Zoonotic Epidemics: H5N1 ('Bird Flu'), SARS, MERS & COVID-19

Mighty_Emperor

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#1
Bird flu

News reports suggest it could be considerably worse than SARS:

WHO warns of mutating bird flu

January 22, 2004 - 5:12PM


Hanoi: The World Health Organisation said today it was concerned the H5N1 strain of bird flu was spreading across Asia and providing "mounting opportunities" for the virus to change into a far more lethal form.

The UN health agency's warning followed claims by a Thai politician that a seven-year-old boy in Thailand had contracted the potentially fatal disease and that two other people were being tested for infection.

"The spread of the virus is so wide across such a large part of Asia that we see there is a reason for growing concern," Bob Dietz, the WHO's spokesman in Vietnam, told AFP. "The more widespread it becomes the more chance there is that it could alter its form."

At least five people have died from the H5N1 virus in Vietnam, while 17 others suspected of contracting it remain hospitalised.

Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are also battling their own bird flu outbreaks but have not reported any cases of human infection.

The WHO says the five victims in Vietnam were infected after coming into contact with droppings from sick birds. But Dietz warned that human-to-human transmission was "a possible next step" if the virus keeps spreading.


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"It is impossible to predict a time or date for this but there are mounting opportunities for the virus to alter its form and begin affecting the human population," he said.

The WHO has warned that the world could face another influenza pandemic if H5N1 swaps genes with a common flu virus, creating a lethal pathogen that could spread around the globe within months.

An estimated 50 million people died from the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. This was followed by pandemics in 1957-1958 and 1968-1969. Another is considered inevitable and possibly imminent.

Only the swift culling of 1.4 million birds in Hong Kong during an outbreak of H5N1 there in 1997 that killed six people averted a global health crisis, according to the UN agency.

Meanwhile, Thai senator Nirun Phitakwatchara accused the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of covering up an outbreak of bird flu in order to protect its chicken industry, which is Asia's largest.

He urged the government to come clean with the public and admit that the outbreak of "fowl cholera and bronchitis" it is fighting, which has left one million chickens dead or culled, is in fact avian influenza.

"All the academics and experts have had to shut up due to political interference. As a matter of fact they realised that the outbreak had occurred since last November," he told AFP.

The senator said the infected boy was in a serious condition in hospital. The second patient, a chicken butcher, needed further testing. He said he had no information on the third suspected sufferer.

Thaksin, however, denied a cover-up, and said it would take several days to confirm the status of the suspected cases.

China, which is considered a hotbed of viruses, has yet to report any outbreak of bird flu, triggering fears that it might be hiding cases as it did during last year's SARS crisis.

These were heightened after Hong Kong announced yesterday that a wild falcon found dead near a chicken farm had tested positive for H5N1.

The WHO has pressed Beijing for more information and warned that bird flu could be even more destructive than SARS, which killed 349 people in China out of nearly 800 people worldwide.

Disease control experts say that failure to tackle bird flu in its infancy could allow the virus to spread though chicken populations, altering its genetic make-up along the way and possibly becoming more pathogenic.

Vietnam reportedly suffered a bird flu outbreak in the northern province of Vinh Phuc in July last year that was covered up by the government.

AFP
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/01/22/1074732530031.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#3
Bill: I missed this one - I'm not sure what you mean about it being gone but I'll have a look.

Anyway meanwhile.........

Kentucky Fried Fish?

Tue Jan 27,10:37 AM ET
By Ed Cropley

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The bird flu rampaging across Asia, killing chickens and humans alike, is starting to take the C out of KFC.




In Vietnam, the U.S. fast food chain known for its fried chicken said Tuesday it had closed almost all its outlets while it switched to a fish menu, as customers were unwilling to tuck in to chicken.

Eight KFC restaurants were shut Monday in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's commercial center, which has banned the sale of poultry and culled more than two million chickens.

"It has been very hard for us," Nguyen Chi Kien, KFC's Vietnam deputy country director, told Reuters.

In Bangkok, normally busy KFC restaurants were almost empty at lunchtime, even though health officials said well-cooked meat represented no risk. Shares in KFC's Malaysian franchisee fell.

KFC's Web Site says that out of 12,500 outlets globally it has more than 3,000 restaurants in Asia, around one third of those being in Japan. There are more than 900 outlets in China and Hong Kong, while Thailand and Malaysia account for just over 300 each.

Kien said KFC, a subsidiary of New York-listed Yum Brands Inc, would reopen its Vietnamese restaurants at the end of this week, offering fish burgers.

KFC, one of the communist country's few international fast food chains, along with the Philippines' Jollibee Foods Corp, operates nine restaurants in southern Vietnam.

Chicken has also disappeared from posh restaurants, hotels and homes in big cities in the Southeast Asian nation but is still widely available in the countryside and at street stalls.

As bird flu was confirmed in nine countries and claimed its eighth human life -- a seven-year-old Thai boy -- KFC Vietnam said it might import frozen chickens from North America to replace local birds, which the government is culling.

SURVIVE A FAT FRIER?

"I'd never even thought about it but if you'd asked me before I came in, I definitely would not have done," said one expatriate office worker in Bangkok. "Then again, how can any virus survive going through a deep fat fryer?"

A KFC spokeswoman declined to comment on any sales impact, although the chain's main Thai competitor, Chester's Grill, admitted sales had been hit.

"Our sales have dropped between 10 to 15 percent since the outbreak," said Joseph Lau, president of the Global Kitchen, which owns Chester's Grill.

Chicken would stay on the menu, Lau said, but the restaurant would add fish, shrimp and seafood dishes for customers worried about eating poultry, he said.

Shares in Malaysia's KFC Holdings (Malaysia) Bhd slipped 1.4 percent on the Kuala Lumpur bourse on fears over bird flu.

In the Philippines, so far unaffected by the outbreak, fried chicken sales had held up, said Ronnie Areglado, a store manager of a KFC outlet in Manila's business district.

"Business is normal. Our sales remained steady," he told Reuters. KFC has 130 outlets in the Philippines.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=573&ncid=757&e=8&u=/nm/20040127/od_nm/birdflu_kfc_dc
 

sunsplash1

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#4
For some reason this bird flu thing has me scared. Like it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Is it just chickens? Ducks? Birds generally?

Damm I ever have some of the beasties in my backyard...
 

TheQuixote

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#5
1918 killer flu secrets revealed

Scientists have worked out how the virus which caused the world's worst ever flu epidemic infected man.

They believe the virus, which claimed the lives of 50m people around the world, jumped from birds to humans

The breakthrough, published in Science, should help doctors identify which future bird viruses pose a threat to man at an earlier stage.

But the National Institute for Medical Research team warns viruses cannot be stopped from crossing between species.

They also say their work is unlikely to aid the current fight against avian flu in the Far East as knowing the structure of a virus is not enough to block its progress.

Major flu outbreaks:
Spanish flu - 1918
Asian flu - 1957
Hong Kong flu - 1968

The key first stage of infection is for the flu virus to attach itself to the cells in which it will breed.

It does this by using spike-like molecules called Hemagglutinins (HA) that bind to particular receptors on the surface of cells in the body.

Human and bird virus HAs interact with different cell receptors and therefore bird viruses do not usually infect humans.

However, the NIMR team has studied the HA of the 1918 virus in close detail, and found that only minor changes in its structure were required for it to start to bind with human cells as well as bird cells.

This gave it the ability to pass from birds to humans, and then between humans - with devastating results.

This research should help improve surveillance.
Sir John Skehel

The researchers examined samples of the 1918 virus using a technique called X-ray crystallography. This enabled them to determine the three-dimensional structure of its HA.

It seems part of the reason that the 1918 virus wreaked such devastation because the changes required to pose a threat to humans were so small - smaller than those which made similar species-jumping viruses deadly in 1957 and 1968.

Lead researcher Sir John Skehel said the findings would enable scientists to track and monitor the changes in flu viruses.

However, scientists would not be able to predict the form future versions of the virus would take - or prevent their formation.

He told BBC News Online: "This research should help improve surveillance.

"If we find that the structure of a bird virus resembles that of the structure of the 1918 virus that we have determined, then we will know that it potentially poses a threat to man, and it will have to be kept under more active surveillance than usual.

