flu. And even after the death of their seven neighbors, most villagers
still believed that "evil spirits" killed the victims.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Yesterday I reported some late-breaking, ominous news (below). Today it all
goes into reverse. Reuters reports that
WHO has issued a statement that,
Tests had shown no evidence of a significant mutation in
the bird flu strain that killed at least six people in North Sumatra.
..."Sequencing ... found no evidence of genetic reassortment ... and no
evidence of significant mutations," the agency said in a statement.
Iranian authorities have denied that two deaths in the country were from
bird flu. Rather, the pair are said to have died of acute pneumonia.
May 24th, 2006
Late-Breaking (and Ominous) News
Reuters reports that
two Iranians have died of bird flu, the first such cases in the country.
And Canadian Press reports that WHO appears to be "edging closer" to
human-to-human contact in the recent Indonesian "cluster" deaths.
We Want Answers
Medical News Today has questions about Tamiflu:
Mike Leavitt, US
Health and Human Services Secretary, says US stocks of Tamiflu are being
sent to a safe location in some unnamed Asian country. He said this move is
to help the first line of defence in case a flu pandemic breaks out.
Many wonder why this
sudden move was announced. Why is the country unnamed?
And about that mystery
“cluster” of bird flu cases in a North Sumatra village:
Last week it was announced that 7 members of the same family in
infected with the H5N1 bird flu strain - six of them died. The World Health
Organization said it was unlikely that such a large cluster of human
infections was due to human-to-human transmission. However, nobody seems to
be able to locate the source of infection.
If a bunch of people
get infected and authorities cannot find any birds as the source, it is not
illogical to wonder whether these people may have infected each other. When
the WHO says this is unlikely, but cannot offer any other explanation
regarding the source of infection, people wonder.
They’re good questions.
How long will we have to wait for answers? (And check out
Recombinomics for a detailed analysis of the Indonesian cluster, and
Societal Breakdown, Chaos and Panic
public health issues generally see the US as
for a bird flu pandemic, according to a survey.
journalists in the study view the threat of a pandemic as highly serious.
Respondents believe a pandemic could lead to potential "societal breakdown,"
"chaos," and "panic." And, the vast majority of respondents judge the
nation's response to pandemic flu to be either insufficient, misdirected, or
Indonesia – Deepening
Indonesia seems to be
the focus of attention right now for bird flu watchers. Officials are
concerned that a “cluster” of cases in a North Sumatra village could mean
human-to-human transmission has occurred.
The Indonesian case cluster is the largest seen to date, with at least
seven members of an extended family - and perhaps more - falling ill to the
disease in the village of Kubu Sembelang in North Sumatra. Six of the seven
Only six of the cases
have confirmed as H5N1 cases; no samples were taken from the initial case, a
37-year-old woman who died and was buried in early May.
At least one
suspected additional case in the same family - the father of a 10-year-old
boy who died - has raised the spectre of possible person-to-person spread.
But more than three
weeks after the first woman fell ill, investigators from the WHO and
elsewhere are still trying to determine if the man is infected, what the
source of the infections is and how far, if at all, illness has spread.
Fear in the village
is running high, according to local reports, which also point to a
reluctance on the part of villagers to co-operate with authorities trying to
investigate the outbreak.
Read more at
Medical News Today. Meanwhile, an 18-year-old
shuttlecock maker has also been diagnosed with bird flu.
Spanish Flu Survivor
Helps Battle Bird Flu
This is a
lovely story - a 92-year-old woman who survived the Spanish flu in 1918
has given 10 vials of her blood to researchers working to develop new bird
Dorothy Horsch was in
kindergarten when she contracted the illness, which killed 20 million to 40
million people worldwide. "My mother and father and sister and I, all four
of us had it and all four of us survived," she said Friday. "That was a
"All we did was lay
in bed. I don't remember eating," said Horsch, whose mother hung a camphor
bag around her neck to ward off germs.
She drifted in and
out of consciousness with fever; she doesn't know for how long. The family
eventually recovered, helped by twice-daily house calls from their doctor.
H5N1 has been found in
Siberia and at a poultry farm in
Denmark. A 75-year-old woman has died in
the country’s sixth bird flu death. The Guardian reports that
scientists discovered evidence of H5 bird flu in poultry as far back as
October, but hushed up their findings.
Indonesia - Is This Human-to-Human Infection?
Five members of an Indonesian family have been
infected with bird flu, and authorities are now urgently seeking tests,
to determine if human-to-human transmission has occurred. The only other
known possible case of human-to-human infection occurred in Thailand in
May 18th, 2006
News in Brief
- European Union customs
gone on alert after discovering Chinese chicken being illegally smuggled
into Europe, where it is banned due to bird flu concerns.
- Donald Henderson,
resident fellow at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of
Pittsburgh Medical Center,
conference that media reports are promulgating "hilarious" prevention
measures, and causing unnecessary panic, with predictions of a bird flu
holocaust that would cripple the economy. "That's not the way it works," he
said. “It's 10 to 12 weeks that you have a real problem. Then it's
effectively back to normal."
- Vets in Kenya have
hundreds of dead birds, but have not found bird flu. Nevertheless,
chicken sales have plummeted.
The Pandemic Pandemic
(Or Is It Just an Epidemic?)
