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Bird Flu - Archives


October 28th - November 1st, 2005

Private Eye

The latest issue of Private Eye magazine has just arrived, and it’s full of bird flu jokes. You’ll have to buy it to see most of them, but here’s one that’s online.

The cartoonist is Tony Husband, who has his own website here.
November 1st, 2005


Another Thai Case

A Thai woman is recovering after being stricken with bird flu, according to the country’s deputy public health minister. It is Thailand’s 20th confirmed case of human bird flu since the end of 2003, of whom 13 have died.

November 1st, 2005


Flu Shot Long Shots

Forbes magazine reports on four small biotech stocks that could soar in the event of a bird flu pandemic. They are AVI BioPharma, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Novavax and Sinovac Biotech.

November 1st, 2005


Gilead Sciences – Well Connected

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s holding of shares in Tamiflu developer Gilead Sciences has moved from the conspiracy websites to the mainstream, with a report by CNN. It notes that other “political heavyweights” also hold significant equity holdings in Gilead.


"I don't know of any biotech company that's so politically well-connected," says analyst Andrew McDonald of Think Equity Partners in San Francisco.


What's more, the federal government is emerging as one of the world's biggest customers for Tamiflu. In July, the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the treatment for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering a multi-billion dollar purchase.

November 1st, 2005


Conspiracy Watch

Is avian flu another Pentagon hoax? asks a writer at the website of the Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalisation, pointing to allegations that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a major shareholder in Gilead Sciences, which developed the drug Tamiflu.


Against all scientific prudence and normal public health procedure, the world population is being whipped up into a fear frenzy by irresponsible public health officials from the US Administration to WHO to the United States Centers for Disease Control. They all warn about the imminent danger that a malicious viral strain might spread from infected birds, primarily in Vietnam and other Asian centers, to contaminate the entire human species in pandemic proportions….The Secretary of Defense, the man who allegedly supported the use of contrived intelligence to justify the war on Iraq, is now poised to reap huge gains for a flu panic his Administration has done everything it can to promote…. It would be useful to know whether the Pentagon’s successor to Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans developed the strategy of biowarfare behind the current Avian Flu panic. Perhaps some enterprising Congressional committee might look into the entire subject of plausible conflicts of interest regarding Secretary Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld stands to make a fortune on royalties as a panicked world population scrambles to buy a drug worthless in curing effects of alleged Avian Flu.

October 31st, 2005


Ornithological Armageddon

Disaster experts from the Asia-Pacific region are meeting in Brisbane today to coordinate a response to any bird flu pandemic. However, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) is calling on delegates to the conference to act with caution. According to AMA president Mukesh Haikerwal, "From the evidence and the incidence of bird flu that is out there at the moment, it is probably a bit early and irresponsible to be talking of widespread doom, destruction and death. People need to be able to get on with their lives without the prospect of some sort of ornithological Armageddon creating fear in the community."

October 31st, 2005


More Flu in Russia reports new bird flu outbreaks in central Russia, although the strain of the virus has not been announced. According to the report, “so far, about 60 infected locations in Siberian, Urals and Central Russian regions have been detected. In about 100 locations, poultry was under suspicion of infection.”


The report added:


The Russian agriculture minister Aleksei Gordeyev said on Friday the Russian media was guilty of exaggerating bird flu scares. He said “this subject will be closed and forgotten in a week or two.” Earlier, eccentric Russian MP Aleksei Mitrofanov said that bird flu was invented by Americans who wanted to dominate the world’s poultry markets.

October 31st, 2005


Who Wants to See a Cute Movie about Chickens?

Disney is sending out chicken dolls to promote its new animated feature “Chicken Little,” which opens on Friday. But, with everyone talking about bird flu and infected chickens, former Time magazine correspondent Chris Taylor, at his Daily Blah blog, sees ironies:


There's the one Disney would probably prefer we consider -- that we're all Chicken Littles at the moment, running around screaming about a metaphorical sky falling (or, more literally, that a terrible pandemic will drop on wings from the sky).

But I prefer to savor the schadenfreude. Here's Disney hoping for a big holiday hit to save its moribund animation division, kicking into gear a marketing campaign that has been meticulously planned for years, ordering up thousands of these bobble-headed bird dolls from factories in China.

And what happens? All of a sudden, bird becomes a dirty word. Chicken becomes even dirtier. Chickens from Asia are practically obscene. It's the worst possible timing for the marketers at Disney, and the fear is spread so far and so worldwide there's nothing their campaign can do to combat it, not even with a blank checkbook. Who the hell wants to see a cute movie about chickens right now?

October 30th, 2005


Is Africa Next?

The coming few weeks will be critical, as millions of birds engage in their annual migration from Europe and Eastern Asia to Southern Africa. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation quotes the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Chief Veterinarian Dr Joseph Domenech, as stating about bird flu:


It will arrive in Africa in the following weeks, particularly eastern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa. And the concern is that the veterinary services and the farmer systems are not in a good position to detect immediately, it will spread to domestic poultry farms.


A WHO risk assessment for Africa is here.

October 30th, 2005


More Deaths in Vietnam?

