Oh, oh: bird flu update

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Oh, oh: bird flu update

Postby rapturos » Sun Mar 12, 2006 11:54 pm

Pretty good articles on ABC News website about some of the issues that are emerging as pressing matters in regards to the possibiity of a bird flu pandemic:

How will bird flu change your life
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AvianFlu/s ... 048&page=1

What you should do to prepare for an epidemic

A bird flu pandemic could create shortage of hospital ventilators
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AvianFlu/s ... 076&page=1

As bird flu spreads, Man's best friends get second look
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AvianFlu/s ... 795&page=1
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Scientist who found the link between human & bird flu sp

Postby rapturos » Tue Mar 14, 2006 6:26 pm

The first scientist to find the link between human flu and bird flu shares his views on the possible path of progression of the disease:

(hint: he has stored a three-month supply of food and water at his home in case of an outbreak)

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/AvianFlu/stor ... 801&page=1
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Not so good: First Bird Flu Vaccine Only Partly Effective

Postby rapturos » Thu Mar 30, 2006 12:08 am

Here's the link to the full article:


In a nutshell, they're trying hard, but the current view is, at least it's better than nothing.

Excerpts below.

"WASHINGTON — It takes 12 times the dose of a regular winter flu shot for the nation's first vaccine against bird flu to work — and even then only about half the people who get it are protected.

Scientists viewing the cup half full say at least the vaccine is safe, and that efforts are under way to boost its effectiveness.

But the anxiously awaited results of the first human testing underscore how difficult it could be to protect a panicking population if bird flu began to spread among people any time soon.

"We have a long way to go," acknowledged Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research being published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The government had signaled that the vaccine had serious flaws even as it ordered $162 million worth of shots last summer.

But Wednesday's result showed the extent of the problem: The vaccine sparked a protective immune response in just 54 percent of healthy volunteers who got two mega-doses, 28 days apart.

Regular winter flu shots, in contrast, protect 75 percent to 90 percent of young healthy people, the same group that first tested the experimental bird-flu vaccine. The elderly typically fare worse; how they respond to the bird flu shots still is being analyzed.

The results weren't too surprising, said lead researcher Dr. John Treanor of the University of Rochester. Humans have never been exposed to the deadly bird-flu strain called H5N1, and it takes the immune system awhile to ramp up to fight unique types of influenza.

But the vaccine's weak effect means that the nation's stockpile is, in Fauci's words, "a stopgap measure." So far it contains enough doses for just 4 million people, far below the goal of 20 million.

Those shots would be reserved for health care providers and workers in flu vaccine factories if a human epidemic of H5N1 began in the next year or so, Fauci said — leaving most Americans to rely on old-fashioned methods such as closing schools, avoiding crowds and wearing masks in hopes of staying well."

"Scientists don't know how much of an immune response — the creation of infection-fighting antibodies — a vaccine must prompt to protect people against bird flu. So in this first human study, Treanor and colleagues tested whether the H5N1 vaccine would prompt as much antibody protection as do regular winter flu shots.

Those annual flu shots contain 15 micrograms of antigen, the key element. For the H5N1 vaccine, it took two shots that each contained 90 micrograms of antigen to spur a protective immune response in slightly over half of recipients, Treanor found.

However, 70 percent of recipients had a slightly lower immune response — and scientists couldn't say whether they might have some protection against bird flu."

"More promising, vaccine manufacturers Sanofi-Pasteur and Chiron Corp. now are adding immune-enhancing compounds — called alum and MF59, respectively — to the experimental vaccine in hopes they would spark protection with doses closer to 15 micrograms, thus stretching limited supplies. Pilot studies are optimistic; Fauci said results may come in the fall.

Further complicating matters: This first H5N1 vaccine is already outdated, based on a version of the virus culled in Vietnam in 2004. Scientists now are creating a vaccine based on a slightly different Indonesian version that emerged last year; they don't yet know how much protection the older vaccine would spur against the newer virus."
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Hunt for a bird flu vaccine could be dangerous

Postby rapturos » Sun Apr 02, 2006 1:46 am

Link to entire article:

In Bird Flu Vaccine Hunt, 1976 Tragedy Looms
http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/AvianFlu/stor ... 656&page=1

Some excerpts from the article:

"As infected birds are found closer and closer to the United States, moving from Asia through the Middle East to Europe, scientists also are feeling a sense of urgency.

