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August 02, 2005

Today's Feed

More Confirmed H5N1 in Northern Vietnam

 — This high rate has also been reported for cases in Cambodia and Indonessia weeks and this migration will spread H5N1 to India, eastern China and southeast Asia. Copyright: Bangladesh Sun

From Bangladesh Sun: Recommended source for Southeast Asia News (feed)
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Today 1:38:23 PM
 

Đối phó với dịch cúm A trên người  

Thành phố đang nhập các phương tiện để phòng ngừa và đối phó nếu dịch cúm A xảy ra trên diện rộng. Công việc được triển khai sau khi có một ca tử vong do H5N1 ở BV Chợ Rẫy. Tại Miền Bắc cũng mới phát hiện thêm một người mắc bệnh này.

From VnExpress - Trang Sức khỏe (feed)
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Today 12:19:33 PM
 

Northern Vietnam province reports new bird flu case

The H5N1 virus has also killed 12 Thais, four Cambodians and three Indonesians since it first swept across much of Asia in late 2003.

[in Thanh Nien Daily]

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Today 11:49:23 AM
 
The Russian authorities plan to begin slaughtering poultry on Tuesday in 18 Siberian villages where bird flu has been detected.
 
The strain found in the Novosibirsk region has been identified as H5N1 - the type that has killed at least 57 people in South-East Asia since 2003.
 
An outbreak of bird flu has also been reported in neighbouring Kazakhstan.
 
Russian doctors suspect that migratory birds brought the virus to Siberia, where poultry is now in quarantine
http://www.rense.com/general67/russiaplansbirdflu.htmm
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Today 11:47:57 AM
 

Avian Flu Coming

 —

Pump up your immune systems. Little else will prepare you for the onslaught of the H5N1 pathogen. This is the ...

From surviving ourselves magazine (feed)
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Today 10:07:00 AM
 
Flu Viruses Can Quickly Swap Genes
Epoch Times, NY - 57 minutes ago The H5N1 avian flu virus, which arrived in Asia in late 2003, has so far killed more than 50 people in the region including Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

Birdflu Kills Two Vietnamese, Country Toll Now 42
Planet Ark, NY - Jul 31, 2005 died on Monday in a provincial hospital and tests showed he had the deadly H5N1 virus which has also killed 12 people in Thailand, four in Cambodia and three

Today 10:00:14 AM
 

A Janet favorite

 —

I have this sick fascination with the whole H5N1 topic. (Sorry, but I just couldn't resist.) I usually get my daily fix on Effectmeasure . The science is cool, but the best, most disurbing part is how ill-prepared the U.S. is to combat a pandemic. Today's blog features a lovely story out of Colorado where health officials reassure everyone, with an emergency preparedness drill, that they are ready for an avian flu outbreak (or earthquake or terrorist attack. Except, as the site points out, they left out one tiny little detail: The medicine that they practiced delivering from the Strategic National Stockpile, like, uh, doesn't exist. And likely won't. Won't it be so fun to watch which 1% of the American population gets the Tamiflu that might not even work? Maybe they could make it an version of TV's "Survivor!"
 

From Xark! (feed)
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Today 10:00:03 AM
 

Все птицефабрики России переведены на работу в "закрытом режиме" из-за  

 — Эта мера в частности, предусматривает запрет на посещение птицефабрик и птицеводческих хозяйств посторонними лицами, а также контакт работников с домашними птицами. Ранее во вторник главный санитарный врач РФ Геннадий Онищенко заявил, ситуация с "птичьим гриппом" в России не внушает опасений. Copyright: NEWSru.com, all rights reserved

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Today 9:57:00 AM

Ситуация с "птичьим гриппом", который проник уже в 4 региона России, не  

 — Геннадий Онищенко дал "достаточно оптимистичный" прогноз развития ситуации по "птичьему гриппу" в Новосибирской области, поскольку "нигде в мире нет подтвержденных случаев, чтобы этот тип вируса (H5N1) передавался от человека к человеку, хотя случаи заболевания от животных к человеку были", а лабораторного подтверждения обнаружения этого вируса в других регионах пока нет. Copyright: NEWSru.com, all rights reserved