Reuters is reporting that two people who died in hospital in Vietnam over the past week showed symptoms of bird flu. The two victims, a 14-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man, had eaten duck and a chicken's eggs before they fell ill. A local newspaper quotes doctors as stating that both had severe respiratory problems, fever and lung infection. A third person is being treated for milder symptoms. According to WHO figures, Vietnam has suffered 91 cases of H5N1 human infection, with 41 deaths. This is around two-thirds of the total human cases reported in all countries since the end of 2003.

October 29th, 2005


Chiron Analysis

The Motley Fool investor website contains an analysis of Chiron, following the award to the company of a $62.5 million contract to supply bird flu vaccine. The report also mentions other stocks, all well-known to investors – GlaxoSmithKline (which is a Motley Fool recommendation), Sanofi-Aventis and Gilead Sciences. Motley Fool also mentions Chiron’s distributor, Henry Schein.

October 29th, 2005


Hungary’s New Bird Flu Drug

Interesting report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Hungarian claims to have developed an effective new bird flu vaccine. The report quotes the country’s chief medical officer: “A new vaccine is considered effective if there is a 2.5 times increase of antibodies in the blood. Our vaccine increased the levels of antibodies to a 10 times higher level.” However, WHO and the EU have expressed concerns about the speed at which the drug has been developed.

October 29th, 2005


Pulling up the Drawbridge

Australia might close its borders in the event of a global flu pandemic, according to Health Minister Tony Abbott, just back from the international avian flu conference in Canada.


Will this work? According to WHO’s excellent booklet “Avian Influenza: Assessing the Pandemic Threat” (p25, pdf file), during the disastrous 1918-19 pandemic,


quarantine and isolation were widely imposed, but probably did little to stop the contagion. Predictably, quarantine could delay spread somewhat but, having no impact on population susceptibility, could do nothing to reduce the numbers who would eventually fall ill. Australia was the notable exception. By maintaining a strict maritime quarantine, that country managed to stave off arrival of the epidemic until the start of 1919. By that time the virus had lost some its lethality, and Australia experienced a milder, though somewhat longer, period of influenza activity than elsewhere.


But, according to the excellent Effect Measure blog:


China says it will shut its borders to keep human bird flu in, while most other countries are making plans to keep bird flu out. Nice ideas. Neither will likely work….It is inevitable that these kinds of restrictions will come into play if a pandemic is starting. It is just as inevitable they will be costly and will fail. It isn't even sure they will slow things up much. This is apparently an obligatory response that can't be stopped. But it shouldn't also prevent us from beginning the kind of community mobilization that will really make a difference in managing the consequences of a pandemic, should one come.

October 28th, 2005


What’s All This About?

I’ve no idea what this means. (Click on the word EVIDENCE to return to this site.)

October 28th, 2005


Relenza Sales Booming

Anti-flu drug Relenza has some advantages over Tamiflu, according to Peter Molloy, chief executive of Biota, the drug’s developer. He was speaking at the company’s annual general meeting, here in Melbourne.


"In the current environment where Tamiflu's supply is severely backlogged and resistance concerns are emerging, we expect to see further significant orders for Relenza from other governments, including hopefully the Australian government," he said.


Mr Molloy said Relenza was effective against the latest strain of Avian flu both as a preventative and curative measure.


Mr Molloy said the worldwide sales potential of Relenza, which is licensed to global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.


"If these sales are realised, clearly Biota's royalty stream over the next nine years - that is, until the patents expire - could be substantial."

October 28th, 2005


Don’t Lick Unfamiliar Pigeons

David Letterman’s Late Show last night presented the Top Ten Dumb Guy Tips for Avoiding the Bird Flu:


10. "Before eating chicken, soak it in Lysol"

9. "Don't lick unfamiliar pigeons"

8. "Frighten birds by constantly meowing"

7. "Stay away from basketball great Larry Bird"

6. "Anti-bacterial smoothies"

5. "Move to a place where there are no birds, like the moon"

4. "Avoid birds that look like they're up to something"

3. "Go back to the old Y2K bunker, start drinking"

2. "Fill birdfeeder with Sucrets"

1. "If you have a chicken, check for swelling in the McNuggets"

You can find more bird flu humor at The Onion, with this headline from February: “Nation's Leading Alarmists Excited about Bird Flu.”
October 28th, 2005

Chiron to Provide Vaccine Stockpile

The US government has awarded a $62.5 million contract to pharmaceuticals company Chiron to provide a stockpile of H5N1 flu vaccine, for use in the case of an outbreak.


Reuters describes the vaccine as “a ‘pre-pandemic’ formulation that Chiron and other companies have been working on for more than a year now, Chiron said. Doctors and health officials hope it will be useful as a ‘priming dose’ that would help jump-start an immune response to be fine-tuned by a second vaccine.”


Last month, the US government awarded a $100 million contract to European drug company Sanofi-Aventis for bird flu vaccine.  And yesterday the US Senate voted to provide nearly $8 billion in funding in fiscal 2006 to stockpile anti-flu vaccines and other medicines.

October 28th, 2005

Bali Doesn’t Need This

Indonesian officials are investigating the deaths of dozens of chickens on the island of Bali, in case of bird flu. Bali relies heavily on tourism, and its economy has already been hit hard by terrorist bombings.

October 28th, 2005