"However, our research will not have an immediate impact on the situation currently unfolding in the Far East with the chicken flu known as H5, since, from our previous work, we know that the 1918 and the H5 Hemagglutinins are quite different."

Huge death toll

The 1918 "Spanish" flu pandemic is estimated to have infected up to one billion people - half the world's population at the time.

The virus killed more people that any other single outbreak of disease, surpassing even the Black Death of the Middle Ages.

Although it probably originated in the Far East, it was dubbed "Spanish" flu because the press in Spain - not being involved in the Great War - were the first to report extensively on its impact.

The virus caused three waves of disease. The second of these, between September and December 1918, resulting in the heaviest loss of life.

It is thought that the virus may have played a role in ending the Great War as soldiers were too sick to fight, and by that stage more men on both sides died of flu than were killed by weapons.

Although most people who were infected with the virus recovered within a week following bed rest, some died within 24 hours of infection.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3455873.stm
 

KeyserXSoze

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#6
Avian Flu in USA

Source
Avian Flu Found on Maryland Chicken Farm
By Associated Press

March 7, 2004, 12:39 AM EST

POCOMOKE CITY, Md. -- A case of Avian flu has been found at a commercial chicken farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the U.S. agriculture department said.

It is the same strain, H7, found last month in two flocks in Delaware, but officials said there was no known connection with the cases in the two states.

The outbreak is at a Pokomoke City farm with about 118,000 6-week-old broiler chickens. Officials quarantined the farm Friday evening, Maryland Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley said in a news release. The birds will be destroyed Sunday morning and their remains kept in the chicken houses where they are killed.

Officials said 210,000 chickens on a nearby farm under the same ownership also would be destroyed because of "shared personnel and equipment."

But they said they would keep under observation some week-old birds on a third property owned by the same farmer.

Also, the state agriculture department quarantined 71 farms in a six-mile radius of the farm where the case was found. There are approximately 1,100 poultry farms on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Poultry in Maryland accounted for $441 million of the state's $1.4 billion agriculture industry in 2002.
Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press
 

TheQuixote

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#7
China Blames SARS Outbreak on Lab Workers
Thu 1 July, 2004 04:24

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Health Ministry has blamed this year's outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome on several people at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

The cases had been linked to the CDC's National Institute of Virology in Beijing, which had carried out experiments using live and inactive SARS coronavirus. The World Health Organization had expressed concern about bio-safety procedures at the institute.

"The cause of this year's SARS epidemic situation has been found, it is laboratory infections," Xinhua said. "Several people at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention should assume responsibility," Xinhua quoted the Health Ministry as saying.

The CDC director, Li Liming, had resigned and four of his colleagues had been disciplined, it added.

One person died and nine were infected in the outbreak, mainly centered in Beijing but also including two cases in eastern Anhui province.

The small outbreak began in March and the WHO declared it contained in May.

SARS first emerged in southern China in late 2002 and spread around the world to infect 8,000 people in nearly 30 countries, devastating the airline and tourism industries. Nearly 800 people died.

China, hardest hit after hiding the extent of the disease in the early stages, declared victory over that outbreak in July 2003.
http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=healthNews&storyID=5559981&section=news

Chinese official quits over Sars

The director of China's main disease control centre has resigned over an outbreak of the respiratory disease Sars at one of his laboratories.


One person was killed during the April outbreak, which came a year after Sars killed nearly 800 people worldwide.

The resignation is being seen as part of a push for greater accountability.

China's leaders want its bureaucracy, better known for high-handedness and widespread corruption, to be seen to respond to public criticism.

The official Xinhua news agency said Li Liming, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, had resigned for "mismanagement of the Sars virus" at the nation's most important infectious disease laboratory.

"Poor management of the virus triggered the Sars outbreak," Xinhua said, quoting sources at the health ministry.

Four other officials were disciplined, Xinhua added.

The BBC's Louisa Lim in Beijing says the case is the latest in a series of resignations by officials held responsible for disasters that could have been prevented.

Mr Li's resignation follows the publication of a government report on the outbreak.

China's media said the outbreak might have been triggered by scientists at the National Institute of Virology in Beijing experimenting inside the institute's laboratory.

Parts of the institute and laboratory could have become contaminated, which would explain why people whose work did not involve handling the virus became infected, the Beijing News said.
BBCi News 01/07/04
 
A

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#8
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=534&e=1&u=/ap/20040819/ap_on_he_me/malaysia_bird_flu

Malaysia Confirms Deadly Bird Flu Strain
Thu, Aug 19, 2004

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia went on a nationwide alert against bird flu Thursday after officials confirmed that a deadly strain of the disease, blamed for the deaths of 27 people in Asia, had been found in a tiny northern village.

Senior agriculture ministry officials said that tests showed that the lethal H5N1 strain was present in the chickens. Nearly 200 chickens, ducks and other birds in the village was being slaughtered to keep the disease from spreading and re-igniting a regional health scare.


"It is H5N1," Abi Musa Asa'ari Mohamed Nor, the ministry's secretary-general, told a news conference. "We believe the outbreak will remain contained in that location, but we shall not take any chances."


None of the villagers in Pasir Pekan, a clutch of a dozen houses where the infected birds were found, had shown health problems, indicating the disease had not jumped to humans, Abu Musa said.


Veterinary officials went on a "nationwide alert" and will inspect hundreds of poultry farms across this Southeast Asian country — which had been spared earlier flu outbreaks — for signs of infection, Abi Musa said.


Malaysia will step up security along the Thai border to prevent poultry smuggling, Abu Musa said. Officials believe that the outbreak was caused by a cross-border infection, but could not confirm whether it came from smuggling or the movement of migratory birds.


Earlier, the Veterinary Department had said that preliminary tests indicated the flu strain was not H5N1 — which has jumped from chickens to people in Thailand and Vietnam, causing human fatalities — but that more tests were needed.


Malaysia suspended poultry exports Wednesday as a precaution after discovering that chickens at Pasir Pekan, a village near the northern border with Thailand, were infected with some form of bird flu.


The H5N1 strain swept across much of Asia early this year, killing 27 people in Vietnam and Thailand. Some 100 million chickens perished through infections or government-ordered slaughters. It was largely contained by April, but Vietnam and Thailand are among a handful of countries still dealing with recurring flare-ups.


The H5N1 strain, highly contagious among chickens, has not been shown to pass between people, though health officials worry it could mutate into a form that is contagious for people, sparking the world's next flu pandemic.
 
A

Anonymous

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http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=578&e=8&u=/nm/20040820/ts_nm/birdflu_dc

Bird Flu Believed Endemic in Asia, Spreads to Pigs
Fri, Aug 20, 2004
By Nick Macfie and Jalil Hamid

BEIJING/KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The discovery of a deadly bird flu strain in Malaysia after cases elsewhere in Southeast Asia signaled a major winter outbreak was likely, international health experts said Friday.

Since a strain deadly to humans emerged in Asia several months ago, scientists have voiced fears the flu could mutate, become able to jump to humans, and spread.


Adding to concern was an announcement by a Chinese scientist Friday that pigs in China had been found infected with bird flu, but the World Health Organization said that did not come as a complete surprise.


A strain of bird flu blamed for 27 deaths in Asia this year has been found in Malaysia this week and hundreds of birds have been gassed this week and their carcasses burned to contain the outbreak.


The latest deaths from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza were of three people in Vietnam earlier this month.


"This is a great concern. It says to me that the virus is endemic in the region," virologist Dr. Robert Webster of St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told a Beijing symposium.


China had found pigs infected for the first time with bird flu in 2002 and 2003, Chen Hualan, a member of the China Academy of Agriculture, told an conference on avian flu and SARS (news - web sites). "This is a somewhat dangerous signal for public health," she said.


WHO representative Henk Bekedam told Reuters: "We know that pigs can carry human virus as well as bird flu virus.


"We need a lot more information before we can make comments on that. ... We also know that the virus so far has been very ineffective in being easily transmitted to humans, let alone between humans."


The fear is that human and bird flu virus could mix in pigs and form a strain more easily transmittable to humans.


The outbreak in Malaysia was the country's first and no human cases have been confirmed.


But three people suffering from cold symptoms have been admitted to the hospital and put in quarantine. Two of them, a teenage girl and her mother, are from the village at the center of the outbreak while the third is a veterinary worker who reached the area two days ago.