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Today 9:57:00 AM
 

Flu Viruses Can Quickly Swap Genes

 — impossible to predict when. The H5N1 avian flu virus, which arrived in Asia in late 2003, has so far killed more than 50 people in the region including Vietnam, Thailand and Copyright: Copyright 2005, Topix.net

From Search: avian flu - Topix.net (feed)
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Today 9:50:25 AM
 

G. Oniŝĉenko: "birda gripo" ne igas antaŭtimon  

 

La situacio pri "birda gripo" igas neniujn antaŭtimojn. Tian deklaron faris ĉefa sanitara kuracisto de Rusio Gennadij Oniŝĉenko en Novosibirsk. Hodiaŭ li persone inspektis distriktojn, en kiuj estis registrita "birda gripo", speciale, vizitis, vilaĝon Suzdalka de Dovoleksij distrikto de Novosibirskaja provinco. "Hodiaŭ la situacio, kiun mi ekvidis, sugestas neniujn antaŭtimojn", - diris G. Oniŝĉenko.
 

Ankaŭ li substrekis, ke adekvata komplekso de aranĝoj estas efektivigata kaj estos plu. Merkrede, en 3 de aŭgusto, G.Oniŝĉenko daŭrigis inspektadon de distriktoj, kie estis registrita "birda gripo".
 

Tamen, nuntempe al nombro de regionoj, kie estis registrita "birda gripo" aldoniĝis Tjumenskaja provinco. Pri tio informas amaskomunikila servo de la Ministerio pri agrokulturo de Rusio.
 

Laŭ datumo de Federala servo pri veterinara kaj fitosanitara inspektado, hodiaŭ oni trovis "birdan gripon" en 14 loĝlokoj de kvin distriktoj de Novosibirskaja provinco, kaj ankaŭ en vilaĝo Glubokoje de Zavjalovskij disktikto de Altaja regiono kaj en vilaĝo Peganovo de Berdjuĵskij distrikto de Tjumenskaja provinco. Laŭ hieraŭa datumo masaniĝo de birdoj estis trovita en 13 loĝlokoj de kvin distriktoj de Novosibirskaja provinco kaj en Altaja regiono.
 

Ni memorigu, ke dum esploro de patologia materialo de malsanaj birdoj el Novosibirskaja provinco estis trovita viruso de birda gripo de tipo A, subtipo H5N1 (ĝi kapablas infekti homon). Kiel oni informis pli frue, viruso de la "birda gripo", supozeble, estas transportita en teritorion de Rusio per savaĝaj akvobirdoj el Sudorienta Azio.
 

Kiel oni notis en la Ministerio, en ĉiuj malbonsituaciaj lokoj oni enigis kvarantenon kaj efektivigas bezonatajn aranĝojn pri izoligo de fontoj de la infekto. Daŭriĝas kontrolado de informo el aliaj subjektoj de Rusio, kie estis okazoj de pereo de birdoj.
 

Ĉefa ŝtata veterinara inspektoro de Rusio donis bezonatajn ordonojn al ĉefoj de veterinaraj servoj de subjektoj de Rusio kaj teritoriaj administracioj de Rusia agrokultura inspektejo pri organizo kaj plenumo de kontraŭepizootiaj aranĝoj.
 

Indas noti, ke en landoj de Azio ekde decembro de jaro 2003 ĉi tiu masano forprenis vivojn de 51 homoj, 36 el kiuj mortis en Vjetnamio, 12 - en Tajlando, 3 - en Kamboĝo.
 

En jaro 2004 epidemioj de "birda gripo" atakis hejmajn birdojn en deko da landoj. "Birda gripo" ankaŭ estis trovita ĉe hundoj kaj katoj, kvankam antaŭe oni opiniis, ke ili ne estas infektigeblaj por ĉi tiu malsano.