"When you are trying to be ready for a disaster, you have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario," said Dr. John Treanor who heads the Rochester program.

Vaccine Would Require Two Shots

So far, there has been limited success. The latest vaccines have been effective when given in large doses — four to 12 times normal. And two shots would be required, straining the ability of pharmaceutical companies to produce enough to protect the U.S. population."

"Avoiding a Repeat of Harmful 'Swine Flu' Vaccine

What's happening in Rochester and elsewhere is a reminder of another pandemic scare 30 years ago.

The pandemic never occurred, but the vaccine produced to protect Americans had tragic consequences."

"The administration of President Gerald R. Ford mounted a national campaign urging Americans to get swine flu shots. In a famous photo opportunity that year, Ford himself rolled up his sleeve and was inoculated.

But the vaccine was unsafe. Thirty-two people died and hundreds of other developed paralysis from Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Patty Tipton was 32 in 1976, when she was inoculated.

"I didn't know anything about the side effects," she says today at her home in Owensboro, Ky. "It has been such a life-changing event."

After being inoculated with the swine flu vaccine, she developed Guillain-Barre and is confined to a wheel chair. She has lost her fine motor skills and can no longer sew or embroider, things that once gave her pleasure — let alone play softball or ride a horse, her main outdoor pursuits in 1976.

Her constant thought is what might have been had she not had the vaccine.

"I could have survived the swine flu," she says. "I was young, I was healthy."

"The decision to inoculate is still defended by Dr. David Sencer, director of the Centers for Disease Control in 1976.

"If there was a pandemic and we hadn't done anything," he says today, "there would have been a lot more deaths than we saw."

Sencer says the big mistake in 1976 was ceding the decision making to politicians, a mistake he hopes is not repeated.

"The more it's recognized as a health problem and decisions are made by health personnel," he adds, "the better of we'll be."

"Treanor says scientists have had time they did not have in 1976 to follow the development of the bird flu. But underscoring the difficulty is the notorious ability of a flu virus to change its characteristics rapidly.

"If a pandemic were to arise," he says, "it's very possible that the pandemic strain would not be exactly the strain as the one in the vaccine we're testing."

In that case, Treanor says it might take four to six months to develop the proper vaccine.

"I think the commitment right now is not to immunize until there is clear evidence of person to person to person transmission," he says. "And that, I think, would be a singal suggesting that pandemic is inevitable. And would probably be a good time to start vaccinating people."
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Computer Simulates Bird Flu Spreading Across U.S.

Postby rapturos » Wed Apr 05, 2006 10:41 pm

Here's the link to the full article:


Some excerpts are included below:

"Researchers assumed a starting point of 10 highly infectious influenza cases in Los Angeles, then let the model take it from there.

The virus spread quickly, peaking in just 90 days with 100 or more infections per 1,000 residents in just about every corner of the country."

"U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has said the country is not prepared for such a scenario."

"Quarantines, school closures and travel restrictions alone wouldn't thwart the spread of human-to-human avian flu, but such measures could buy time while vaccines production was ramped up and tailored to the specific flu strain.

In the simulation, long-range travel by humans was cut to 10 percent of normal, based on travel advisories that would presumably be instituted.

"Based on our results, combinations of mitigation strategies such as stockpiling vaccines or antiviral agents, along with social distancing measures, could be particularly effective in slowing pandemic flu spread in the U.S.," said Ira Longini, a biostatistician with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington."

"The computer also considered one vexing aspect to the flu: About 33 percent of those infected don't develop symptoms and can unknowingly transmit the disease."
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Bush Prepares to Approve Bird Flu Plan

Postby rapturos » Sun Apr 16, 2006 10:29 pm

Below is the link to the full article:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/04/ ... 1236.shtml

Some excerpts from the article:

"Federal officials say the first case of bird flu could show up in the United States in the coming weeks or months as birds migrate from overseas. President George W. Bush is expected to approve a national response plan in the next week or two laying out how agencies should respond if it were transmitted to humans."

"The plan assumes a worst-case scenario that as many as 90 million people in the U.S. would become sick and 2 million would die during a worldwide flu pandemic."

