While the world's attention has been distracted by the dramatic fight
over the fate of the E.U. Constitution, among other things, a potential
global bird flu pandemic is still quiety brewing away in China.
Here are the latest reports and warnings - including the first national
exercises for the feared (and apparently inevitable) explosive
In addition to these news stories, see also:
'The Coming Global 'Bird Flu' Pandemic - Warnings Increase As China
Claims A Cure'
'The Deadly 1918 Flu - The Elite's Instrument Of Global De-Population?'
'SARS And Flu - News Reports And Pandemic Alerts'
The Coming Flu Pandemic: 'Deadly flu virus shipped worldwide by
You'll find a complete index of these and other essential news stories
on the 'Current News You Need To Know On The Collapse Of The U.S.
Dollar, The Declining U.S. Economy, The Rise Of China, And The New
World Order' page at http://www.nwointelligence.com/newsitem.htm , which
is updated daily.
Risk of bird flu 'higher than ever'
Brisbane Courier Mail, Australia
2 June, 2005.
THE risk of avian influenza, or bird flu, entering northern Australia
through the Northern Territory is higher than ever, Menzies School of
Health Research's Bart Currie said yesterday.
And he predicts up to 44,000 people could die within eight weeks if the
disease hit our shores without a vaccine to prevent its spread.
Professor Currie, who is the infectious diseases physician at Royal
Darwin Hospital, was speaking at the Charles Darwin Symposium Series
He said bird flu was Australia's No. 1 communicable disease threat and
the likelihood of the disease spreading was now at its highest.
"There are two billion domestic ducks in Asia," he said. "And the ducks
are the ultimate source because it comes from wild birds
into domestic ducks so the risk of it happening is higher than ever.
"Sooner or later it will mutate into something much more dangerous to
He said the Federal Government was taking the disease threat seriously,
as was the Territory Government.
Professor Currie said the threat to the NT was from people coming in
from South-East Asia.
"We are worried that someone could arrive who is highly infectious with
this new virulent flu, land in Darwin Airport having infected the
people on the plane, who then disperse it to the northern suburbs
through their families.
"Within a week or two of that person landing in Darwin we could have a
major outbreak on our hands.
"The impact on hospital infrastructure will be greater than any other
health threat ever experienced."
Professor Currie also spoke of the potential threat of Japanese
encephalitis outbreak in the NT through mosquitoes carried by monsoonal
winds from Papua New Guinea.
National exercise prepares for bird flu
The Age, Australia,
June 3, 2005
Australia's preparedness for a bird flu outbreak will be tested in a
national exercise later this year.
Agriculture Minister Warren Truss and Health Minister Tony Abbott
announced that Exercise Eleusis will involve a hypothetical scenario to
test how well agriculture and health departments can work together to
identify, contain and eradicate an animal disease which can be
transferred to humans.
The scenario will be played out between November 29 and December 1.
Mr Abbott said avian influenza - a disease carried by birds - had
killed 53 people and led to the destruction of millions of birds in
"WHO (the World Health Organisation) has said Australia is as well
prepared as any country in the world to respond to avian flu," Mr
Abbott said in a statement.
"This exercise provides an ideal opportunity for health authorities to
work through our national response plans in close collaboration with
our counterparts in agriculture.
"Avian influenza is a real threat to Australia, and has the potential
to significantly damage our agriculture industries and affect human
Mr Truss said it was important that people working with birds remained
vigilant and reported anything unusual to agriculture authorities.
Bird flu response put to the test in SA
ABC Online, Australia,
30 May, 2005
South Australia's ability to cope with an outbreak of avian bird flu is
being put to the test, in a simulated emergency disease outbreak
Exercise 'Adventurous Goose' will involve more than 125 people over
four days, and comes ahead of a national simulation later this year.
The state's chief vet Robin Vandegraaff believes the state is better
prepared than five years ago, but there is always more to learn.
"I'm actually quite confident that we'll be able to demonstrate
effectiveness here, but of course we're aiming to expose any weaknesses
we have with the view to concentrating them, targeting them and
improving them for the future," he said.
Secrecy of avian flu plan criticized
By Bill Zlatos,
Thursday, June 2, 2005
The state has a plan to deal with a possible flu pandemic, but it's a
secret -- and that could be dangerous, warns a public health expert.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health must publicize its plan on who
gets first dibs on the limited supply of vaccine if there is an
outbreak of avian influenza, said David Piposzar, former executive
director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at the University
"If we don't understand the priority or basis for making these kinds of
ethical decisions when we have a shortage of medication, then we all
may do something that is not in the interest of the common good," he
said. "Self-interest will reign. Chaos will reign. The social structure
will break down."