All three are being tested for bird flu.


Malaysia's poultry industry faces huge losses as export markets close and livestock prices fall. And restaurants specializing in chicken dishes in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, had noticeably fewer customers Friday.


"Usually we are jam-packed Friday and Saturday because the food is good," said Raul, a waiter at Mediterranean grilled chicken outlet Nando's.


"But today, it is down. Maybe 10 to 20 percent less customers."


COMPLETELY UNPRECEDENTED


A total of 15 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian flu have been reported since 1950, five of them big, said Dr. Klaus Stohr of the Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response under the WHO Global Influenza Program.

"The one this year is even bigger. What we are seeing is completely unprecedented," Stohr told Reuters on the sidelines of the Beijing symposium.

"The probability of the continuation of the outbreak is relatively high. The virus appears endemic, with a foothold in domesticated bird populations."

In rallying to stem the spread of the disease, many Asian countries could look to China as a model, health experts said.

China has had success in controlling outbreaks of bird flu, mostly in its southern provinces, despite being the world's most populous country in terms of both humans and poultry.

China has vaccinated more than 11 million birds and culled 8 million to rein in outbreaks that have infected 150,000 birds and killed 120,000 this year, Chen Hualan said.

China also suspended exports of chilled ducks and geese to Hong Kong on Aug. 2.

"The key element in control and prevention is controlling birds' movements," said Stohr.

Trading of fighting cocks may have circumvented control measures in Thailand and Vietnam and led to outbreaks in areas thought to be safe.

Migrating birds pose a potentially greater danger because infected birds could pass the virus to uncontaminated populations of domesticated poultry.

"That would be a new paradigm, making it not only endemic in poultry, but circulating, and that would complicate control efforts," Stohr said. (Additional reporting by Carrie Lee in Hong Kong and Barani Krishnan in Kuala Lumpur)
 
A

Anonymous

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#10
I'm worried that as soon as we get a case in or near the UK, the government will go into a huge, foot and mouth style overreaction and order huge culls of farm, wild and pet birds.



:(
 
A

Anonymous

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#11
Well.

3 weeks before the origonal Sars outbreak in 2003 the BBC World Service reported an outbreak of chicken pest in China(south China i belive)but at the time no link was made.
I noted this at the time and it did not supprise me when Sars appaired.
Some one has been feeding chickens to pigs ,by the sound of it.
AND ONE DAY PIGS WILL FLY!!!
Billo
 

SoundDust

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#12
Suspected human-to-human bird flu transmission in Vietnam

Two more people in Vietnam have been confirmed to have contracted the H5N1 bird flu virus, as the known death toll in the country since the start of 2005 has risen to seven. There are at least seven more cases suspected.

Worryingly, two cases now in hospital might have caught the virus from another person, not from an infected fowl. Overall, these cases also suggest that many human infections with H5N1 may not have been diagnosed, partly because tests are not reliable or widely available.

The more people that have the virus, the more chances it will have to adapt to humans and possibly unleash a pandemic, warned Hans Troedsson of the World Health Organization in Vietnam. The WHO's biggest bird flu fear is that the virus will evolve to spread from human to human. Troedsson called it a "disappointment [that] the international community is not responding more adequately to the threat".

At the start of this week, six human cases of H5N1 flu had been diagnosed in Vietnam since the start of 2005. All have now died. Moreover, a 47-year-old man who died last week in Hanoi had twice tested negative for H5N1. He is now reported to have tested positive the third time around.

This suggests that H5N1 is being wrongly ruled out in many suspected cases. The man was only re-tested because his younger brother, who had been caring for him, had also fallen ill. The brother's initial test for H5N1 also came back negative, but two subsequent tests were positive.
No contact

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that the brother, who is in stable condition and expected to recover, had no contact with chickens, and did not live near a flu outbreak in poultry.

That, and the fact that he fell ill some two weeks after his brother, suggests he might have contracted the virus from his sibling. A third family member, a younger brother, is now also in hospital with suspected bird flu.

The only case of probable human-to-human transmission confirmed in the Asian outbreak was in Thailand in 2004, when a mother contracted the disease after nursing her sick child in hospital.

But Nguyen Tran Hien, head of Vietnam's National Institute of Epidemiology and Hygiene, told journalists on Friday that it was too early to conclude that the cases were due to human-to-human transmission. A week before the eldest brother fell ill, the family is said to have slaughtered and eaten a duck, which can harbour the virus without showing symptoms.
Sputum samples

The cases in Vietnam underscore the difficulties in diagnosing the virus, which might mean human cases are more widespread than previously thought.

Tawee Chotpitayasunondh of Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health in Bangkok, Thailand, and colleagues report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that in a fifth of the suspected H5N1 cases in Thailand that tested negative, the sputum samples taken for testing were "inadequate".

The team concluded that the small number of human cases reported, despite the massive spread of the virus in poultry across east Asia, is because the illness is hard to distinguish from common pneumonia and because specific diagnostic tests are not widely available.

The virus continues to spread among poultry in Vietnam, with 29 new outbreaks reported by the Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday alone. And this week Thailand reported its first outbreak in poultry for two months, in the east of the country, as well as a suspected human case.
 

Dingo667

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#13
I like this thread, but I don't think its "General Forteana". There is nothing "Fortean" about a spreading virus. :blah:
Unless there is a suspicion that the virus might be spreading itself on purpose...
;)
 
A

Anonymous

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#14
Dingo666 said:
I like this thread, but I don't think its "General Forteana". There is nothing "Fortean" about a spreading virus. :blah:
Unless there is a suspicion that the virus might be spreading itself on purpose...
;)
Ah, but, dingo mate, you posted that a year to the day after emps started the thread... which is in itself fortean...woo woo... ;)

and it was on the 22nd...and it's now the 24th...and inbetween these comes the 23rd, you know, 23...
 

painy2

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#15
I also think this is going to get a heck of a lot worse before it gets better, heck it will prolly just dissapear off the face of the planet like SARS did. I always found that to be a bit disturbing at how quickly SARS dissapeared.
 

longmanshort

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#16
Bird flu works out how to infect other humans ...

For anyone who's been following the progress of the Asian bird flu problem - which it has long been feared could turn into an epidemic if the bug learnt to 'jump' from person to person - this is a real "Awwww, shit!" moment ...



Friday, 28 January, 2005, 13:13 GMT

Bird flu 'passed between humans'

The virus is passed to humans from infected birds
Scientists have said a woman who died of bird flu probably contracted the disease from her daughter.
The researchers from the Thai Ministry of Public Health warn it is likely there will be more cases where the virus is passed from human-to-human.

Professor John Oxford, a leading UK expert, said the virus had broken down the "final door" which prevented it being spread between people.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This is a very important step towards the conclusion that we all wanted to avoid

Professor John Oxford, Queen Mary's School of Medicine
In 2004, Avian flu infected at last 44 people in eight south Asian countries, killing 32.

Until the late 1990s, it had not been thought that the virus strain - H5N1 - could spread to humans.

Once it did, scientists began to fear it could then be spread between people.

In a 'worst-case scenario', they suggested the virus could combine with a human flu virus if people were simultaneously infected with both.

If the viruses then exchanged genes, a new, highly infective, virus could be created and be passed from person to person.

It is not thought that this happened in the Thai case, but experts say the fact that the evidence strongly suggests human to human transmission of the basic virus is worrying.

Fever

The case began with an 11-year-old girl who lived with her aunt and went to the doctors with a fever, cough and sore throat in September last year.

Chickens in the household had all died from avian flu in the preceding weeks. The girl slept and played in the area under the elevated house where the chickens were also present.

The girl's mother lived in Bangkok, but went to visit her daughter when she heard she was sick, and cared for her in hospital for two days before the child died.

Three days later, she too began to experience fever and severe shortness of breath. About a week later, she too died.

The child's aunt, who also nursed her, showed symptoms of the virus, and was hospitalised. However, she survived her illness.

The research team interviewed surviving members of the family and carried out laboratory tests on the aunt and the body of the mother to test for the presence of the virus.

The child's body had been cremated so could not be tested.