"It envisions people may need to avoid human contact and stay home from work, school and other large gathering places, according to officials familiar with draft. Some details of the draft, first in Sunday's Washington Post, were confirmed by officials at the White House who spoke anonymously because the plan has not been finalized.

Dr. Bruce Gellin, director of the National Vaccine Program Office at the Health and Human Services Department, said the report builds on the strategy that Bush outlined six months ago — new flu-vaccine technology and greater stockpiles of vaccines and antivirals."

"The response plan, assembled by the president's Homeland Security Council, lays out who should be the first vaccinated, proposes that other countries make U.S. money if domestic locations cannot operate. The plan anticipates that employees could strain Internet capacity while working from home computers.

The U.S. has had such money agreements with allies in the past in case of emergency, a White House official said, but there is no current arrangement. Congress approval would be needed for a new deal."

"The Veterans Affairs Department has developed a medical exam that could be conducted in VA hospital parking lots, with those who suspect they may be infected able to get a quick exam. The program is modeled after a drive-through flu vaccination program conducted last year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health's infectious disease chief, said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that scientists are debating whether to vaccinate first those most likely to spread the virus, rather than those traditionally first in line for winter flu shots, including the very old, very young and chronically ill. That policy still is under debate, he said."
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Fighting Bird Flu at Home: Prepare

Postby rapturos » Thu Apr 20, 2006 12:16 am

Title of full article at the following link:

Fighting Bird Flu at Home: How to Prepare for the Possible Pandemic


Some excerpts:

"Tom Skinner, a public affairs officer for the CDC, tells WebMD that the CDC believes individuals should have an emergency preparedness plan for all purposes, including the bird flu, should it come.

“Remember, the confusion after Hurricane Katrina?” Woodson asks. “Multiply that -- the emptied stores, stranded people, lack of transportation, services, and supplies -- times every state and probably every continent.”

You couldn’t ride it out for a few weeks -- the flu would probably come in waves, and even come back to an area, according to Woodson.

Both Woodson and the government are operating on the assumption that a vaccine, though in the works, probably will not be ready by the time the virus got cranking. Supplies might be scanty compared with need in a genuine pandemic.

The antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, may or may not work against bird flu, although the government is trying to assemble 20 million doses.

Skinner warns of social disruptions if the virus starts leaping from person to person."

"The CDC also has put up a web site helping people to prepare for this possibility. It’s http://www.pandemicflu.gov."

"Woodson advises his patients to prepare to stay home unless they are really severely ill. In other words, we are back to pioneer days.

Extrapolating from past viruses, Woodson says statistics suggest, although this is not a sure thing, that some people will not contract bird flu, should it go transmissible. No one knows exactly why, but they could be immune. According to these calculations, some will get it and will be very ill and contagious. Others may get a light case or no case, but will show antibodies, meaning it got into their system and they have formed antibodies against the virus.

The well people will take care of the sick. And a lot of this care will probably be done at home.

“This is flu,” Woodson says. “You can do a lot of care for people using low-tech means.”

On its web site, the CDC lists supplies to have on hand, including over-the-counter painkillers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) for headaches and muscle pain, and antidiarrheal medicine. Plenty of cleansing agents, such as hand cleaners and detergent, also are listed.

The CDC recommends stocking nonperishables such as:

--Canned foods

--Protein or fruit bars

--Dry cereal

--Dried fruit

--Bottled water

--Baby food

--Pet food

Also on the CDC list: flashlights, batteries, portable radio, manual can opener, garbage bags, diapers, and toilet paper.

Skinner recommends having a supply of your prescription drugs as well.

To these Woodson would add crackers, Gatorade, and other foods good for sickness.

“I think stockpiling is a grand idea,” says planner Kalina. Skinner says he has large stocks of canned food and bottled water at home.

Woodson also says some people might also want to consider:

--An alternative power source

--Organizing your neighborhood. If everyone in a house is sick, Woodson says, would the neighbors help out -- or could you help them? He also has bought some medical supplies not only for his family, but his neighbors."

"Even without a "Mad Max" scenario with the breakdown of society, Woodson says many people, perhaps the young and the elderly, may not be able to fight off the virus and will weaken within a few days.

