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Bird Flu - Archives


November 2nd - November 12th, 2005

Tamiflu – Difficult or Easy to Make?

An argument that Tamiflu manufacturer Roche Holding has been using, to ward off attempts by rivals to launch their own production of the drug, is that it is extremely difficult to manufacture. As the Wall Street Journal reported:


In early October, with world-wide concern about bird flu spreading, the Swiss pharmaceutical company was under mounting pressure to allow other manufacturers to produce the antiviral drug as well. Roche resisted, saying Tamiflu…was too difficult for other companies to manufacture. Roche even pointed to a potentially "explosive" chemical step in the production process and said repeatedly that it would take several years for anyone else to make Tamiflu.


But a growing number of countries and companies are claiming they could quickly produce quantities of the drug, if allowed by Roche....continue reading Tamiflu – Difficult or Easy to Make?

November 12th, 2005


Another Case in Thailand

Thailand has reported its 21st case of human infection, a one-year-old boy who is expected to recover.

November 12th, 2005

Bird Flu Hits the Middle East

Kuwait has confirmed the presence of the H5N1 flu virus in a migrating flamingo. It is the first confirmation in the Mideast.

November 12th, 2005


Bird Flu – The New Bio-Weapon?

The Strategy Page website, which specializes in the analysis of military matters, has published a short report, “Avian Flu as a Bioweapon,” examining the prospects that terrorists might try to smuggle infected birds into the US with the aim of damaging the American economy.


Given increasing international monitoring of poultry and migratory birds, the real threat of an avian flu outbreak is likely to be as a result of bird smuggling. There is an enormous international black market in birds. Most of the trade provides misguided animal lovers with rare or exotic specimens, but part of it goes to supply birds for cockfighting enthusiasts or forbidden treats such as the rare ortolan for hungry gourmets. The 330,000 birds that are legally imported into the U.S. every year go through a rigid quarantine system that included veterinary testing. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that between 80,000 and 100,000 more come in illegally, and thus without the rigid screening….What worries counter-terrorism officials is a coordinated movement of birds ill with avian flu, with the intention of causing great economic loss to American domestic and wild birds, as well as increasing the risk of the avian flu mutating into a more lethal (to humans) version.

November 11th, 2005


Chicken Consumption - How Much Will It Fall?

The daughters of one of my wife’s best friends now refuse to eat chicken, fearing bird flu. They know you don’t get bird flu from cooked poultry, and in any case they know you don’t get bird flu here in Australia. But better safe than sorry.


I suspect a lot of people around the world are starting to think like that. Are global chicken sales about to nosedive?....continue reading Chicken Consumption - How Much Will It Fall?
November 10th, 2005

Vietnam – Worse to Come?

Another bird flu death in Vietnam – the 42nd - has led to fears that “the virus has hit the Asian nation earlier and on a larger scale than last year.”


According to a Reuters report:


The victim was a 35-year-old Hanoi man who died after eating chicken, said Nguyen Van Binh, deputy director of the Vietnamese Health Ministry's Preventive Medicine Department. "This is the first death since the start of this year's epidemic season," Deputy Health Minister Trinh Quan Huan was quoted as saying by the state-run Tien Phong newspaper.


The first Vietnamese death last winter, the season when the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain seems to thrive, was in December. WHO spokeswoman Dida Connor said it was too early to know if the latest death meant the virus had become more virulent. But Tien Phong quoted a Vietnamese government report as saying bird flu had spread on a wider scale and had arrived in the north of the country earlier than last year.

November 9th, 2005


Hot Stock

Shares in Rockeby Biomed, a tiny Singapore-based company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, have rocketed on the announcement that it has international distribution rights to two new tests for bird flu. Company management claimed to be surprised by the market reaction.

November 9th, 2005

First High-Resolution Bird Flu Virus Photo

What is said to be the world’s first high-resolution photo of the H5N1 bird flu virus has appeared in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. According to a report on the Radio Sweden website, the photo, by renowned 83-year-old science photographer Lennart Nilsson, “shows the virus as a string of blue balls attacking and destroying healthy pink cells.”

November 8th, 2005


Do I Have Any Advance on $800 Billion?

It sometimes sounds like a house auction, with each participant trying furiously to outbid the other. The latest estimate for the cost to the global economy of a flu pandemic – this time from the World Bank – is $800 billion.

November 8th, 2005


First Kimchi, Now Sauerkraut

Now it’s sauerkraut that’s being touted as a possible preventative for bird flu. Like Korean kimchi (also spelled kimchee), sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish.