'Shiver down the spine'

Writing in NEJM, the team led by Dr Kumnuan Ungchusak, said: "We believe that the most likely explanation for the family clustering of these three cases of avian influenza is that the virus was transmitted directly from the infected patient to her mother and to her aunt.

"Person-to-person spread of avian influenza A (H5N1) strains has been the focus of intense concern.

"If H5N1 remains endemic for months to years in the eight countries that contain more than 30% of the world's population, it is likely that such clusters will appear again."

However, they add, "it is reassuring that no further transmission of the virus has been detected" after the Thai case.

The researchers said human-to-human transmission of avian flu had probably occurred before, but that this case was unique because secondary infection - of the mother - had resulted in her death.

Professor John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary's School of Medicine in London, said: "This is a very important step towards the conclusion that we all wanted to avoid - the spread of this virus from human to human.

"It sends a cold shiver down the spine.

He added: "In this case, it didn't spread, but I think we have to be careful not to be over-optimistic."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4215659.stm
 

lopaka

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#17
I'm not entirely clear what the significance of the headline is supposed to be, other than that throwing AIDS into any story about infectious diseases is a good way to get onto the wire services. Maybe this is new & important/scary, but the article sure doesn't explain why, exactly.

Vietnam finds HIV carrier infected with bird flu

By Ho Binh Minh
HANOI (Reuters) - A 21-year-old woman has been infected by both the deadly HIV/AIDS virus and bird flu, the first such case in Vietnam, health officials said Thursday.

The Health Ministry said two other patients have been diagnosed with the H5N1 virus in the northern provinces of Ha Tay and Hung Yen between April 2 and 8 but no deaths were reported.

The latest findings brought to 41 the total number of patients with bird flu in Vietnam since December 2004, 16 of whom have died, the ministry said in a statement.

Nguyen Van Thich, head of the Center for Preventive Medicine in the northern province of Quang Ninh, said the woman, the first to be diagnosed with both bird flu and HIV in Vietnam, used to work at a hairdressor's shop. She was hospitalized in late March with fever and coughing.

"She is still very weak," he told Reuters, adding that the woman has been treated at a provincial hospital.

Quang Ninh province bordering China has one of the highest number of HIV carriers in Vietnam, most of them drug addicts and prostitutes.

Vietnam has reported 68 human infections of the H5N1 virus since the disease first hit Asia in late 2003, killing 36 Vietnamese.

Twelve Thais and three Cambodians have also died of the virus that the World Health Organization says has the potential to mutate into a form that could pass easily between humans and cause a pandemic in which millions could die.

Doctor Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, was quoted Thursday by state media as saying Vietnam has taken nearly 1,000 blood samples from the patients, birds and water fowl infected by bird flu to help identify the map of the virus allocation.

Hien said the H5N1 virus tested this year showed it has changed slightly from the type that struck in 2004, its virulence was less but the speed of its spread was higher, reported the state-run Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper.

Some samples had been sent for further testing in the United States and the final results to confirm the difference would be available later this month, Hien said.

The Agriculture Ministry said poultry outbreaks have now been reported only in the southern province of Tra Vinh in the Mekong Delta where the virus broke anew last December and spread to 35 of Vietnam's 64 provinces.

Doctor Hoang Thuy Long, former head of the institute, told a government meeting Wednesday that most of the infected people in Vietnam, including several family clusters, had contact with sick birds.

"Even though so far the transmission mechanism of the disease remains unclear, the avian influenza H5N1 type in Vietnam shows no sign of being spread directly between human and human," Long was quoted by state-run Quan Doi Nhan Dan daily as saying.


04/14/05 04:06

© Copyright Reuters Ltd.
SOURCE
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#18
Super :(

Mon. May. 2 2005 5:58 AM ET

Health
Bird Flu

Avian flu virus may be evolving, experts say

Canadian Press

TORONTO — Ominous changes in the behaviour and the makeup of the H5N1 avian influenza virus in northern Vietnam has the flu world worried the virus may be getting better at infecting humans.

In recent months the virus has sparked increasing numbers of small clusters of cases, suggesting more frequent occurrences of limited person-to-person spread. As well, it appears not to be killing as many of its human hosts - a biological change that cannot be assumed to be an entirely positive sign.

"Both of those observations, if they're true, might indicate that the virus is evolving to be a more efficient human pathogen. A more effective human pathogen," says Dr. Scott Dowell, the senior official in Southeast Asia for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

"We've been following that very, very closely and continue to be quite concerned that that may be the case . . . . (But) there is frank scientific uncertainty about what it really means."

Dowell is director of the CDC's international emerging infections program based in Thailand.

He has been heavily involved in tracking the progress of the avian flu virus since December 2003, when outbreaks ignited in poultry flocks throughout the region and started jumping with disturbing frequency into humans.

Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have reported 88 human cases of H5N1 infection to the World Health Organization since then. Of those, 51 people died.

Dowell, a man who measures his words with care, admits he is more concerned about the threat posed by H5N1 now than he was six months or a year ago.

The apparent changes to the pattern of human infections and an observed change in the molecular makeup of the few virus samples that have emerged from Vietnam this year account for his rising concern.

"The little (molecular) information that we have - and it's from a handful of isolates that have come out of Vietnam - is also concerning," Dowell said in an interview from Bangkok.

"What I'm hearing is concern that's paralleling the concern about the change in (disease) epidemiology."

While the level of unease is mounting, flu watchers know they understand so little about how pandemic strains evolve that they are incapable of judging whether these changes indicate H5N1 is making the final push toward pandemic strain status, or is setting off down a viral detour.

"That's the problem. You can sort of see it happening, but our predictive power is so crappy that even when you see it happening you don't know what the next step is, unfortunately," says Dr. Earl Brown, a virologist at the University of Ottawa who specializes in influenza evolution.

"They're real changes of biology but it's the relevance that I can't really give you any inkling of, really. Other than generalities: Keep this virus out of people"

Brown admits his interest was piqued when he heard reports that the fatality rate in Vietnam was dropping.

That type of the observation may only mean that Vietnam has gotten better at finding less severe H5N1 cases that previously flew under the radar. Or it could signify that the avian virus has undergone a real change that has put it on a path to becoming a human one.

"If the mortality is going down, that's a change. And if there's more . . . contacts getting infected, that's a change," Brown says.

"Is it the beginning of a trend? That's a question without an answer. Is it good? Well, it's not good per se, but it's not bad per se. You don't know where it's going to go."

Virology doctrine suggests that in order to become an effective and transmissible human pathogen, H5N1 would have to trade in some of its virulence cards. Highly virulent viruses don't spread very well. Dead hosts are dead ends.

That tradeoff could occur through reassortment - a process in which an avian virus and either a human or a swine flu virus swap genetic material. But it could also occur through a series of small evolutionary steps, each of which makes the virus better equipped to survive in people.

"You get one good mutation which then sweeps through the population because all the viruses with that mutation grow better," Brown explains.

"And then you can get another mutation on top of that and maybe another gene which gives you a leg up and that sweeps through the population. And then those become the dominant viruses."

That may be the process that is occurring now.

But the head of the WHO's global influenza program says there is simply too little information coming out of Vietnam to accurately assess what is going on with H5N1.

"We do perhaps see changes in age groups. We see perhaps changes in clusters. But what that means is absolutely unclear without having any more complex information," Dr. Klaus Stohr says from Geneva.

To know whether a new, more transmissible strain is emerging, researchers would have to be able to match isolates to case information - to see, for instance, if cases infected with viruses that had a specific mutation were more likely to happen in clusters. But that level of detail has not been emerging from Vietnam, Stohr says.

"There are too few viruses. No link between clinical data, disease outcome data and the genetic changes. And therefore drawing any conclusion on that very incomplete information is absolutely (impossible)."
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lopaka

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#19
Confirming/elaborating on the above...

WHO: Vietnam Bird Flu Variant May Pose Human Flu Pandemic Risk
By John Soltes

May 19, 2005, 20:01


A bird flu variant, which may potentially pose the risk of human flu pandemic, may have developed in northern Vietnam from the influenza A/H5N1 bird flu or avian flu virus that has been plaguing southern Asia since 2003, according to a report released May 11 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ever since 2003, over 90 people in southern Asia have suffered from the bird flu caused by a virus known as influenza A/H5N1. The WHO believes that the original bird virus could have mutated over the years, and now a new variant might be spreading from person to person and it could potentially infect millions of people leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

"While the implications of these epidemiological and virological findings are not fully clear, they demonstrate that the viruses are continuing to evolve and pose a continuing and potentially growing pandemic threat," according to a WHO press release entitled WHO Inter-country Consultation.

