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Bird Flu - Archives

 

October 24th - October 27th, 2005
 

The Bird Flu Bloggers

Everyone’s talking about bird flu, and some excellent blogs have emerged specifically to cover the topic. Here’s a rundown of the best of them.

 

Essentially, they break down into two broad types. Firstly, there are those run by specialists, such as doctors or public health officials. These tend to be heavy on commentary, and are often excellent places to learn the implications of what’s happening.

 

The other kind, like my own website, tend to be run by writers or other keen bloggers, and usually have a focus on presenting the news as it happens (and there’s lots of it) with brief commentary on what it means.

 

Among the specialists, my favorite is....continue reading The Bird Flu Bloggers.

October 27th, 2005


Europe – Not Looking Too Bad

New Scientist magazine contains some of the best reports on the developing bird flu story. The latest is a round-up of news from Europe. Despite scares this week in several countries, including Portugal and Sweden, the magazine is generally optimistic that the continent will not suffer greatly.

 

Most of the 121 people known to have caught the virus so far in Asia were living with, killing, plucking or eating infected poultry. Relatively few Europeans do that, so there are likely to be far fewer human infections. "The threat of a pandemic hasn't increased significantly as a result of recent developments" in Europe, says Angus Nicoll of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

 

And because the means to contain outbreaks quickly exist in Europe, fewer poultry are likely to be infected. "Europe is in an excellent position to prevent the virus from getting a foothold," said Gudjon Magnusson of the World Health Organization, after talks on the situation this week in Copenhagen, Denmark.

October 27th, 2005

 

The Latest

China and Croatia have both confirmed new H5N1 outbreaks, while India investigates. The BBC reports: “Authorities on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion say three tourists who returned from a trip to Thailand may have contracted bird flu.” The Vietnam News Agency reports that three Vietnamese pharmaceutical companies are to begin producing Tamiflu.

October 27th, 2005

 

Thailand – Bird Flu Spreading

Bird flu appears to be spreading rapidly in Thailand, according to a survey by The Nation newspaper.

 

Cases of suspected human infections on the rise as villagers resist efforts by livestock officials to cull fowl. Avian influenza has spread to more than half the country, with 39 provinces reporting confirmed or suspected cases of fresh bird-flu infections. Last week, the authorities had just 21 provinces under close watch for bird flu, suggesting the virus is spreading rapidly.

 

Meanwhile, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Suphan Buri and Kamphaeng Phet have been put on a list of provinces with severe bird-flu problems. “We are receiving more and more reports of fowl deaths,” Jatuporn Kamchuen, the livestock chief of Kanchanaburi’s Phanom Thuan district, said yesterday. Livestock officials were busy culling fowl suspected of contracting bird flu.

 

At the same time, he complained that officials were facing resistance from some villagers who had tried to prevent officials from taking their birds. “We need to raise people’s understanding of the situation.”

October 26th, 2005

 

Novavax Shares Surge

Business Week reports that shares in biotech company Novavax jumped 33% yesterday, following a 10% rise on Monday, on the potential for the company’s vaccine, which reportedly protects animals against avian flu. The shares, which dipped to 70 cents in August, are now trading at $5.53.

October 26th, 2005

 

Portugal

Portuguese health authorities are testing the bodies of 17 geese and seagulls to see whether the birds died of avian flu. Meanwhile, in the northern town of Santa Maria da Feira, a man has been hospitalized after he reported flu symptoms, having found dead chickens on his farm.

October 26th, 2005

 

Germany

Fox News reports that a dozen dead birds have tested positive for bird flu, though the strain of the virus has yet to be determined.

October 26th, 2005

 

Economic Costs

A bird flu epidemic could cost the Asia-Pacific region $90 billion to $110 billion, according to the Asia Development Bank. And a severe outbreak, leading to global recession, could cost $250 billion to $290 billion.

October 26th, 2005

 

“Don’t Kiss Your Pet Parrot”

The Hong Kong government has issued a set of guidelines for dealing with bird flu.

October 26th, 2005

 

Biota – The Little Aussie Bird Flu Battler

A couple of months ago you could have bought Biota Holdings shares for around 50 cents. Last week they hit $2.60.

 

The reason – bird flu.

 

For Biota is the pharmaceuticals company behind Relenza (the marketing name for zanamivir), the ground-breaking anti-viral drug that is rated second only to Tamiflu in ability to fight bird flu.

 

Biota has its headquarters near Monash University, a 15-minute drive down Blackburn Road from my home here in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne....continue reading Biota – The Little Aussie Bird Flu Battler.

October 25th, 2005


Rapid Response in China and the US

The US Food and Drug Administration has formed a Rapid Response Team to ensure that anti-viral drugs are available in the event of a flu pandemic. The Team will be able to fast-track a complete new drug application in six to eight weeks.

 

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has announced a new rapid response policy for reporting cases of bird flu – they must be reported to provincial authorities within two hours; and, after confirmation, the provincial veterinary bureau must report to the ministry within an hour.