Well people should steer clear of the sick if possible.

Skinner urges that well children be kept away from sick kids. Kids should also cover their coughs and wash their hands frequently. This goes for adults, too. The time to start this training is now.

“Of 100 people, only three will die with proper at-home care, in my opinion,” Woodson says."
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Tyson Again Pares Outlook on Bird Flu Fears

Postby rapturos » Thu Apr 20, 2006 12:26 am

Full title of article and link:

"Tyson Again Pares Its Outlook as Bird Flu Fears Hurt Exports"

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1145502 ... ts_news_us

Some excerpts:

"Tyson Foods Inc., bruised by plunging demand for chicken in countries stricken by bird flu, slashed its earnings outlook for the second time in two months.

Tyson, which is the nation's biggest producer of chicken and beef, said yesterday that it expects to generate anywhere from a loss of $89.5 million, or 25 cents a share, to a profit of $35.8 million, or 10 cents a share, for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

The last time Tyson finished any fiscal year in the red was 1994, which was due then to the write-off of a seafood operation.

Like other U.S. poultry producers, Tyson is struggling because it depends upon foreign consumers to buy about 12% of its annual chicken production. Many consumers in Europe have sharply cut their consumption of chicken amid the spread there of the deadly Asian H5N1 strain of influenza in wild birds and poultry. In rare cases, people in Asia have contracted the virus by eating infected poultry.

The slump in U.S. chicken exports in recent months is causing a price-depressing glut of chicken at home. The price of a boneless, skinless chicken breast is 29% lower than a year earlier and now the lowest in decades. Likewise, prices of legs and thighs are down 32% from a year earlier.

"While we expected tough and uncertain conditions in the protein market, it has been far more difficult than we previously projected," John Tyson, chairman and chief executive, said in a company statement.

Tyson shares have dropped 20% so far this year as the virus has spread from Asia into Western Europe and Africa."
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Study: U.S. Couldn't Slow Flu Pandemic

Postby rapturos » Thu Apr 27, 2006 12:48 am

Below is the link to the full article:

http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/conditio ... index.html

Some excerpts:

"U.S. lags behind Europe in preparedness, researchers say"

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- A mostly unprepared United States could do little to slow pandemic flu if it hits anytime soon, according to a new computer model.

And Britain is only a bit better off, the same study suggests.

If the U.S. government does nothing, a deadly global flu outbreak is likely to strike a third of the population, according to the results of a computer simulation published in Thursday's journal Nature. "

"If government acts fast enough and has enough antiviral medicine to use as a preventive -- and the United States doesn't right now -- the number could drop to about 28 percent of the population, the study found.

"Both cases we came up with were very pessimistic," said lead author Neil Ferguson of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College in London. "There is no single magic bullet for stopping pandemic flu."

"Combining use of the antiviral Tamiflu with school closings could reduce the disease's toll a bit, Ferguson said. But efforts to stop flu from entering U.S. borders -- usually on planes with sick passengers -- won't work, he said. At most, such efforts can buy a couple of weeks' delay before the disease sets in, he said."

"It would have to be a very weak pandemic strain for us to be able to stop it right now," he said in an interview this week. "Most likely we wouldn't be completely prepared."

"If the United States were like Britain and had enough preventive drugs for one-quarter of the population, computer models show that the number of people getting sick would drop from about 102 million to about 84 million in America, Ferguson said."

"However, right now the United States has only enough medicine on hand for about 5 million people, or about 1.7 percent of the population, according to the Department of Health and Human Services."

"Twenty-five percent doesn't go very far, and we don't have anywhere near that," said study co-author Donald Burke, professor of international health and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University's School of Public Health. "If it does occur before we have enough drug and enough vaccine, then the epidemic will have a substantial impact."
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Don't give in to Bird Flu fatigue, warn experts

Postby rapturos » Thu Apr 27, 2006 1:09 am

Below is the link to the full article:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wir ... id=1891207

Some excerpts:

"GENEVA (Reuters) - The world must prepare for a long-term fight against bird flu and not give in to fatigue that seems to have set in, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official warned."

""Organizations and countries are pretty exhausted by this. Yet it is clear we are in the middle of a long-term fight," Fukuda told Reuters in an interview in his Geneva office."