More cases of bird flu have been found in northern Vietnam than in southern Vietnam, eight clusters vs. two, leading researchers to believe that the Northern influenza virus is more infectious, and it possibly spreads from person to person.

In addition to Vietnam, both Cambodia and Thailand have seen cases of bird flu or avian flu. Within these countries the cases have been clustered, meaning that there are similar individuals living near each other that have developed the influenza.

Fatality from the bird flu has been 83.3 percent in southern Vietnam compared to 34 percent in northern Vietnam indicating that the new variant can infect more people than the original H5N1.

The results of genetic tests also indicated that the new bird flu virus found in northern Vietnam is different from the bird flu strains found elsewhere.

All the evidence pointed to a possibility that a less virulent, yet more infectious avian flu virus variant has developed.

A strongly infectious bird flu virus that causes a less than 50% fatality is particularly dangerous and it could potentially lead to human flu pandemic.

Although there is no evidence that the new bird flu variant or variants would definitely lead to human flu pandemic, the WHO is still suggesting precaution throughout southern Asia.

"Immediate steps should be taken to improve the ability to monitor and assess the risk for pandemic influenza more rapidly, continuously and completely in all countries where avian H5N1 viruses are present," stated the WHO press release.

© 2004-2005 by foodconsumer unless otherwise specified
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Mighty_Emperor

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#20
Yep I there was a report on Radio 4 the other day on these Vietnamese cases. There is nothing definitive but it could spell very bad news indeed if it is now being communicated between people,
 

millomite

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#21
Painy said:
I also think this is going to get a heck of a lot worse before it gets better, heck it will prolly just dissapear off the face of the planet like SARS did. I always found that to be a bit disturbing at how quickly SARS dissapeared.
My son is in that area and his mothers advice is a classic "Make sure you keep away from Chickens" - a mothers love!!!!
 

lopaka

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#22
I should note that the New York Daily News is a tabloid in the British sense of the word. They're not completely screaming, alarmist headlines, but they ain't the Times (NY) , either. Not that I doubt the basic facts as presented. NYC health officials would be foolish and negligent if they weren't envisioning worst-case scenarios. OTOH, these kinds of stories may signal that this is finally becoming a topic that's filtering down to a less geeky demographic of news consumers. ;)

Bird-flu crisis plan

City sees lethal bug's arrival as inevitable


By PAUL H.B. SHIN

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Convinced it's only a matter of time before a new flu strain capable of killing millions reaches New York, city health officials have started drawing up a crisis plan, the Daily News has learned.

Infectious-disease experts at the Health Department have been meeting every two weeks to prepare a strategy for protecting the city against diseases such as the Asian bird flu, or H5N1, which many scientists believe is just one crucial mutation away from turning into a monster malady.

The written blueprint, which officials expect to complete before the next flu season starts in late fall, spells out how the agency will tackle potentially controversial measures.

The issues addressed include how to handle quarantines, test virus samples for new strains, cope with overcrowded hospitals and ration lifesaving vaccines and other treatments.


"It's very high on our priority list," said Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, the city's deputy commissioner of disease control who is spearheading New York's pandemic plan. "This is clearly an issue that we're concerned about."

Officials are honing the plan as more and more evidence suggests H5N1 is evolving rapidly since it reappeared in Asia with a vengeance in late 2003.

The World Health Organization unveiled an alarming report Wednesday indicating the virus is becoming more contagious - from birds to people and possibly even among people.

But critics say the city's plan may not go far enough, particularly if it counts on a share of the meager federal stockpile of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug that is the only known treatment against bird flu, also known as avian influenza.

"It's irresponsible that we are not stockpiling more of the antivirals," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), a member of the congressional committee that overseas federal health agencies.

"We could really fail to adequately respond if there is a pandemic."

Federal authorities have purchased 2.3 million doses of Tamiflu - barely enough to treat 1% of Americans. Antivirals can reduce the severity of an illness and lower the infectiousness of people with the flu.

Britain, France and New Zealand have ordered enough Tamiflu to cover up to 20% of their populations, with Canada covering about 17%, according to Roche, the Swiss-based maker. Roche plans to open more plants in the United States by this fall and has fulfilled all orders, company spokesman Terence Hurley said.


Even before Britain placed its order, London officials independently bought about 100,000 doses of Tamiflu for its police, fire and transit workers after WHO issued a sobering warning about the growing threat of a pandemic.

New York officials said the city has not decided whether to stockpile Tamiflu, and cited major obstacles to stockpiling.

Because a pandemic can last up to two years, "we would have to buy a tremendous amount of Tamiflu because you would have to continually give it," Weisfuse said. "You're looking at a fairly major investment."

It costs about $2 million for 100,000 doses.

Also, there is no consensus among public health officials on how to use antivirals during a pandemic and who should get priority when supplies are limited, Weisfuse said.

But independent experts said city officials may be walking a fine line - trying not to upstage federal counterparts, whom they have to lean on in times of crisis.

Dr. Martin Blaser, president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, an association of physicians, agreed that details on how and when to use Tamiflu must be resolved.

"But the bottom line is that it is a good idea to stockpile it in some reasonable amount," he said. "Should New York City have its own supply? Probably so."

Lowey put it more bluntly:

"You can't play nice-nice when it comes to people's health and their lives. States and cities have to take the initiative to protect their own populations."

A pilot bird-flu vaccine is in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health. But large-scale production of any new vaccine would take at least six months once an epidemic breaks out.

Originally published on May 22, 2005


All contents © 2005 Daily News, L.P.
http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/ ... 6707c.html
 

lopaka

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#23
"The main bioterrorist is nature herself"

A Dutch expert on viruses warns that bird flu is a huge threat to humankind and urges scientists to cooperate in tracking it.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Mark Honigsbaum

printe-mail

May 26, 2005 | To reach Albert Osterhaus's office on the 17th floor of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, you negotiate several biohazard laboratories, two corridors lined with deep freezers and a pair of old-fashioned egg incubators. Finally, you reach a room decorated with posters of seals and cats, and are ushered into the professor's presence by one of three secretaries he employs to manage his increasingly hectic schedule. Like the viruses he chases for a living, Osterhaus is continually on the move, and the demands on his time are constantly multiplying. Three weeks ago he was in China and Vietnam to meet officials from the World Health Organization. The week before that, it was India. This week, he is back in his office to check on the progress of research projects -- and to make time to talk to the Guardian.

A veterinarian turned virologist, Osterhaus is an authority on several viruses that have crossed the species barrier. In 1998, he showed that the canine distemper virus was responsible for the mass deaths of Siberian seals in Lake Baikal. The following year, he identified influenza B -- a strain of flu that normally infects only humans -- in seals off the coast of the Netherlands. Then, in April 2003, at the height of the panic over SARS (severe acquired respiratory syndrome) in Hong Kong, he showed that the disease was caused by a coronavirus that normally resides in civet cats and other carnivorous animals. (Osterhaus beat rival labs in the United States and Germany to the proof by fast-tracking approvals to conduct live virus trials.)

But the virus that increasingly occupies his time these days, and the one that he believes poses the greatest threat to mankind, is the avian influenza virus, H5N1.

On his trip to Vietnam, the World Health Organization presented data about how cases of H5N1 were multiplying in members of the same family group, a process known as clustering. This could indicate that the virus, which has prompted mass culling of poultry throughout Southeast Asia, is becoming infectious among people.


The following week, Nature reported that the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization was struggling to get serum samples from people and poultry infected with the latest strains of the virus forwarded to its labs for analysis. Then, as soon as he returned to Rotterdam last weekend, the Chinese reported that 178 wild geese had been found dead at a research center in a western province, Qinghai -- also victims of H5N1.

"It's another worrying finding," he says. "Normally, these viruses don't kill wild birds. They only heat up when they pass from wild birds to poultry. It could be that we haven't looked at the mortality in wild birds closely enough. Or it could be a spill-back from domestic poultry."