From Novaĵoj el Rusio (feed)
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Today 9:32:18 AM

Stark Words

“A catastrophic spread of H5N1 appears certain.”

http://www.recombinomics.com/News/…

From (feed)
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Today 9:16:28 AM

Bird flu moves towards Europe  

... in China, in the first major outbreak of H5N1 in migratory birds1. This has raised fears that birds... for poultry than H5N1, which is found in Southeast Asia, and is absolutely harmless to humans," he said ...

Sci-Tech


Today 12:35:05 PM

Bird flu travels to Russia

... and Chistozernoe. Russia’s Agriculture Ministry has identified the virus as avian flu type A H5N1. Investigators... positive to the virus strains H5 and H5N1. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s agriculture ministry has... droppings that contained the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus. Japan found a new case of bird flu ...

Biopeer

Today 12:34:05 PM
 

H5N1 Forces Culling of 65K Birds in Novosibirsk Russia Open link in new window

... H5N1 Forces Culling of 65K Birds in Novosibirsk Russia: "H5N1 Forces Culling of 65K Birds in Novosibirsk Russia" ...

mikefr53913


Today 7:41:05 AM

Vogelgrippe-Virus H5N1 in Russland Open link in new window

... Nachdem in den vergangenen zwei Wochen bereits über 2300 Tiere in der südsibirischen Region Nowosibirsk getötet werden mussten, sind nun auch die erst ...

Side Effects

Today 4:02:01 AM

我的天 Open link in new window

... 2005-07-28 19:29 来自微生物界的挑战 - 烂日记 论尽 今年恐怖的事件不断发生,首先是H5N1然后现在又变成了猪链球菌,看上去好像是普通的猪瘟,但却时刻威胁着人类的生命。其实什么瘟、什么瘟以前也不是没有发生过,但人类从来都没有像现在如此的恐慌。以前的都是把动物杀死了就没事了,动物大范围的死亡,人类只是财产上的损失,虽然心痛,但起码人类的生命还能报住自己的生命...!We can't flee, we can't flow, we have to learn how to face!!! 从候鸟到人们经常生活吃的三鸟,再到生活几乎必不可少的猪牛,三鸟有H5N1 ...

我的天 Technorati this

 
Today 2:37:02 AM
 

Ebola Swine flu?!

... if the recombination is related to the region of identity between Ebola and H5N1. Ebola is considered... symptoms. The symptoms of the patients match pandemic flu of 1918, and H5N1 can produce such symptoms ...

Winston Smith's Diary

Today 1:23:17 AM
 

Connotea: Bookmarks matching tag AvianFlu  

Thoughts from Kansas  

 —
Mike the Mad Biologist: The U.S.: The Arsenal of Virology?:
 
But I think they're right on this one. Every year influenza kills tens of thousands in the U.S. alone, and that's before it's potentially evolved into the highly transmissible and virulent H5N1 form (worldwide, it kills between 250,000-500,000, but there's a good chance that's a low estimate). Most of the chatter about influenza is coming from the right side of the spectrum. When I read it, it's really pessimistic: there's nothing we can do, start rending garments and wearing sackcloth, etc.

Bullshit. Yes, we've pissed away the last couple of years, but we can still do a lot. This is when we liberals–you know, the people who think government can be the solution have to start doing something. If we're willing to fight for Social Security benefits for the elderly, surely we can fight a disease that kills ~30,000 elderly people per year?
DemfromCT has been doing nice work on flu at The Next Hurrah. And you see stories about it regularly in Science and Nature, it just doesn't translate to the popular press. Bird flu is on the verge of breaking out into a global pandemic, and our infrastructure for producing vaccine is clearly inadequate. Mike has some good ideas about the sort of things we ought to be doing.