What’s the difference
between an epidemic and a pandemic? Even though, as a writer, I’m in the
word business, I hadn’t really thought about this. But Fort Wayne
News-Banner columnist Mark Miller has. He
It strikes me that
the latest word to become a fad is “pandemic.” The word is absolutely
everywhere. It’s become almost synonymous with the bird flu threat, and I’ve
seen it applied to other issues as well.
These things used to
be called an epidemic, I think. Don’t hear that word anymore at all.
...According to Mr.
or tending to affect many individuals within a population, community or
region at the same time; excessively prevalent.”
over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion
of the population.”
Both can be used as
either as an adjective and a noun.
It appears a pandemic
might be considered worse, or at least more widely spread, than an epidemic.
Hence, it is safe to say we are experiencing a pandemic pandemic.
The Bright Side of Bird
US chicken exports are
sharply down, due to
global bird flu fears. The result: “a bonanza for the food depositories that
serve the nation's poor and hungry,” as poultry companies donate huge
amounts of unsold chicken.
Who Goes First?
Controversy over who'll get priority for treatment in the event of a
bird flu outbreak. The
On the Titanic, it was women and children first. During a syphilis
outbreak in World War II, soldiers with the best chance of recovery were the
ones to get precious doses of penicillin.
In the event of a global flu pandemic, federal officials have said they
intend to give vaccine first to health-care workers, followed by the oldest,
sickest patients — a policy aimed at saving the most lives. But one of the
government's top medical ethicists is challenging that approach, arguing it
is more appropriate to give young adults priority because they are at higher
risk of dying in a flu pandemic and still have many productive years left.
Toronto Star reports bluntly:
The sick and elderly should be the last to be given a flu vaccine in a
pandemic, according to a controversial paper published today in the journal
May 15th, 2006
- Hong Kong movie superstar
Jackie Chan has
filmed a public service ad for UNICEF warning children about the dangers of
- the latest craze in Ivory Coast nightclubs - the
bird flu dance,
described as "like a chicken with Parkinson's disease trying to dance to
- five officials in China's Sichuan province have been
sacked after they "ignored reports of suspected bird flu outbreaks and
then dealt with the crisis incompetently."
- parts of Brasov county in central Romania have been
quarantined on fears of a new bird flu outbreak.
- health authorities in
Djibouti have reported the country's first case of human H5N1 infection.
- demand is booming in the Ivory Coast for
antelope, hedgehog and bush rat, as poultry sales plummet.
- and, for light relief, don't miss Doctor Rob Corddry,
senior flu correspondent for the Daily Show.
May 13th, 2006
Bird Flu Humor from the Late Show with David Letterman
Top Ten Surprises In ABC's Bird Flu Movie (Presented By Britney Spears)
10. Thanks to sponsorship deal, flu is cured by delicious taste of Dr.
9. Humans attacked by pigeons with tire irons
8. 20% of population comes down with less dangerous "bird hiccups"
7. Every time someone says, "chicken," all the characters chug a beer
6. Hilarious scene in which Leslie Nielsen confuses his Tamiflu with his
5. Every single person in the world ends up at General Hospital
4. The big villain? Larry Bird
3. Sad conclusion in which Charlie Brown puts a bullet in Woodstock
2. Hilarious scene where the guy playing President Bush actually solves the
1. Sole survivors Michael Jackson and Rosie O'Donnell are forced to
repopulate the earth
May 12th, 2006
Sense of Panic
Xinhua news agency reports on life in America:
An alarmist TV movie "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in
America" being shown in
the U.S. now has aroused a stomach-clenching sense of panic among the
A terrific movie,
"Fatal Contact" tells a fictitious but vivid story of an avian flu pandemic
threatening millions of lives.
An exaggeration? The
Medical News Today reports:
We have received 112
emails from people in the USA with questions ranging from ‘How could other
countries be so selfish as to withhold vaccines?' to ‘I woke up with a
temperature and a cough this morning, do you think I may have caught the
As the movie was pure
fiction, not a documentary, and bird flu has not yet arrived in the USA, it
baffles me how people can be angry at other countries or wonder whether they
Europe – Where’s the
New York Times, in a lengthy report, notices that – contrary to many
expectations - migrating birds have not brought the bird flu virus to Europe
officials had feared that the disease was likely to spread to Africa during
the winter migration and return to Europe with a vengeance during the
reverse migration this spring. That has not happened…
"It is quiet now in
terms of cases, which is contrary to what many people had expected," said
Ward Hagemeijer, an avian influenza specialist with Wetlands International,
an environmental group based in the Netherlands that studies migratory
In thousands of
samples collected in Africa this winter, H5N1 was not detected in a single
wild bird, officials and scientists said. In Europe, there have been only a
handful of cases detected in wild birds since April 1, at the height of the
The number of cases
in Europe has decreased so dramatically compared to February, when dozens of
new cases were found daily, that experts believe the northward spring
migration played no role. There was one grebe in Denmark on April 28 — the
last case — as well as a falcon in Germany and a few swans in France,
according to the World Organization for Animal Health, based in Paris.
…"Is it like Y2K,
where also nothing happened?" asked Juan Lubroth, a senior veterinary
official at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome,
referring to the expected computer failures as the year 1999 turned to 2000.
"Perhaps it is because it was not as bad as we feared, or perhaps it is
because people took the right measures."
Still, he and others
say, the lack of wild bird cases in Europe only underscores how little is
understood about the virus.