The more pressing concern, however, is the threat H5N1 poses to people. Since the start of the current outbreak in Southeast Asia in 2003, there have been more than 90 human infections and 54 deaths. If H5N1 were to become a super-spreader like SARS, then infections could leap around the world in a matter of days, triggering a global pandemic.

Indeed, such is the concern among Osterhaus and his colleagues at Holland's National Influenza Center that he is now calling for the WHO and FAO to join forces with the World Organization for Animal Health and establish a global task force to combat the virus.

In the leading commentary in Thursday's edition of Nature, Osterhaus argues that while Vietnam, Hong Kong and other Southeast Asian states have taken steps to cull infected poultry and contain human outbreaks, the responses at a national level have been patchy and ad hoc. In particular, the failure to forward serum samples to WHO reporting labs quickly enough means that the true incidence of infections may be underestimated.

One of the task force's roles, says Osterhaus, would be to ensure that farmworkers with the greatest exposure to the virus are properly monitored and that adequate virological and clinical data are collected, including detailed postmortem reports. Animal health experts recruited by the task force should also survey poultry and other domestic birds for all subtypes of the virus. Osterhaus would also like to see better monitoring of wild bird populations, the natural reservoir of influenza A viruses.

"We need much more data on influenza in wild birds because that's where it comes from," he says. "But at the same time we also need better data on outbreaks in poultry and better reporting from labs so that we can get the sequences out and know if and in what direction the virus is mutating. And we need these data sets to be linked, from humans to birds, so that we can build up a repository of information. At the moment all we have is a series of snapshots."

Osterhaus argues that nothing can stop a global influenza pandemic. On average, pandemics occur every 30 years and are as inevitable as the tides. However, just as the United Nations is now establishing listening posts to provide an early warning of another tsunami, so the global flu task force could provide an equivalent early warning system.

According to Osterhaus, the task force would come under the umbrella of the WHO's flu pandemic preparedness plan and include virologists, epidemiologists and other specialists from the fields of animal and human health, as well as ecologists, agriculturists and experts in translating science into policy.

The result, write Osterhaus and his colleagues in Nature, is that when people begin to fall ill, "outbreak management teams can be formed and targeted at a specific outbreak."

To do nothing is not an option. The mortality rate from H5N1 is already high, but as the virus mutates, it could become more pathogenic. Some experts estimate conservatively that within a few months, close to 30 million people could be hospitalized and a quarter would die. "Although these estimates are speculative, they are among the more optimistic predictions of how the next flu pandemic might unfold," warns Osterhaus in Nature.

In five accompanying commentaries, other experts, including Antony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and Michael Osterholm of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, also argue that time is running out and that if more money is not poured into vaccine research, the world could be heading not just for a pandemic but for economic disaster too.

This is not the first time experts have issued such dire warnings. In 1957 and again in 1967, avian influenzas crossed the species barrier, triggering the Asian and Hong Kong flu pandemics. But though those pandemics, caused by H1 and H2 strains of the virus, claimed about 1 million lives worldwide, their impact was not nearly as great as the 1918 Spanish influenza, a pandemic that may have killed as many as 50 million people. And while SARS triggered scares in 2003, there were only 1,000 deaths -- a mortality rate of just 10 percent.

What makes Osterhaus think H5N1 is different? Osterhaus pauses, surveying the pictures of seals and cats pinned to his walls -- a secretary placed them there as a reminder of Osterhaus's previous life as a vet. "We know the virus kills different mammalian species, not just humans but cats and tigers, and we know that the virus spreads easily in other animals and is highly pathogenic if they are infected in the right way," he says.


"We also know that the virus has a high fatality rate. For some reason, it is not transmitting efficiently from human to human at present. However, if that were to happen, either through mutation or reassortment, it would be a big worry."


Osterhaus' is a powerful voice. "He's very dynamic. He's always on the move. We call him the 'Flying Dutchman,'" says John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary Medical School in London. "As a trained vet he can deal with the interface between animal and human viruses. He's got experience on both sides of the fence, which is a tremendous advantage in this field. He's really a superstar."

In Holland, Osterhaus is known as the virus hunter because of his instinct for smelling out new viruses. After qualifying as a vet, he obtained a Ph.D, in virology from Utrech University in 1978. He then joined the Netherlands' National Institute of Public Health and Environment, where in between producing vaccines he began studying animal viruses. Besides seals, Osterhaus has found new viruses in dolphins, African wild dogs, lions, finches and cats. Then, in 2001, he isolated the human metapneumovirus. The cause of respiratory disease in young children and people with compromised immune systems, hMPV is actually an old virus; Osterhaus has found antibodies for it in serum samples from patients from the 1950s, but until 2001 no one had realized people were infected with it.

Osterhaus' discoveries enabled him to assemble his own team at Erasmus in association with the hospital's virology department, funding his research through a combination of grants, commercial trials and patent agreements with biotech companies. The result was that when in 2003 the WHO approached Osterhaus to work on SARS, he was in the perfect position.

The problem was that many of the serum samples from patients in Hong Kong contained both hMPV and the coronavirus. The only way to prove which was the primary cause of disease was to conduct live tests for each virus separately in animals. Sidestepping the hospital's animal ethics panel, Osterhaus appealed directly to a senior civil servant in the Dutch Ministry of Health and got clearance to experiment on macaque monkeys. His resulting proof that the cause was the coronavirus enabled the WHO to contain the outbreak faster.

Osterhaus' unconventional methods drew criticism from animal welfare activists and led to a reprimand from the Dutch Parliament. But he insists that he did the right thing, and points out that the Netherlands has since amended its laws governing animal experiments. Osterhaus was subsequently knighted.

The irony is that when Klaus Stohr, the head of the WHO's influenza program, first approached his lab to conduct the trials, Osterhaus nearly turned him down. In the winter of 2003, Dutch poultry farms were infected with a deadly plague. The virus responsible, H7N7, had already led to the death of a 57-year-old veterinarian, and Osterhaus' team was seeing cases of conjunctivitis in farmworkers and chicken cullers, a sure sign that they were also infected with the virus. With Holland in the grip of a winter flu epidemic, caused by the most common human strain of the virus, H3, Osterhaus feared that there was a risk of double infections.

Normally, avian influenza strains infect only bird populations or are not highly pathogenic in people and other animals. But virologists believe that pigs and sometimes people can be infected with avian and human influenza strains at the same time, providing a "mixing bowl" that allows the viruses to swap genes. Such a reassortment may have been behind the virulence of the 1918 flu, and is the reason why Osterhaus and other virologists fear that it could happen again.

Until 1997, virologists did not think avian strains could infect people directly. But when a doctor in Hong Kong sent Osterhaus serum from a 3-year-old boy who had died of a mysterious respiratory disease there, to his surprise, he found H5N1. It was another first for his lab. He immediately alerted the WHO, and the Hong Kong authorities implemented a cull, killing 1.2 million of the territory's chickens.

What worries Osterhaus is that while in 1997, only six of the 18 people hospitalized in Hong Kong with H5N1 died -- a mortality rate of 33 percent -- since then, the mortality rate has doubled, suggesting that the latest strain is more virulent. Then there are the reports of clustering, which suggest that it may also be becoming more infectious. However, Osterhaus points out that the cases may simply reflect the fact that family members are being directly exposed to the same infected poultry.

"The fact that we are seeing more clusters of human infections points in the direction of human transmission, but this should not be exaggerated. I think the bigger danger is that we will get a reassortment," says Osterhaus.

It could happen with H5N1, but it could also occur with another avian strain that scientists have yet to identify. Earlier this year, for instance, Osterhaus' colleagues discovered a new subtype of hemagglutinin -- the protein spike that protrudes from the surface of the virus and enables it to invade animal cells -- in black-headed gulls from Sweden. The discovery brings the number of hemagglutinin subtypes to 16. But had Erasmus not had an arrangement with ornithologists in Sweden to forward fecal samples from wild birds regularly, it would never have made the discovery.

A task force need not be that expensive. Osterhaus estimates the cost at less than $1.5 million a year -- a snip set against the $120 million in losses incurred by Vietnam and Thailand since the current H5N1 outbreak devastated their poultry industries. The problem is that the WHO, the FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health are already huge bureaucracies, and politicians may well decide that they already have sufficient resources to respond to the threat. That, argues Osterhaus, would be a mistake. He points out that after the 9/11 attacks, the United States poured billions into combating the threat of bioterrorism.

