Bird Flu - Archives
November 20th - November
the latest bird flu figures from the World Health Organization, starting
from December 26, 2003. These are confirmed cases only. The recent
controversy over the possibility of 300 bird flu deaths in China has shown
that the actual number of cases could be radically different from the
– since mid-October there have been 25 bird flu outbreaks in nine provinces.
Altogether, three cases of human infection have been confirmed in China, two
of them fatal.
– a 16-year-old West Java boy is in stable condition in hospital after
suffering from the H5N1 virus. It brings the total number of cases in
Indonesia to 12, of which seven have been fatal. However, two of the boy’s
brothers died before his hospitalization, having displayed similar symptoms.
No samples were taken before their burial, and it cannot be confirmed that
they were bird flu victims.
– the latest case is a 15-year-old boy, who has now been discharged from
hospital and is recovering. Altogether, Vietnam has reported 93 cases of
human infection, including 42 deaths.
– the latest case, early in November, was an 18-month-old boy who has
recovered. Thailand has reported 21 cases, with 13 of them fatal.
– the only other country with reported cases of human infection. Cambodia
has had no new reported cases since April this year, and the figure remains
at four cases, all of them fatal.
– Should We Start Worrying?
reports that “a steady stream” of official statements from North Korea on
preparations to fight bird flu raises the possibility that a new outbreak
has already occurred there.
North Korea had an
outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu virus earlier this year. Initially it did not
announce the outbreak at two poultry farms near Pyongyang, saying it was
merely stepping up preventive measures. Within the past month, North Korea's
official KCNA news agency has made five statements about its effort to
prevent bird flu as well as covering the subject on state TV and radio.
"Of course all these
reports raise questions about whether an outbreak has occurred, but there is
no evidence now to suggest one," said Kwon Tae-jin, director of North Korea
agricultural studies at South Korea's state-run Korea Rural Economic
Institute. Kwon noted the North had to appeal for international help to
stamp out its previous outbreak. "North Korea is on very high alert for bird
flu since it does not have enough resources and adequate organisation," he
noted a couple of weeks ago that
The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu by Mike
Davis got a
scathing review at Tech Central Station (under the headline, “One Flu
from the Cuckoo’s Nest”). But now the
New York Times describes it as a “brilliant, concise jeremiad.”
It is said
controversy sells books.
should do well.
will start manufacturing Tamiflu in three to five months. Roche, which has
production rights for the drug, and Gilead Sciences, which developed it, do
not hold an Indonesian patent. It is likely that manufacture will be carried
out by two state-owned drugs companies, PT Kimia Farma and PT Indofarma,
using raw materials sourced from China, India and South Korea.
Intellectual Property Office is likely to authorize
local production of Tamiflu, in violation of the rights of Roche and
executive Franz B. Humer has told the
York Times that it will announce in early December which companies
will be allowed to start their own Tamiflu production.
Chinese Really Died of Bird Flu?
A few days
ago came reports
that a reputable Japanese scientist had told a conference in Germany that
confidential sources had revealed to him that 300 people had died in China
from H5N1 bird flu, including seven cases of human-to-human transmission.
to the report, the scientist, Masato Tashiro, head of virology at Tokyo’s
National Institute of Infectious Disease, had learned of the deaths while
working with WHO to investigate a flu outbreak in Hunan.
Health Ministry has
denied the report....continue
Have 300 Chinese Really Died of Bird
Reuters reporter visits the Chinese city of Gulong, center of the
trade, and writes a fascinating report on the spice that is used to make
shikimic acid, the base ingredient of the tamiflu drug.
After an unusually
small harvest in 2001, prices soared to the highest anyone here had ever
seen -- well above current levels. Since then, however, they have declined
sharply. Many farmers are making losses, or barely scraping by.
