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February 20, 2006

Conspiracy theories moving as fast as H5N1

From Newindpress.com, an Indian news source: Bird flu virus deliberately introduced in India?

The government's announcement of bird flu deaths in Maharashtra has created an unnecessary panic and how the virus arrived in a remote place like Nandurbar needs "detailed investigations," including the possibility of deliberate introduction, according to a leading virologist.

Meanwhile health ministry officials investigating the episode told PTI that Newcastle virus - that causes similar symptoms like bird flu - has also been isolated from the dead birds lending credence to the poultry industry claims that the deaths were not entirely due to bird flu.

"I am worried and surprised about the whole thing," says Kalyan Banerjee, former director of the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune who is also a member of the government committee advising about bio terrorism.

Transmission of flu from birds to humans is very difficult and the fears have been over blown, Banerjee told PTI in a telephone interview. The 90-odd persons in some 30 countries who have so far died of this virus were bird handlers and no single human-to-human transmission has taken place.

The commercial angle to the whole bird flu business "should be looked at very carefully," says Banerjee who is one of many scientists who believe that what struck Surat in 1994 was not plague.

anything about Surat, but I have strong reservations about this story (and others like it, some of which are now popping up in Nigerian media). H2H does seem to have happened at least once in Thailand, and some authorities think it's far more common than officially admitted. The passing references to bioterrorism and "commercial angles" appear to be mere button-pushing rather than documented arguments.

And if some conspiracy were intent on inflicting H5N1 on India, it ought to be smart enough to cover its tracks by introducing it in some local where wild birds are common, or where international poultry trade permits blaming someone else.

This kind of scare story, unfortunately, is going to be far more widespread in coming months. Just wait until the first human cases appear in Europe and North America. Disinformation will flood over us like a Philippines mudslide.

Posted by dymaxion at February 20, 2006 04:27 PM

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