"Unlike the government, we've got the preventative, and 115,000 tons of it in Wisconsin alone," said Ryan Downs, owner and general manager of Great Lakes Kraut Co., which has sauerkraut factories in Bear Creek and Shiocton, Wis., and in Shortsville, N.Y. Downs said more extensive scientific research is needed to prove any curative link to avian flu, but he's more than happy to tout kraut as a healthful part of any diet. "People are starting to realize kraut is a pretty doggone good food," Downs said when contacted about the South Korean study. "We're ready to help keep the world healthy."

November 8th, 2005


Tamiflu Update

It wasn’t so long ago that the Tamiflu producer Roche Holding was insisting it would not license outside companies to produce the drug. One reason cited was the complexity of production – a 10-stage, one-year process that included extracting shikimic acid from the seeds of the star anise spice, and then converting it into a drug. A Roche spokesperson said it would take other pharmaceuticals companies three years to gain the ability to replicate this process.


What a difference a few weeks makes. Now it seems that companies in numerous countries not only plan to launch production, but they believe they can rapidly turn out fairly large quantities of the drug. And it seems they might gain Roche’s permission....continue reading Tamiflu Update - Who’s Going to Produce It?
November 6th, 2005

More Cases in Indonesia

A woman has died of H5N1 bird flu in Indonesia, and a child is in hospital. It now brings the total number of cases in Indonesia to nine, with five deaths.

November 5th, 2005


Singapore’s Bird Flu “Police”

An amusing report from Reuters says the Singapore government, worried about a mass bird flu outbreak at the famed Jurong Bird Park, has enlisted a squad of “flu police” – chickens in each aviary designed to detect any infectious disease.


The chickens have been bred without immunity, and, according to the park’s boss, “will be the first ones to fall ill if there is an outbreak of bird flu or other infectious diseases.”  

November 5th, 2005


More Bird Flu Humor

The Notes from the World of Wildlife Disease blog has links to more bird flu jokes. Firstly, from the Borowitz Report:


In a press conference at the White House today, President George W. Bush announced an ambitious plan to slow the potential spread of avian flu by making birds obese.

“Birds spread the flu by flying,” the president told reporters. “So it stands to reason that if birds are too fat to fly, they can’t spread the flu.”

The president said that he personally developed the strategy for slowing the spread of the deadly flu after realizing that “obesity is
America’s secret weapon in the battle for global health.”


And from The Onion:


As experts issue increasingly dire warnings of an avian flu epidemic, President Bush signed an executive order Tuesday authorizing the mass slaughter of "all bald eagles found anywhere within our borders."

November 4th, 2005


Economic Cost

The Asian Development Bank weighs in again with an estimate of the economic cost of a global (or Asian) flu pandemic. It says that a “year-long shock” from bird flu would cost Asian economies as much as $283 billion, reducing the region's gross domestic product by 6.5 percentage points.


"Avian flu presents a major potential challenge to the development of the region, perhaps the most serious since the financial crisis of 1997," said the Manila-based ADB. "A pandemic will likely slow or halt economic growth in Asia and lead to a significant reduction in trade, particularly of services. In the long run, potential economic growth will be lower and poverty will increase."

November 4th, 2005



Media attention to bird flu is soaring. The H5N1 blog notes that “googling ‘H5N1’ produces about 7.2 million hits, up from 4 million just a few weeks ago.”


A couple of days ago I noted that the most recent issue of Britain’s Private Eye magazine – which is always quick to satirize the latest media excesses – was full of bird flu jokes. I hadn’t noticed then that the magazine’s cover includes in the top-left corner a bird dressed as the grim reaper.


And now it seems that the National Review Online website has added an Avian Flu section to its list of categories, with, today, three reports.

November 3rd, 2005


Bush Plan Announced

President Bush has announced a $7.1 billion program to combat bird flu. According to the BBC, the main points are:


  • $1.2bn for the government to buy enough doses of the vaccine against the current strain of bird flu to protect 20 million Americans
  • $1bn to stockpile more anti-viral drugs that lessen the severity of the flu symptoms
  • $2.8bn to speed the development of vaccines as new strains emerge, a process that now takes months
  • $583m for states and local governments to prepare emergency plans to respond to an outbreak


Effect Measure is not impressed:


The threat of a pandemic is serious. This plan isn't serious. It's a distraction to divert attention from Miers, Scooter, Iraq, Katrina and all the other crap Bush has served up. Watch the birdies (they might have the flu) while the other hand is stripping you bare and handing your possessions over to Big Pharma, Halliburton and Big Oil. That's a disgrace.

November 2nd, 2005