His comment Wednesday is in response to the state Health Department's
decision not to disclose its plan for dealing with an avian flu
The plans would be implemented if the virulent avian influenza A, also
called H5N1, spreads to this country. Since May 19, the federal Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention has counted 97 human cases of avian
influenza A in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. More than half of those
infected, 53 people, have died.
People have little natural immunity to H5N1.
"If these H5N1 viruses gain the ability for efficient and sustained
transmission between humans ... an influenza pandemic could result,
with high rates of illness and death," the CDC reports.
Delaware and New Jersey disclose their influenza response plans,
according to a report in The Patriot-News newspaper in Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania and Ohio do not. Maryland has released 22 pages of its
"There are many different opinions on whether the plan should be public
or kept secret," said Troy Thompson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania
Health Department. "But we're not in a position to debate what's right
for other states.
"It's not necessarily that we're keeping anything 'top secret.' It's
more of an issue of making sure this issue doesn't get misused."
The department is concerned that terrorists could use information such
as where the vaccine is stored and where the vaccinations will be given
to disrupt the plan.
"We don't want to put that out there and jeopardize the security of our
information," Thompson said.
Piposzar understands the need for keeping sensitive information like
that secret. But he contends the rest of the plan should be disclosed,
publicly debated and that health officials should conduct drills to see
how the plan works.
"I want evidence that we as a nation can mount the kind of program to
rapidly immunize or provide medication to our citizens in a short
period of time," he said.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is developing its own plan
for a potential avian flu outbreak.
"I am interested to know what the state plan is," said Dr. Loren Roth,
who heads UPMC's task force. He also is senior vice president, Quality
Care, and chief medical officer of UPMC.
Roth said it is his understanding that the Pennsylvania plan is similar
to the national plan, which is posted on the Web site of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.
The national plan echoes the vaccine rationing that went on during the
early part of the past flu season, when a U.S. supplier's plant in
England was shut down because authorities couldn't vouch for the purity
of the doses. The plan calls for reserving vaccine for priority groups,
including those involved in health care and those in professions at
higher risk of infection. Vaccine also would first go to age groups
more susceptible to infection and to patients with specific conditions.
Roth said the drug oseltamivir, known by its brand name Tamiflu, might
be effective in treating or preventing avian flu. But it and similar
vaccines are in short supply.
If there is a limited supply of medicine and many people are infected,
he said, a plan would have to address the amount of available medicine,
where it is and how quickly more can be made and shipped to suppliers.
Can Tamiflu save us from bird flu?
By Debora Mackenzie,
NewScientist.com news service,
2 June 2005
AMID ominous signs that H5N1 bird flu is acquiring the ability to
spread more readily among people, many health authorities are pinning
their hopes on Tamiflu, the only available antiviral drug known to
block the replication of the virus. But can the drug really help stop
an emerging flu pandemic?
Even if efforts to develop a vaccine are successful (New Scientist, 26
March, p 10), it could take many months to produce the billions of
doses needed in the event of a pandemic. By then it might be too late.
So in the meantime, the World Health Organization is stepping up its
efforts to acquire a massive stockpile of Tamiflu (oseltamivir), which
it hopes will at least slow any emerging flu pandemic.
Recent cases of H5N1 in northern Vietnam have caused concern because of
signs that the virus is changing. It has become less lethal and is
occurring in larger clusters than past cases. Last month studies also
revealed that the virus is diverging genetically.
Tamiflu can save lives if it is given early, no more than two days
after symptoms first appear. But last month the WHO reported that a
patient in Vietnam had a strain of H5N1 resistant to Tamiflu. So could
the drug become useless before the pandemic even begins?
Luckily the resistant viruses may be poor at spreading, according to
Fred Hayden of the University of Virginia, a leading expert on
antiviral therapy. The mutation that made the Vietnam virus drug
resistant also occurs in a normal human flu strain, making the virus a
hundred times less contagious. In Japan, which uses Tamiflu for
ordinary flu epidemics, the mutation appears in 16 per cent of treated
children, yet such viruses almost never go on to infect others.