We pretty much understand how flu works. There are still details to work out about what makes each strain different, but we know the framework, and we should be able to mass-produce vaccines without guessing which strain will be important in a given year, incubating eggs for six months, and then trying to get that vaccine to the people who need it.

This is one of those things that government money can solve. It's not putting a man on the moon, but it's no less massive an undertaking than the Apollo Program.

We live in an age when we are capable of doing so much. We are on the verge of being able to switch to renewable energy, of returning to the Moon and going on to Mars, to feeding the hungry in every country, and curing horrible diseases. Each of those deserves its own Apollo Program, and none of them are getting it.

We need leadership, and it'll be 3 years before we have a shot at it.

 
Today 11:50:05 AM -
 

Ebola in China  

 What you don’t know can kill you:

D: “It’s alright. We ran tests on those samples and isolated the SZ77 A3231 virus.”

I: “What is this SZ77 A3231 virus?”

D: “This is a strain of the Ebola virus.”

I: “Would you like to comment about it?”

D: “It’s rather impossible to totally explain it.”

I: “I can understand so, but why is the term “less-infectious” always affixed to our version of the Ebola virus?”

D: “There are 2 reasons for doing so. First, to reduce panic among the people should it ever leak. And second, the Ebola virus has evolved in China. Re-combination has been detected. Most prominently at the portion which determines its effect on humans (very technical description, I can’t describe it. sorry.). Also, abrupt breaks in the sequencing were detected, leading to changes in the incubation period. (Or possibly “changes in the incubation period were detected”)

I: “How were these viruses classified then? / Could you elaborate more about the various strains?”

D: “Previously, strains of Ebola in China always had the EBO prefix. Subsequently following information leaks, the classification method was changed. We stopped using the EBO prefix. Instead, coupled with the discovery that the virus had become more virulent and lethal, we re-named the strains according to the placed where they were first discovered. For example, the strain in June became the SZ77 A3231. Sometimes, we don’t even use their place of discovery, instead directly naming it the A3231.”

I: “In that way, the Ebola virus wouldn’t even be brought into the picture.”

D: “Precisely, viruses such as the Ebola are national secrets.”

Dr. Henry Niman interprets the translation of the above conversation with a doctor involved in testing samples from patients in the mysterious swine disease outbreak in Sichuan Province:

The interview also indicates that the Streptococcus Suis is not the cause of the illness. It is present in pigs and is merely activated by infectious agents, which include Ebola, plague, and an un-named virus which is considered “dangerous”. The emphasis is on the bacteria because it can produce similar symptoms. The symptoms of the patients match pandemic flu of 1918, and H5N1 can produce such symptoms.

In other words, the official party line, which is that the 34 dead in Sichuan Province (out of 46 outcomes–a whopping case fatality rate of 72%) succumbed to streptococcus infections, is a pile of pig poop.

It looks like a new strain of Ebola, possibly recombined with H5N1 (avian flu). Until the Chinese government allows the outside world to take a look, we won’t know for sure.

 
Yesterday 10:43:59 AM - by Derek

A Bird Flu Commission?  

 
Once there was a time when a major article on bird flu in the US MSM was newsworthy. No longer. They now appear with some regularity and say pretty much the same thing: big problem, we're not ready. But the latest, from WaPo, has something worth emphasizing: if this pandemic, foreseen for a year if not several years, materializes as some of the most knowledgeable public health scientists think it might, there will likely be much after-the-fact finger pointing. As well there might be. Here's Michael Osterholm on the subject:
 
The most outspoken is Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. In writing and in speeches, Osterholm reminds his audience that after public calamities, the United States usually convenes blue-ribbon commissions to pass judgment. There will be one after a flu pandemic, he believes.