"That's fine, but we should not forget that the main bioterrorist is nature herself," he says. "Flu is knocking on the door. It is only a matter of time."

salon.com

This article has been provided by the Guardian through a special arrangement with Salon. ©
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/ ... index.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#24
Bird flu: we're all going to die

By Charles Arthur
Published Thursday 2nd June 2005 11:25 GMT

The theme of the person awaking from a deep sleep or coma to find a world utterly changed is a popular one in science fiction. From John Wyndham's book The Day of The Triffids through The Omega Man to the recent film 28 Days Later, the trope of the man arising from his hospital bed to find that nothing is as it was has become well-worn.

That's fine - as long as it remains just a story. But if - when - a flu pandemic comes, and millions of people die around the world over a period of months, the reality will be one of two alternatives. It's either going to be like those films, with videoconferencing suddenly all the rage, local farm produce making a big profit, empty supermarket shelves (you have to ship the oil, and distribute the fuel, but can the Armed Forces really do all that?), tumbleweed blowing in the streets, a medieval attitude to anyone not from "around here".

Or else governments will impose a police state that will make all the ID cards and airport checks look like a tea party. You'd not be allowed to move anywhere without showing off a vaccination certificate. (Sure, you'd get those on the black market, and they'd cost more than £300, but would you really want them? If you're not vaccinated would you really want to travel among people who might be carriers?) Or it might be both at once.

One more thing. You might well be one of those millions who die in such a pandemic. If you travel to work on public transport; if colleagues in your company travel by air to Asia; if you're travelling abroad through a busy airport. You'll probably touch someone or share air with someone who's infected. The premise of Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys will become reality.

You may think this is overblown. But discussion of the possibility of a flu pandemic has fallen out of the news. And as the security consultant Bruce Schneier says: "One of the things I routinely tell people is that if it's in the news, don't worry about it. By definition, 'news' means that it hardly ever happens. If a risk is in the news, then it's probably not worth worrying about. When something is no longer reported - automobile deaths, domestic violence - when it's so common that it's not news, then you should start worrying."

The risks posed by an outbreak of flu passed from chickens in the Far East, in coutries such as Vietnam and Thailand, burst into the news in February. But now they've passed out of the news. Since then we've had more important things, like the Crazy Frog ringtone, to concern us.

Time to worry. And the scientists are. In fact, they're edgier than I've seen them since the BSE outbreak was in its earliest days and people were wondering if it might pass to humans. Quite a few scientists stopped eating beef at that point. Oh, you didn't know?

Now, their reaction is to write papers and watch what's happening, very closely. If you read the scientific journals (we do, so you don't have to) the articles are piling up. Last week the journal Nature pulled together an entire online resource on the threat of avian flu.

That's the trouble with scientists. They get an idea into their heads - CFCs and ozone, carbon dioxide emissions and the greenhouse effect, the transmission of BSE to other species such as humans - and they worry away at it until they determine what the answer and the mechanism is.

Here's what's they're worrying about now. The First World War killed seven million people. But the strain of flu that followed it - incubated, experts reckon, in pigs that were kept near the front lines to help feed the troops - killed up to 100 million, helped by the movement of troops returning home from the war.

Pandemics come around, on average, about every 70 years or so. There were small ones in 1957 and 1968/9, when "Hong Kong flu" - strain H1N1 - spread around the world, and one million died. That was tiny by pandemic standards. The scientists reckon we're overdue for an infectious, fatal strain of flu, one which can pass from human to human by the usual methods - sneezing or contact.

There's already a deadly strain of flu around - "chicken flu", better known to the scientists by the strain of flu virus that causes it: H5N1. But it only passes from chickens to humans, not from from person to person. If it could do that, it would have the potential to turn pandemic.

But maybe it already can. There have already been a couple of cases of deaths from H5N1 where the only logical pathway is human-to-human. The UK government announced in February that it will buy in thousands of doses of Tamiflu as part of the UK Influenza Pandemic Contingency Plan (PDF, 160kB).

Too bad - the latest results (reported by New Scientist; limited-time free access) suggest that Tamiflu isn't effective against H5N1. And anyway, New Scientist reports, the UK's order for 14.6 million five-day courses of Tamiflu treatment will take its patent owners Roche two years to fulfil. The company is still trying to develop ways to synthesise it from scratch.

The consequences of a really big, fatal flu epidemic on modern society are hard to imagine, partly because they're so enormous. Air passengers would be the first vector of infection, followed by the people who travelled with them in the train or Underground train or coach from the airport, followed by the family and friends of those people. Give it a few days and people would be falling ill, then over the next weeks dying.

If the strain is new and unexpected, there wouldn't be time to produce enough vaccine to treat it. According to a New England Journal of Medicine article by Dr Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis - who is also director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy - titled "Preparing for the Next Pandemic", the 1950s-era methods of producing vaccines means we would need (ironically enough) one chicken egg per person to produce the vaccine, plus six months to culture it.

"The global economy would come to a halt, and since we could not expect appropriate vaccines to be available for many months and we have very limited stockpiles of antiviral drugs, we would be facing a 1918-like scenario," notes Dr Osterholm, who calculates that given current technology, we could vaccinate about 500 million people, tops - about 14 per cent of the world population.

Of course, most of those will be in the developed world. But are you sure you'd be one? Are you in the Armed Forces? Do you or your business count as an essential service? If you're not involved with the electricity, water, fuel distribution, phone or gas industries, then probably not. "And owing to our global 'just-in-time delivery' economy, we would have no surge capacity for health care, food supplies, and many other products and services," Dr Osterholm adds.

Let's have some more numbers from Dr Osterholm, just to encourage you. He writes: "It is sobering to realize that in 1968, when the most recent influenza pandemic occurred, the virus emerged in a China that had a human population of 790 million, a pig population of 5.2 million, and a poultry population of 12.3 million; today, these populations number 1.3 billion, 508 million, and 13 billion, respectively. Similar changes have occurred in the human and animal populations of other Asian countries, creating an incredible mixing vessel for viruses. Given this reality, as well as the exponential growth in foreign travel during the past 50 years, we must accept that a pandemic is coming - although whether it will be caused by H5N1 or by another novel strain remains to be seen."

All this has been noted by virologists and disease experts around the world. But what can we do? For one thing, listen to what they're saying, and put some pressure on the politicians who are ignoring this threat, in the hope it will go away. Climate change may be a greater threat than terrorism, but a flu pandemic is a more immediate threat than either.

Or, as Canada's deputy chief public health officer, Dr Paul Gully, put it to the Toronto Star: "Frankly the crisis could for all we know have started last night in some village in Southeast Asia. We don't have any time to waste and even if we did have some time, the kinds of things we need to do will take years. Right now, the best we can do is try to survive it. We need a Manhattan Project yesterday."

Let's hope they got started. Now, where's the number of that forger for my vaccination certificate? ®
Source
 

ElishevaBarsabe

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#25
Governments need to get the move on

Just read the January 2005 report from the World Health Organization. It's scary. You can get it from the URL below. Are the first-world nations doing anything to address this?

http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenz ... reduit.pdf

Here's a sample from page 16.

"The newly reported cases brought the total since January, in the
two countries, to 44, of which 32 were fatal. When these cases are
viewed together, two features are striking: the overwhelming
concentration of cases in previously healthy children and young
adults, and the very high mortality. No scientific explanation for
this unusual disease pattern is presently available. Nor is it possible
to calculate a reliable case-fatality rate, as mildly symptomatic
disease may be occurring in the community, yet escape detection."
 

lopaka

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#26
U.N.: Bird flu at tipping point

Health official calls for mass vaccination of Asian poultry

Monday, July 4, 2005; Posted: 9:10 a.m. EDT (13:10 GMT)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Asia's bird flu outbreak is at a critical stage where it could easily become a human pandemic and officials should help prevent that by launching mass vaccinations of poultry, U.N. health experts warned Monday.

Dr. Shigeru Omi of the World Health Organization said at the opening of a three-day U.N. conference on bird flu that the virus has "tightened its grip" on the region and is capable of springing major surprises.

"We believe we are at the tipping point. Either we ... reverse this trend or things will get out of hand," Omi said. "We must have an all-out war against this virus."