It is probable that the same will be true of any drug-resistant strains
of H5N1. This assumption needs to be tested as soon as possible, Hayden
But even if Tamiflu remains effective in most cases, it might not be
enough to stop a pandemic. The real difficulty with the WHO's antiviral
plan, Hayden says, will be finding and treating all the cases and
contacts in time. "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try," he adds.
Ira Longini of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, says much depends
on how fast the virus spreads. If each infected person passes the virus
to fewer than two other people on average, then isolating and treating
all cases and their contacts with antivirals could slow or even stop an
epidemic, he calculates.
But health workers would not be able to keep up with the virus if sick
people infect between two and three others, as happened in the 1918 flu
pandemic. Drug stockpiles would still help save lives, Longini says,
but would not halt the outbreak.
The best chance of the antiviral strategy succeeding will be in the
early stages, when the virus might still spread slowly. The trouble,
however, is that most stockpiles of Tamiflu are being acquired by rich
countries in Europe and North America, not poor countries such as
Vietnam, where any H5N1 pandemic is most likely to start.
What's more, Tamiflu is in short supply. Seventeen countries have
ordered stockpiles of the drug from the Swiss company Roche, which
holds the patent, and 10 more are said to be discussing purchases. The
UK's order for 14.6 million five-day courses of treatment will take two
years to fulfil, for instance. The drug is made from a plant in limited
supply, and Roche is still trying to develop methods for synthesising
it from scratch.
There are two other drugs that target the same enzyme as Tamiflu. But
zanamivir (Relenza) must be taken by inhalation and is not widely
available, while peramivir was dropped by US company Johnson & Johnson,
which thought it unlikely to be profitable. BioCryst, the small Alabama
firm that created peramivir, is still trying to find a new partner.
In Asia, H5N1 had already evolved resistance to another class of
antivirals, including amantadine, by 2003. These resistant strains are
just as deadly and contagious as non-resistant strains. "The Chinese
have been incorporating amantadine in their chicken feed, so we have
lost that as a treatment," says Robert Webster of St Jude Children's
Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. This also suggests that
Chinese farmers have been fighting bird flu outbreaks since before
2003, although China officially reported its first outbreaks only last
Bird flu warning on medicine
By Matthew Lee,
Hong Kong Standard,
June 4, 2005
Taking anti-influenza medicine needlessly may hasten the spread of bird
flu by decreasing the drug's force against the virus, a doctor warned.
Public awareness of bird flu - which the World Health Organization
predicts could infect 30 million and kill 7.5 million people worldwide
- has been lowering in the past few months while the risks remain just
as high, Center for Health Protection controller Leung Pak-yin said
He warned against taking Tamiflu, which is seen as the last defense
against the H5N1 virus, as a preventive medication for common flu.
``If people take Tamiflu whenever they catch common flu, when a flu
pandemic comes the virus may already be drug-resistant, and that will
affect the whole picture of infection control,'' Leung said.
Tamiflu and Relenza are believed to be the two most effective
medications to treat both influenza A and B viruses, including the bird
The government has earmarked an extra HK$245 million to increase stocks
of Tamiflu to 20 million tablets by the end of the year.
There were three flu pandemics in the 20th century - in 1918, 1957 and
``When a flu pandemic hits, there will usually be a second or third
wave attack,'' Leung said.
``If we used up most of our stock even before the pandemic, we would
have no defense when the virus launched its next round of attacks.''
He anticipated that about 15 percent of Hong Kong's population, or
about one million people, would be infected if the widely expected bird
flu pandemic hits locally.
``Unlike Sars, we can hardly avoid contacting the flu virus when the
``Instead, we aim to keep the infected patient numbers low and protect
medical staff against the infection, so that we can delay the damage
and buy time for more powerful medications or vaccines to be
developed,'' he said.
But Leung also said there is no sign that the H5N1 virus is mutating
into a form capable of being transmitted between humans, or of human
flu virus H3N2 mutating to contain genes of bird flu virus. Either
scenario would be vital to the pandemic.
A list of possible isolation camp sites will be compiled later,
including locations that were used during the Sars crisis, and vacant
buildings. If there is massive infection, home isolation will be
The center's consultant, Thomas Tsang, also revealed that the trend of
human flu infection seems to strengthening. Expecting the trend to
continue for the next two weeks, he warned that it could extend to
``Usually, the trend drops in April and May,'' Tsang said. ``But we are
seeing an upward trend [and] will continue monitoring if the number of
infection keeps rising.''
Leung was reported recently as saying the reason for this upward trend
is similar to that in 2001, when three kinds of flu virus were active
at the same time - H3N2, H1N1 and influenza B.