"Right now, the conclusions of that commission would be harsh and sad," he said.
Hey, you're not just whistlin' Dixie, as they used to say (although this seems to be the only tune the Administration knows). So let's do a little before-the-fact finger pointing. The failure to get the US (and many other countries) ready for the bird flu freight train coming down the tracks would be scandalous, if scandalous were a word able to do justice to the magnitude of the negligence. The CDC, our frontline agency against infectious diseases, has been wrecked beyond repair by its Director, Dr. Julie Gerberding. The flu branch has lost some of its best scientists and is in disarray. Senior staff all through the agency are rushing to the exits. And there is silence on the threat from the one agency that could get state and local health departments to sit up and take notice.

Of course if you listen to the Administration, they have been very busy getting ready:
 
"The secretary or the chief of staff -- we have a discussion about flu almost every day," said Bruce Gellin, head of HHS's National Vaccine Program Office. This week, a committee is scheduled to deliver to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt an updated plan for confronting a pandemic.

Despite these efforts, the world's lack of readiness to meet the threat is huge, experts say.
Yeah, right. All talk and no action. These guys are really a treat.
 
"The only reason nobody's concerned the emperor has no clothes is that he hasn't shown up yet," Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, said recently of the world's efforts to prepare for pandemic flu. "When he appears, people will see he's naked."
Experts understand that if this pandemic is coming and it will come independently of anything we do to stop it. Mandatory school and business closings, quarantines, restriction of international and domestic travel, surgical masks, none of these will work to stop a pandemic once underway. And once underway, the consequences will extend far beyond the hospital, sick room or clinic:
 
[Osterholm] predicts that a pandemic would cause widespread shutdowns of factories, transportation and other essential industries. To prepare, he says, authorities should identify and stockpile a list of perhaps 100 crucial products and resources that are essential to keep society functioning until the pandemic recedes and the survivors go back to work.
The public thinks that 21st century medicine will find a solution. They think there can be repeat of 1918 in this day and age. But in fact if H5N1 gets loose we don't have a vaccine, and while some are under development there is no guarantee they will work and essentially none that they will be available in time to do anything about the global toll except around the margins.
Tests are underway at three U.S. hospitals on an experimental vaccine against H5N1. But it is not the first H5N1 vaccine.
 
When a slightly different strain of the virus surfaced in Hong Kong in 1997, killing thousands of chickens and a half-dozen people, researchers used viruses from birds and people to make experimental vaccines. But neither offered much protection in lab tests, and nobody knows why.

Instead of working on the problem, researchers dropped it. First SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and then a different avian flu strain that arose in Europe (H7N7), took their attention.

"The urgency around this issue kind of dissipated," said John Treanor, a physician at the University of Rochester and one of the leaders of the vaccine project. "I think it's an example of how unpredictable things are. We got distracted."
This is a massive failure of leadership. The attention of scientists is focused by the availability of resources and it is the federal government that makes those resources available through the NIH. It is the role of leaders to keep their eye on the prize and they didn't do this and still aren't. Moreover CDC is providing almost no leadership, Administration leaders like Mike Leavitt, Secretary of DHHS, talks but does nothing, the academic establishment (with some exceptions, notably Osterholm) have not shown leadership, and the Institute of Medicine has been inconsistent in its efforts.

So where does that leave us? Here: let's stop worrying about stopping this pandemic and instead get busy immediately in preparing for managing the consequences. Those consequences will extend to all sectors of society and most have not been even imagined, much less planned for, because people haven't turned their attention to it. But they could, and they could do it in advance. Even a small amount of advance thinking in a police or fire department or water treatment plant could save precious time in a crisis.

What kind of questions should be asked? What if if 30% of our workkforce were out? How would we carry on? Are there some people whose jobs are specialized and if they were out there would be a serious problem? If so, who might be called to fill in for them and where would they get the necessary operational informational material to function? Retired employees who know the ropes? Where are they and how do we contact them? dYou get the idea. It's not hard. In fact it's just common sense (which admittedly isn't that common).