""All of those things that we had to do when there was so much energy being put in a year or two ago, that has to be sustained. I think those are hard things to do when there is a collective weariness in dealing with this agent," Fukuda said."

"In terms of the potential of the virus to evolve and become a pandemic virus, it's not really so much the spread of the virus out there, but the ability of this virus to persist and to infect a large number of birds and different species," he said.

"It basically means that this virus has a good ability to stay around. That is what increases the risk that this virus can continue to evolve and gain transmissibility properties it would need to develop into a pandemic virus."

"The WHO rates the level of pandemic threat at phase three on a scale of six, meaning there is so far no or very limited human-to-human transmission. Fukuda said that there was no evidence pointing to escalation to the next level."

" Awareness that bird flu is not just a regional but a global problem had grown in recent months, he said. "So in a way, Europe is in the same boat as is Africa, as is Asia."

This had spurred authorities to build resources to confront bird flu — including better surveillance and laboratory testing, and efforts to control the virus in poultry."

"When the virus moved into Africa it became very clear to us that the potential for the virus to move quickly, ahead of our efforts to establish surveillance, is very real," he said."

"If at some point we see human cases identified in Africa, it is not going to be a surprise. But I think that a lot of those steps that have to be put in motion are being put in motion," he added."
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Postby scrivener » Thu Apr 27, 2006 7:19 am

Thanks for the great links...

It's certainly a subject of great interest, but I'm wondering: How worried are you? How worried do you think we all should be?
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Could go either way, I think

Postby rapturos » Tue May 02, 2006 12:19 am

Well, on the one hand, nothing at all could happen since scientists appear to be divided about the prospects of the current bird flu becoming a human-to-human variety and how soon that might be expected to occur. But I perceive that preoccupation as a simply secular concern. My own leaning is of the "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come" category. Now I know that many might groan at this statement but I believe God is sending a Boy Scouts motto type "be prepared" message on several levels. Certainly the world at large is preparing a response to a growing number of global threats that are being treated with great seriousness. Then our own country is preparing for what we feel might threaten the nation, including economically. And my own place of employment is drawng its plans. But ultimately I believe the message is spiritual: are we prepared in our own souls for what could be approaching?

"If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?" Jeremiah 12:5

"Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" Proverbs 27:1

"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." 1 Thessalonians 5:4

Oh, that we would all be spiritual Boy Scouts!
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AP: Government Drafts Pandemic Flu Plan

Postby rapturos » Tue May 02, 2006 12:30 am

The link to the full article is included below:


Some excerpts:

"WASHINGTON May 2, 2006 (AP)— Employers should have plans to keep workers at least three feet apart, colleges should consider which dormitories could be used to quarantine the sick, and flight crews should have surgical masks to put on coughing travelers under a draft of the government's pandemic flu plan obtained by The Associated Press.

The Bush administration forecasts massive disruptions if bird flu or some other super-strain of influenza arises in the United States. A response plan scheduled to be released at the White House on Wednesday warns employers that as much as 40 percent of the work force could be off the job and says every segment of society must prepare.

"The collective response of 300 million Americans will significantly influence the shape of the pandemic and its medical, social and economic outcomes," says an undated 228-page draft version of the report that had not been finalized. "Institutions in danger of becoming overwhelmed will rely on the voluntarism and sense of civic and humanitarian duty of ordinary Americans."

An outbreak could lead to a variety of restrictions on movement in and around the country, including limiting the number of international flights and quarantining exposed travelers. But the government does not foresee closing U.S. borders to fight the spread of flu, in part because it would only slow the pandemic's spread by a few weeks and because it would have such significant consequences for the economy and foreign affairs.

It's impossible to predict when the next pandemic will strike, or how great its toll might be. But concern is rising that the Asian bird flu, called the H5N1 strain, might lead to one if it eventually starts spreading easily from person to person. "
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National Strategy for Influenza Pandemic

Postby rapturos » Wed May 03, 2006 11:08 pm

Well, I guess it's official now:

Link to the full text of the National Strategy for Influenza Pandemic is below:


Be aware: it's two hundred and thirty four pages long. That's enough to scare you right there.
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All the Bird Flu news you can handle (and more)

Postby rapturos » Thu May 04, 2006 12:07 am

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