October 25th, 2005

 

The Flu-Resistant Investment Portfolio

Reuters presents “ways to make investment portfolios at least partly flu resistant”. Here are some of the suggestions:

 

"People are not going to be congregating where other people are. So I would think that eBay Inc. and companies that sell on-line would probably do very well because people just aren't going to go to the mall to do shopping," said Jim Huguet, president and co-CEO of Great Companies LLC. Huguet also suggested companies that make home entertainment equipment and video games could benefit from a stay-at-home mentality. "It sounds gruesome but I guess you could invest in the funeral services companies. Obviously they would see a significant increase in business," added Huguet, mentioning Stewart Enterprises and Service Corp International.

 

If flu vaccines are to be produced the conventional way, a potential beneficiary could be egg producers, such as Cal-Maine Foods, noted Steve Brozak, president of WBB Securities….Should the worst case scenario pan out and a survivalist bunker mentality take hold, suggested Brozak, with tongue in cheek, "the best bets may be canned goods and shotgun shells."

 

Thomas Lydon, president of Global Trends Investments…said "hard currency or precious metals are the safe areas. In protecting yourself, maybe gold makes sense." That sentiment was echoed by Peter Schiff, President of Euro Pacific Capital, especially if Asia is the epicenter of a flu crisis as predicted. "Asia is where everything is getting produced. If Asia was less productive they'd ask for their money back from the United States and the result could be a selling-off of the dollar," Schiff said. "Gold should do well. If the dollar goes down, gold goes up automatically," Schiff added.

October 25th, 2005

 

WHO Updates

WHO has officially announced another case of bird flu human infection in Thailand, a seven-year-old boy who has now recovered. It is the country’s 19th case.

 

WHO has also reported that in Indonesia a four-year-old boy has been confirmed as having had bird flu. He has now recovered. And a man who died at the end of September is now confirmed as having died of bird flu. These are Indonesia’s sixth and seventh bird flu cases, with four deaths. This brings to 62 the total number of deaths since the end of 2003.

 

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports two possible new cases of human bird flu infection. A poultry farm worker is in hospital in Nakhon Pathom province and a young girl is being treated in Kanchanaburi province,

October 25th, 2005

 

Star Anise – Tamiflu’s Vital Ingredient

Star anise, from China and Vietnam, has been known in the West for several centuries as a cooking spice and as an ingredient in anise-flavored liquors like Pernod. Now it has a new use – as the base for Roche’s bird flu drug Tamiflu.

 

In fact, star anise has a long history in Chinese herbal medicines, being used to treat such ailments as colic in babies, stomach aches and indigestion. When brewed as a tea it helps clear breathing passages. In women it has been prescribed to facilitate birth and increase lactation.

 

Unfortunately, the plant takes six years to flower, and it is difficult to cultivate. One estimate is that 10 years would be needed to produce sufficient quantities to treat just 20% of the world’s population....continue reading Star Anise – Tamiflu’s Vital Ingredient.

October 25th, 2005


Will Kimchi Cure Bird Flu?

My Korean wife believes kimchi – fermented cabbage with garlic and fiery hot spices – will cure anything. She makes it regularly in large, pungent quantities, to feed our family. It certainly hasn’t stopped my hay fever, and I credit my annual flu shot for sparing me from the flu in recent years.

 

But kimchi (also written as kimchee) is widely viewed as the Korean national dish, and many Koreans believe it has wondrous properties. During the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia, kimchi consumption rose....continue reading Will Kimchi Cure Bird Flu?

October 24th, 2005


Has Roche Marketed Tamiflu Properly?

Details emerged over the weekend of accusations being leveled against Roche by Gilead Sciences, owner of the Tamiflu patent. Forbes reported:

 

Roche Holding AG has been accused of serious failings in the manufacture of Tamiflu by US biotech firm Gilead Sciences Inc, the owner of the patent on the highly sought after bird flu drug, UK Sunday paper The Observer reported citing court papers filed with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission.

Gilead, which is demanding termination of its licence agreement with Roche because it says that the Swiss drugmaker has failed to market the drug properly, has identified a number of incidents over the past three years which required Roche to issue product recalls, the paper said.

 

Read the entire report for more. This one looks set to run and run.

October 24th, 2005

 

Aussie Newspapers Whip up a Panic

“Panic about a possible bird flu pandemic sweeps the nation,” according to the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, citing as evidence a doctor who said “patients were swarming into her Eastern Suburbs practice claiming they were travelling to Asia or had been placed on a waiting list for the drug by a chemist and wanted a script.”

 

And on the News.com.au website of the Telegraph’s parent company is a report that, “some doctors and medical workers have devised ‘exit strategies’ to flee their homes if human-to-human bird flu takes hold.” Not a shred of evidence is presented.

October 24th, 2005

 

The Dead Duck and the Dead Parrot

A dead duck in Sweden did not die from H5N1. But a dead parrot in Britain did.

October 24th, 2005

 

The Bird Flu Conspiracy

Quick - who used to be chairman of Gilead Sciences, the company that invented the bird flu drug Tamiflu?

 

Give up?

 

The answer: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of course.

 

It’s enough to get you thinking there’s some kind of conspiracy happening, and inevitably that’s what some people have been thinking....continue reading The Bird Flu Conspiracy.

October 24th, 2005