"Bird flu may save
the star anise farmer," said Wei Xingsong, deputy director of the Guangxi
Star Anise Confederation and head of a company in Gulong that sells star
anise to exporters. But he says he is not optimistic. "The peasants don't
have any enthusiasm at all for star anise," he said. In Gulong, farmers sold
most of their crop before the star anise craze hit and prices rose, Wei and
"At current market
prices, it's hard for us farmers to operate," said Zhou Yongzhuang, 33. Zhou
has considered chopping down his 1,000 or so trees and he is not alone. Many
others in these verdant hills also are considering getting out of star
anise, Wei said. But for now, they have decided to wait and see if prices
That could be a risky
proposition. About a third of the shikimic acid Roche uses is man-made and
the firm is said to be seeking ways to expand the amount.
Infection in Israel?
flu hit the Middle East? The Israeli Health Ministry is arranging tests of
the blood of a local man who was in hospital last week with flu-like
symptoms. He has since recovered.
Ministry reported Tuesday that it was examining suspicions that the Galilee
resident, who feeds birds at the nature reserve, had contracted avian flu. A
test on saliva taken from his pharynx showed that he did not carry the
virus, but on Thursday it was revealed that his blood tests raised
suspicions that he had the disease, and had probably contracted a virulent
strain of the virus.
To date, the
only reported human cases since late-2003 have been in China, Vietnam,
Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.
Holdings, which developed the Relenza anti-flu drug, has been
unable to resolve its dispute with GlaxoSmithKline, which holds the
license to market the drug. Consequently, Biota’s legal action against GSK
has resumed. Biota claims that GSK breached the licensing agreement, and is
seeking damages of A$308-430 million (US$227-317 million).
from China –
doesn’t sound good. A Japanese scientist has told a
of virologists in Germany that 300 Chinese have died of H5N1 bird flu,
including seven cases of human-to-human transmission. He said Chinese
colleagues, who disclosed the figures to him, had been threatened with
arrest if they publicly revealed the extent of the problem.
Masato Tashiro, head
of virology at Tokyo’s National Institute of Infectious Disease – a
WHO-collaborating centre for bird flu – told the meeting of virologists in
Marburg, Germany, on 19 November that “we have been systematically
deceived”. His comments were reported in the German newspaper Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung….Tashiro could not be reached for comment today. The
newspaper reported that he said the numbers came from sources he trusted,
while he was in Hunan province for the WHO, working with Chinese
investigators on the recent H5N1 outbreak there.
He said five Chinese
medical personnel had been arrested for trying to report these cases,
according to the paper. China enforced severe restrictions on the
investigation and reporting of suspected cases of bird flu in June
2005….Virologists consider the relative absence of human cases of bird flu
in China unusual, given its widespread infection in birds. China has
reported poultry outbreaks in twenty counties all across the country since
mid-October, the latest being on Thursday.
….There are other
unconfirmed reports of human cases in China.
an independent Chinese website, reported this week that 77 workers brought
in to help control rampant H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in Liaoning province in
November have died of the virus, listing 14 names. Boxun reported the extent
of the outbreak in wild birds at Qinghai Lake in central China in May, and
alleged then that 120 people had been put in stringent hospital isolation in
a nearby town, possibly with bird flu.
Flu Vaccine Could Take Two More Years
newspapers are carrying some
useful reports on the rush to develop new bird flu vaccines, based on
remarks by Brian McNamee, the chief executive of local pharmaceuticals
"I think it likely
that there will be a prototype vaccine that stimulates the immune response,"
Dr McNamee said. "What we don't know is what the dose is and whether we need
an adjuvant (an ingredient or treatment that enhances the immune response) –
they're the two questions.
"I think those
questions will be answered in the next two years. It could be faster than
that, but if you need an adjuvant it may take that long. We need to be
Dr McNamee said CSL
was optimistic and working hard on developing a vaccine for the H5N1 strain
of bird flu as soon as possible, but the company could not forecast the data
it needed to develop a vaccine….CSL was one of four major companies globally
trying to develop a bird flu vaccine, but all of the companies had agreed to
"We would feel that
Sanofi and ourselves probably have the best data coming out shortly, GSK (GlaxoSmithKline)
have some interesting data as well, and Chiron are doing some interesting
work with an adjuvanted vaccine," Dr McNamee said. "We well know that
there's not enough manufacturing capacity in the whole world so we have to
behave this way."
