News and notes about the Bird Flu Virus, page 3
Bird Flu News (H5N1)
This page provides news and comments about the bird flu, sometimes referred to as avian bird flu, Asian bird flu, and avian influenza A (H5N1).
Bird Flu News on October 19, 2005
Australia: Experts predict that up to 13,000 Australians could die, another 58,000 would need hospitalization and 2.7 million medical attention if the bird flu pandemic strikes.
Australia has spent $180 million stockpiling flu medicines, ventilators, surgical masks and 50 million syringes as it prepares for a flu outbreak.
Australians are experimenting with their new flu vaccine. Tests are being conducted on 400 people in Adelaide and Melbourne. Health Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday that if the trials were successful the Government would consider vaccinating every Australian.
Although we don’t know what form the bird flu might take, the precautions would be the same as with any other flu virus. That means a lot more hand washing and staying home if you feel ill. Beyond that, about all anyone can do is to get vaccinated for the regular flu. The vaccine for this flu season will not protect you against the bird flu but this protection against
conventional flu could improve your chances against a new illness.
Australia’s health minister Tony Abbott is backpedling on his remarks about vaccinating every Australian against the bird flu. Mr. Abbott now warns that the vaccine might be ineffective against a mutated strain of the bird flu. He said, “People should be conscious of all the qualifiers that I have put on the possibility of a mass vaccination campaign.” As with all flu vaccines, the new Australian made vaccine is an educated guess because the strain that eventually hits could be quite different than what we have now.
One of Australia’s major banks (National Australia Bank) warned that a bird flu pandemic could seriously affect the economy. They warn that a pandemic could have the same economic impact in Australia as the bombings in Bali or the September 11th bombings.
NAB chief economist Alan Oster said Tuesday that, “If you happen to be in the hotel industry, the airline industry, the car hire industry, you can get really clobbered by these sorts of things, when basically people don’t travel.”
Experts say there is no point vaccinating people against current strains of the virus because it won’t protect them from the kind that will kill humans once the disease mutates. Other experts say that the more people that get vaccinated against flu, the less chance there is that the bird flu will combine with a common one to form a new strain.
China has reported its first outbreak of bird flu in more than two months, saying it killed 2,600 birds on a farm in northern China.
Russia has confirmed that a new outbreak of the bird flu has been discovered 170 miles south of Moscow. Since the start of the outbreak in mid-July, Russia has killed over 600,000 domestic birds in an effort to prevent the spread of this disease.
Romania has been hit again, this time in the Danube River delta area, about 30 miles from the first site of infection.
In an effort to boost the worldwide production of anti-flu medications, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche announced that it will allow a “significant” number others to produce oseltamivir, the patented anti-flu drug sold as Tamiflu.
Q and A for the Bird Flu virus
Question: If I see a dead bird, should I report it?
Answer: If you live in California, yes, but it has nothing to do with the bird flu. The state of California is tracking the West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne disease that can infect and kill birds.
Question: If we keep a small flock of chickens, should we get rid of them?
Answer: Not unless you are in or near one of the infected areas. It may be only a matter of time before it arrives in your area. You should make plans now about what you will do when that happens.
Question: What should I do if I feel flu symptoms?
Answer: You can ask your doctor to perform either a rapid diagnostic flu test or a lab test for influenza. Tell your doctor if you have recently traveled to an area infected with the bird flu.
Question: Should I buy Tamiflu for my family?
Answer: No, Tamiflu has been proven to be ineffective at treating the bird flu virus. At present there is no vaccine for the bird flu.
Question: Is it safe to eat poultry products?
Answer: Health officials in Europe say that cooking kills the virus and they are assuring Europeans that it is safe to eat chicken.
Question: Is it safe to eat turkey this Thanksgiving?
Answer: Experts say that eating properly handled and cooked poultry is safe.
Question: Can flies or mosquitoes spread the avian flu virus?
Answer: Yes, flying and crawling insects can transmit the virus. A fly could pick it up when they land on the bird droppings of infected birds, then carry it to other animals. Mosquitoes can spread the virus by ingesting blood from infected animals and then transmitting it to the next animal they feed on.
The U.S. government has placed a ban on importing poultry from countries affected by the bird flu.
Although the mortality rate for the bird flu has dropped to about 50% (60 of the 117 people infected died), the mortality rate of the next mutation of this virus is not known. It could just as easily have a mortality rate higher or lower than the previous strain.
Bird Flu News on October 20, 2005
The H5N1 Bird Flu virus has now killed a total of 62 people. That puts the mortality rate over 50%.