This process is starting over at the Flu Wiki and all are invited over to contribute. If you run a gas station, for example, think about what would happen if your supplies were delayed by a week because of absenteeism problems in the supply chain. Similarly for pharmacists. If you are the only pharmacy within 100 miles in a rural area, what happens if your deliveries don't come on time? Once you ask questions like these, you can start to think about reasonable workarounds. But it is much harder in an actual crisis. So let's get started.

When the finger-pointing starts, I don't want the fingers pointing at me.

Yesterday 6:24:00 AM - by Revere

Mainstream News :: World Not Set To Deal With Flu

 Author: rebel_lonedog
Subject: World Not Set To Deal With Flu
Posted: Sun Jul 31, 2005 11:50 am (GMT -7)
Topic Replies: 0

Public health officials preparing to battle what they view as an inevitable influenza pandemic say the world lacks the medical weapons to fight the disease effectively, and will not have them anytime soon.

Public health specialists and manufacturers are working frantically to develop vaccines, drugs, strategies for quarantining and treating the ill, and plans for international cooperation, but these efforts will take years. Meanwhile, the most dangerous strain of influenza to appear in decades -- the H5N1 "bird flu" in Asia -- is showing up in new populations of birds, and occasionally people, almost by the month, global health officials say.

If the virus were to start spreading in the next year, the world would have only a relative handful of doses of an experimental vaccine to defend against a disease that, history shows, could potentially kill millions. If the vaccine proved effective and every flu vaccine factory in the world started making it, the first doses would not be ready for four months. By then, the pathogen would probably be on every continent.

Full Story


Sunday, July 31, 2005 6:48:35 PM

Bird flu: next stop Europe?

 
Interfax News Agency reports that a 20 year old male has been hospitalized in Kazakhstan's Pavlodar region with symptoms of bird flu and "double pneumonia" and is in intensive care. Kazakhstan borders the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China where a die off of birds from influenza H5N1 was reported several weeks ago. The man is a poultry worker in the village of Golubovka, where Interfax also reports 600 domestic geese died between July 20 and July 30.
 
The first deaths of birds in Golubovka were registered a week ago, Yersain Aitzhanov, chief of the Irtysh district's emergency situations department, told Interfax. A quarantine order has been imposed in the village. "All necessary measures are being taken: the territory is being ploughed, additional fences have been built around the farm and a ban has been introduced on the delivery of poultry products and eggs from the village," Aitzhanov said.
 
Kazakhstan, while still in Asia, is on the doorstep of Europe. It has borders with Russia and many other Central Asian countries and borders the Caspian Sea. Infected birds are already reported in Novosibirsk in Russia. This is a reminder, if one were needed, that human risk travels with infected birds and infected birds are on the wing all over Asia and headed outward.

Next stop Europe?
 
Sunday, July 31, 2005 1:27:00 PM - by Revere
 

At The Moment of Truth

 There is an ember of hope that avian flu might be stopped soon, while it remains only a spark and not a raging conflagration.

Will the nations with the most to lose economically gamble on the altruistic (read: economic self-preservation) move to put out the small fires in Indonesia, Viet Nam and Thailand by sending their supplies of antivirals and vaccines there to possibly contain the spread? A recent Washington Post article points out that...

"... unless antiviral drugs squelch a pandemic at the outset, their ultimate usefulness will be small. ... In theory, even a modest amount of vaccine might be useful. Fighting disease outbreaks is like fighting fires. You do not have to hose down the whole world to put the fire out, but you do have to hose down the perimeter to keep it from spreading. It might be possible to contain an H5N1 outbreak at its source if the surrounding population were immediately vaccinated.

Would the United States, Europe and Japan be willing to donate their precious vaccine supply to mount this long-shot defense? This is perhaps the biggest unanswered question in pandemic flu planning -- and one likely to be answered only at the moment of truth.

Officially, it is a possibility.

If it was done in consultation with the World Health Organization -- and with other governments that would make contributions, as well -- we would be more likely to consider it," said Gellin at HHS. But observers both in and out of the government said, not for quotation, that they doubt the U.S. government would ever send a significant amount of its vaccine stockpile overseas.
 