Is Your Thanksgiving
Turkey Safe from Bird Flu?
Is your Thanksgiving
turkey safe from bird flu? Yes, of course it is. Bird flu hasn’t been found
in the US, and in any case cooked poultry is quite safe.
people are worried. Iowa governor Tom Vilsack has broken with local
tradition and is
refusing to pardon a turkey this Thanksgiving, instead urging people to
the turkey-eating tradition.”
Washington Times has reported that turkey sales are “brisk,” with
consumers – so far – apparently not worried about bird flu....continue
reading Is Your Thanksgiving Turkey Safe from Bird Flu?
Australian government has launched a
new website, with
information on bird flu. It includes medical information, corporate pandemic
planning guidance and travel advice.
Koreans Make Tamiflu; Taiwanese Find New Shikimic Acid Source
sources are reporting that a local firm, Hanmi Pharmaceutical, has succeeded
producing its own version of Tamiflu. Earlier, 16 Korean drugs companies
had responded to a call from the Korean Food and Drug Administration to
produce generic Tamiflu samples by December 5th. So far, Hanmi is
the only company to have reported success, and it is now in negotiation with
Roche about obtaining a licence to begin full production.
Post is reporting that Taiwanese scientists have
succeeded in extracting shikimic acid – the base material of Tamiflu –
from three local plants. Until now, the main natural source of the acid has
star anise plant, and this is in increasingly short supply, due to
soaring demand from Tamiflu’s manufacturer Roche.
Persist, Consult Your Stockbroker
The Observer newspaper provides bird flu investment guidance, under
the headline, “Bird flu: if symptoms persist, consult your stockbroker…”
Research from the
global portfolio strategists at giant American finance house Citigroup sums
it up in a nutshell - sell British Airways and BP, buy Blockbuster and
Nintendo. The lesson is that in the case of a serious outbreak, we will be
too frightened to leave our homes.
….On the other hand,
the best case scenario leads to a temporary blip - the markets hate
uncertainty - but this is, in fact, a buying opportunity, just as happened
during the Asian SARS crisis three years ago. Buy telecoms, internet and, of
course, drugs companies. “While it is difficult to quantify the likelihood
of a human pandemic, our analysis suggests avian flu is a rising risk to the
global economic outlook,” says the report.
Or in other words:
first see your doctor, then get a second opinion from your stockbroker.
Announces Bird Flu “SWAT Teams”
plans to form
rapid deployment teams to combat bird flu outbreaks in Asia, as part of
a A$100 million aid program announced by Prime Minister John Howard.
that “Australia had sophisticated public health expertise that should be
shared with neighbouring countries to bolster their disaster planning.”
greatest thing we can do is to help them build their own capacity," he said.
"It's a much easier thing for a country such as Australia or the United
States or Japan that has a very high per capita GDP and has a very
well-developed public health system, but even those systems can be put under
enormous strain in exceptional circumstances. It's a lot more difficult for
countries that are less developed and plainly we want to be a good neighbour
and we want to help build their capacity."
Reports from Vietnam
accounts for two-thirds of the 66-odd bird flu deaths reported since
December 2003. The disease is said to be spreading rapidly through the
country’s domestic bird population. Yet a BBC reporter found Vietnamese
surprisingly optimistic about the prospects for beating the problem.
Mr Quang, our Foreign
Ministry minder, radiated confidence - as no doubt he was required to - in
front of journalists. But he was also articulating the self-belief of a
country which once defeated the Japanese, the French and the Americans.
Where other countries are floundering in panic over the arrival of bird flu,
Vietnam says it will prevail.
…The government has
announced that all 260 million birds in the poultry industry will be
inoculated over the next few months with new vaccines developed in China. A
near impossible task, you might think, given the number of households which
own just a handful of ducks and chickens. "You see, that's the advantage of
living in a communist system," said Nguyen Xuan Vui, the animal health
director in Ha Tay, the province we were permitted to visit. "Once the
central government gives the order, the entire country can be mobilised to
fight bird flu."
excellent report, and well worth reading in full.