When a vaccine for Bird Flu becomes available, get yourself and your family immunized as soon as possible. Although this year’s flu vaccine will not prevent the Bird Flu, there is evidence that it may reduce the severity of that disease.
When the Bird Flu hits your hometown, keep your family out of the emergency rooms and doctors offices as much as possible. Those places are going to be full of people with the flu virus.
Presently, governments are trying to allay widespread panic by either downplaying the facts or outright denial of real-world widespread outbreaks, the same way they did with the ‘SARS’ epidemic in 2003.
Getting accurate information on the bird flu virus is not easy. As this situation develops it is becoming more emotionally charged. Misinformation and propaganda are showing up in many places. Governments in some countries are being secretive, like China and other Asian countries trying to limit or even ban all news about the bird flu virus in their areas. Even universities have become questionable as sources of information when it comes to the bird flu.
Take Emory University for example. It appears to be trying to twist the reality of this disease. A professor there, Ira M. Longini Jr. has been quoted as saying, “A virus that kills the host cannot transmit itself as well.” That statement is a twist of the facts. Viruses are transmitted when material that is infected with the virus is moved from one place to another. Viruses do not transmit themselves because they have no will of their own.
That same professor was later quoted as saying, “From the virus’ point of view, it wants the host to live.” This is another twist of the facts. The supposition here is that a virus is a conscious entity, with a personality, opinions and a point of view, none of which is true.
In 2004, the national pandemic preparedness plan in the U.S.A. estimated that a flu pandemic could cause 89,000 to 207,000 deaths.
In 2005, the national pandemic preparedness plan in the U.S.A. estimates 209,000 to 1.9 million deaths. They have raised the number of estimated deaths by 1.7 million. That is a move in the direction of reality but still far to optimistic.
Scientists have found that the H5N1 bird flu virus carries a mutation at position 92 of the NS1 gene (NS1 is a nonstructural protein). This enables the virus to disarm the body’s interferon system allowing it to bypass our body’s natural antiviral defenses.
Contrary to some sources, no race or ethnic group is more likely to catch the bird flu than another is.
Many countries have bans on the use bird flu vaccines by farmers but this hasn’t stopped the spread of black-market vaccines.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, called for the Swiss company, Roche, to license production of Tamiflu to five U.S. drug companies within the next 30 days.
Britain: In an effort to ensure that there is enough vaccine for up to 60 million people, the Department of Health plans to offer vaccine manufacturers multi-million-pound cash advances to help them to prepare for the arrival of a bird flu pandemic.
Saying that the risks of a human influenza pandemic were growing, the European Commission has advised member states to stockpile anti-viral drugs. To date, 16 EU states have placed orders.
Taiwan’s agricultural authorities reported that the bird flu virus, H5N1, was found in birds smuggled from mainland China. The birds were transported by a Panama-registered cargo ship that was seized on Oct 14th. About 1,000 birds were involved and they tested positive for the H5N1 virus. All infected birds were destroyed.
Austria announced that it will ban keeping poultry outdoors.
Bird Flu News on October 21, 2005
Most health experts say that chickens should be kept strictly indoors to prevent infection. That’s
pretty tough for small farmers and those practicing “free range” or organic raising methods.
We are now seeing the beginnings of panic demand for antiviral drugs. As supplies become increasingly hard to come by, Tamiflu showed up on eBay. Bidding went up to $175 before being terminated. A Spokesman for auction site said the auction was stopped because the sale of prescription drugs is not allowed under eBay’s rules.
In 2003, before China reported any outbreaks of the H5N1 virus, Taiwan found it in duck meat that was smuggled in from mainland China.
New Zealand, Hawke’s Bay: The Government has revised it’s estimates upward on possible deaths by the virus by 8 times. The estimated toll was published in a Ministry of Economic Development (MED) planning guide for businesses. Initially the guide estimated only 150 deaths in Hawke’s Bay but is now saying that 1200 people could die from bird flu in an eight-week period during the pandemic’s peak.
The original estimations were based on the 1918 flu pandemic in New Zealand. The revised estimates are based on the 1968 outbreak. No estimates have been based on the actual mortality rate of H5N1.
Most pharmacies there have sold out of anti-viral drug Tamiflu and have noticed an increased demand for respiratory masks.
Some people with Tamiflu prescriptions were upset when they were put on a waiting list.
Most pharmacies are not expecting to be resupplied with Tamiflu until mid-November.
Exposure to any previous flu virus will not protect you from the H5N1 bird flu.
If you are a hunter, please keep up to date on where the bird flu has spread. This bird flu will eventually spread into your area. Wild birds shot and handled before being eaten will be a source of infection. You should decide what you will do before that happens.
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