The virus, which has killed 54 people in Asia, currently appears to spread to people only when they come in close contact with sick poultry. Medical experts fear that the H5N1 bird flu strain could mutate into a form that easily passes between people and trigger a dangerous global pandemic because people have developed no resistance to the strain.

"The virus has behaved in ways that suggests it remains as unstable, unpredictable and versatile as ever," Omi said. "Judging by its performance today we need to be on constant alert for surprises," he said in a speech earlier.

The U.N. meeting is co-organized by the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health, known by its French acronym OIE.

The pandemic threat posed by the virus has been reinforced by its re-emergence in China, where it killed 6,000 wild migratory birds last month in the remote Qinghai province, Omi said.

He said wild birds had previously been considered "reasonably resilient" to H5N1, and their deaths in such large number shows the virus can have unexpected consequences.

)Omi noted that there have been 64 human cases in Asia this year, mainly in Vietnam, compared to 44 cases in 2004. Of the 64, 22 died, compared to 32 fatalities for all of last year, he said.

Vietnam is now "chronically infected," while Cambodia and possibly Indonesia also have reported their first human cases, he said.


Omi joined FAO chief veterinary officer Joseph Domenech in telling the conference that mass vaccinations of poultry and more efforts to develop new poultry vaccines were needed in order to avoid a human pandemic.

"Avian influenza is not just an Asian problem," Domenech said. "No poultry producing country is safe from the occurrence of the avian influenza as long as there are pockets of infections in Asia."

Domenech told the conference that Asia needs about US$100 million (euro83 million) over the next two years to fund a viable program to fight bird flu, but so far only one-tenth that amount has been raised.

Pledges from donors such as the EU and the U.S. were "still not enough and still not coming quick enough," he said.

The meeting also aims to identify ways that the production and marketing of live animals in Asia endangers human health.

In most of rural Asia, poultry, domestic animals and farmers live in close proximity, often sharing the same room, increasing the chances of the virus jumping species.

Countries must tighten regulations in the production, transport and marketing of poultry and poultry products, especially since live bird markets in Asia have played a role in the spread of virus to humans, said T. Fujita, OIE's regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.

He said efficient inspections are needed to detect and eliminate sick birds from live markets and to ensure that different animal species are sold in different premises, he said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/0 ... index.html
 

lopaka

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#27
Unknown Illness Kills Nine Chinese Farmers
Deaths Could Be Linked to Outbreaks of Bird Flu in Nine Asian Countries

By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service

Sunday, July 24, 2005; Page A18

BEIJING, July 23 -- An unidentified disease has killed nine farmers and sickened 11 others in a rural part of China's western Sichuan province, prompting the government to dispatch an emergency team of researchers to investigate whether the deaths are related to bird flu, a Health Ministry spokesman said Saturday.

State media said the illnesses occurred between June 24 and July 21 in about 15 villages surrounding the city of Ziyang, 945 miles southwest of Beijing. All of the farmers had recently slaughtered sick pigs or sheep, and researchers from the health and agriculture ministries are investigating a possible link, the official New China News Agency said.


Mao Qunan, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said such a concentrated cluster of abrupt, unexplained deaths was rare, and that the government was taking necessary precautions. Mao said researchers hoped to quickly determine whether the outbreak might be related to the bird flu virus that has devastated poultry flocks in nine countries across Asia and killed at least 56 people in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

International health experts have warned that bird flu, which so far has not been able to spread quickly among humans, could undergo a genetic change and cause a global pandemic, killing millions if not tens of millions of people. Experts have also warned that pigs, which often carry the human influenza virus, could contract bird flu and act as a "mixing bowl," accelerating the process of mutation.

Scientists in China and Indonesia have already found bird flu in pigs, and the Indonesian government announced Saturday that it would kill about 100 pigs near the home of three people who are believed to be the country's first fatalities from the disease.

In late April, the Chinese government reported an outbreak of bird flu among migratory waterfowl at a nature reserve in Qinghai province, which is northwest of Sichuan. Then, last month, China reported two more outbreaks in Xinjiang province, which is northwest of Qinghai. But the government has never reported any outbreaks of bird flu in Sichuan.

U.N. officials and independent researchers have complained that the Chinese government has not fully responded to urgent requests by the World Health Organization and other international health groups for information about the three outbreaks, including samples of the virus found, analyses of its genetic makeup and details about the extent of the infection and efforts to contain it.

Reached by telephone, a disease control official in Ziyang said health authorities have already ruled out bird flu as the cause of the farmers' deaths. He also said there had been no cases of bird flu reported among poultry or other livestock in the region. But the official declined to give his name and there was no official announcement of findings.

A state-run newspaper in western China, the Huaxi Metropolitan Daily, reported that the sickened farmers suffered flu-like symptoms in the early stages of the disease, including fever, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Later, the farmers suffered bleeding under the skin, shock and other symptoms, the newspaper said.

The newspaper said only one of the patients had recovered from the disease, while six of the 10 other surviving patients were in critical condition. The farmers were between the ages of 30 and 70, and all but one were men, the New China News Agency added.

State media said researchers have found no evidence the disease has been transmitted from person to person, noting that none of the farmers were related or had contact with each other.

Local authorities have taken steps to limit the spread of the disease, including forbidding farmers from slaughtering any more sick pigs or sheep, the New China News Agency said. The agency also said local authorities were immediately burying dead pigs or sheep discovered by farmers and carrying out sterilization measures, while requiring personnel to use protective gear and avoid direct contact with the carcasses.

Researcher Zhang Jing contributed to this report.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 00936.html
 
A

Anonymous

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#28
Super Flu on its way

Killer Flu Makes 'Sars Look Like Kitten'
Forget the waning influenza B, the bird flu plaguing South-east Asia threatens to be the next killer pandemic to hit New Zealand, say two Christchurch microbiologists.

Ben Harris and John Aitken, from Southern Community Laboratories Ltd, say bird flu is one step from becoming a pandemic, possibly more deadly than the 1918 Spanish flu that killed more than 50 million people.

"What we are facing is what our parents and our grandparents saw as a reality, the influenza," Aitken said.

Already, the virus, known as H5N1, has the hallmarks of a global flu crisis.

South-east Asian farms, where humans and animals live in close quarters, have become a vast breeding ground for the virus. It has crossed into humans, and more than 50 people have died since January last year.

The last step before becoming a pandemic is for the virus to learn rapid, ongoing, person-to-person transmission, Harris said.

"If the virus learns the last step, to do rapid transmission rather than just occasional human transmission, then it would make Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) look like a kitten," he said.

The world faced a new influenza pandemic about three times a century and the next was overdue. The last was the Hong Kong flu 37 years ago.

"There is absolutely no doubt that the clock is ticking towards a pandemic. We know that with certainty. We just don't know what the time is. It will come," Harris said.

The men said there was a "very strong possibility" that the avian influenza was the next big one. It was sparked by agricultural practices, particularly large numbers of pigs, poultry and people living in close proximity, common in Asia.

"I'm prone to underestimate and I would put the threat at 8.5 out of 10," Harris said. "It may not happen, but if it does, we're in trouble."

http://www.rednova.com/news/health/1845 ... ke_kitten/
 

hokum6

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#29
Already a thread about this here so it'll probably be merged, but yeah, it's pretty scary assuming they're not just blowing the situation out of proportion. Doesn't help that most cases of bird flu aren't identified until after someone has died and local customs hinder effective quarantine or research. Like the last outbreak of Marburg where WHO officials were pelted with rocks by locals.
 

mynah

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#30
Super Flu

Yes, that is scary news to us in South East Asia. I must say I now look on birds with different eyes....

I used to love seeing the first migratory herons arrive in the nearby national park. In October I keep a sharp ear out for the calls of the Indian cuckoo heralding the arrival of the monsoon rains. And during a stroll around town, I used to get a kick out of looking at all those swifts soaring about their nests under the shophouses rooftops. At one of the opticians shops in town, a huge colony of mynahs have built an apartment of nests. What used to be an amusing sight is now rather horrifying! Now I see the dirt and the shit dropping down the walls....

BTW the shopowners do not shoo away the birds because they are supposed to be lucky and good fengshui...

I think I wanna change my user name now......
 
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