 

Even if this scenario played out and we gave up our stockpiles to put out small fires overseas, there remains the wildcard of spread over vast distance by bird migration (or infected airline passengers) starting too many small fires to handle; and the barrier of secrecy and disinformation across the vast Chinese borders where a significant brush fire may already be spreading.

We (global mankind, science and public health) have not adequately anticipated and prepared for such a scenario, even though we could have seen it coming for a decade or more. If we could turn back time 15 years and know with certainty the pathogens we would face in the future, would there have been any better cooperation between continents? Would we have wasted so much talent, wealth and technology (ostensibly) to protect our people and way of life from acts of terrorism if we'd accepted that it was emerging infectious disease that posed by far the greater threat to our economy and to our very survival?

It seems we may be very near the moment of truth. Is it too late to turn our swords into vaccines?  

Sunday, July 31, 2005 8:44:21 AM - by fred1st
 

IMAGE CAPTION: PIG IN A POKE: Chinese officials say that a form of swine bacterium caused the mystery disease that has killed at least 32 people in Sichuan, Southwestern China. However, with no independent confirmation, and considering the communist party's track record on SARS, some experts think that another disease may be the real cause, perhaps a mutated variant of bird flu. Bird flu is expected to trigger the next global flu pandemic in humans.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
This article provides an excellenty summary of the current situation. For links to further online information resources and discussion forums, please see the new Avian Flu and Pig-Borne Virus/Bacteria Watch group.

www.theepochtimes.com/news/5-7-30/30786.html

Pathogenic Politics: Is the Bird Flu Already Spreading in Asia? Independent assessments a must, experts say

By Cindy Drukier and Jan Jekielek

The Epoch Times Thailand Staff Jul 30, 2005

The death toll continues to rise in the recent outbreak of the mysterious disease in China’s Sichuan province, with 32 people dead and 152 showing signs of the illness, state-controlled media reported.

Sichuan health officials say that neither the feared H5N1 bird flu virus, nor Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), is causing the deaths. They say that the illness, which has spread to over 100 villages, 40 townships and seven cities, with one possible case as far away as Guangdong province, is caused by the pig bacterium Streptococcus suis.

However, conflicting assessments from experts have cast doubt on this claim, and have highlighted the need for transparency in China’s disease monitoring system.

"It could be another disease altogether, it need not be Streptococcus suis because the presentation is so atypical," Samson Wong, microbiology associate professor at the University of Hong Kong, told Reuters.

Both Promedmail.org and Recombinomics.com, websites that closely track infectious diseases, also suggest that a swine bacterium is an unlikely cause. They say the reported symptoms, the widespread geography of those affected, the speed the disease has spread, and the past sporadic (as opposed to “outbreak”) incidence of Streptococcus suis, all point to another cause, likely a virus.

Promedmail.org, hosted by the International Society for Infectious Diseases, states that the symptoms as described by Chinese officials do not appear to resemble bird flu.

However, the symptoms described do not appear to resemble the Streptococcus suis, either. Experts note that the bleeding under the skin seen in the Sichuan victims is extremely rare in Streptococcus suis, while deafness, a common symptom in the past, has not been documented here.

Verification is difficult because the Chinese authorities have not yet allowed any independent analysis of the Sichuan pathogen.

"We'd like to see more of that gold standard proof (laboratory tests)," Asia-Pacific WHO spokesman Bob Dietz told Reuters, adding that co-infection by other pathogens needs to be checked for as well.

The lack of information has some pondering the worst. Unconfirmed reports from China on Boxun.com (“Abundant News” in English) describe symptoms with remarkable similarities to some from the 1918 flu pandemic. Posts on the website also suggest the disease could be strain of Ebola.

According to Dr. Henry Niman, president of the Recombinomi

Posted by dymaxion at August 2, 2005 05:50 PM

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