The average consultation rates for flu among private doctors and public
doctors were 90 and 12 per 1,000, respectively, in the week ending May
Most of the recent cases have been the California strain of the H3N2
``There is no 100 percent protection,'' said Tsang. ``Maintaining good
personal hygiene remains the best line of defense.''
A primer on bird flu
The Manila Bulletin,
I keep reading about the potential of bird flu causing a flu pandemic?
How can a disease that affects birds cause diseases in humans? Please
elaborate on this topic and on the bird flu epidemic that is going on
around Asia. - Gina L., Angeles City
Bird flu or avian influenza is a viral disease that normally affects
only birds, and occasionally pigs. All species of birds are susceptible
to the disease, but most especially domestic poultry.
Several strains (subtypes) of the influenza virus can cause bird flu.
Some of these strains cause only mild illness, but a few, like the H5N1
strain, the causative agent of the ongoing bird flu epidemic in Asia,
causes "highly pathogenic avian influenza," a highly contagious form of
the disease that has a mortality rate approaching 100 percent.
An outbreak of "highly pathogenic avian influenza" can be devastating
to the economy of a country, but of graver concern is the possibility
of the virus crossing the species barrier and jumping to humans, a
situation that has happened before. The great flu pandemic of 1918-1919
that spread around the world in less than six months and which killed
an estimated 40-50 million people was traced by experts to a bird flu
virus that acquired the capacity to infect humans.
The ongoing bird flu epidemic started to affect several Asian countries
in December 2003. To date, the disease has affected millions of poultry
and other birds in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China, Japan,
South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia. The outbreak
has been contained in some of these countries, notably Japan, South
Korea and Malaysia, but is still continuing in the others. The
Philippines, fortunately, has remained bird flu-free.
There is mounting evidence that the strain (H5N1) of the virus that is
causing the current bird flu outbreak has the potential to trigger a
worldwide flu pandemic among humans. The virus has in fact infected
humans already. As of May 19, 2005, there have been 97 confirmed cases
(with 53 deaths) of the flu in humans. The cases were reported by
Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, with Vietnam accounting for 76 cases
and 37 deaths.
Up to the present, all the people who have developed the illness have
been infected by birds, there is no concrete evidence yet that the
virus has already acquired the capacity for human to human
transmission, a prerequisite for rapid spread of the disease among
humans and that can result in a pandemic. But many experts say it is
just a matter of time before this occurs. The avian and human influenza
viruses can exchange genes when a person is simultaneously infected
with both viruses. If and when this gene swapping occurs, a completely
new subtype of the virus that is transmissible from human to human will
Can the world prevent an imminent influenza pandemic? Many experts
doubt if this can still be done, but the World Health Organization
(WHO) is saying that if the right actions are taken quickly, an
influenza pandemic can still be averted.
The most effective way to ward off an influenza pandemic is to reduce
human exposure to the bird flu virus. This is achieved through the
rapid detection of poultry outbreaks and the immediate employment of
control measures such as the culling of all infected or exposed poultry
stock, and the proper disposal of carcasses.
Another effective preventive measure is the restriction on the movement
of birds within and between countries. The Philippines has contributed
its share with regard to this measure. The Philippine government has
banned the import of poultry from countries affected by bird flu.
Recently, the Bureau of Animal Industry culled about 500 parrots
imported from Indonesia. The parrots were for export to Europe but were
seized by Philippine coastguards on their way to Manila from Saranggani
(Philippine Indonesia order).
The WHO has also urged vaccine laboratories to develop a vaccine
against the influenza H5N1 virus as soon as possible. The currently
available influenza vaccines are not effective against the H5N1 strain
of the virus, but they have some value in averting a pandemic. When
administered to high-risk groups, such as poultry cullers, they prevent
the possibility of a human becoming infected with human and avian
viruses at the same time, a situation that will enable the avian and
human viruses to exchange genes and give rise to a strain that is
capable of human to human transmission.
(Note: Address inquiries on health matters to Dr. Eduardo G. Gonzales,
DLSU College of Medicine, Dasmariñas, Cavite 4114)
Bird Flu: Danger of a Global Pandemic
May 30, 2005
LONDON - Scientists warned on May 25 that not enough is being done to
combat a strain of avian flu in Asia that many fear could trigger the
next global flu pandemic.
The World Health Organization has said the spate of human bird flu
cases in Vietnam this year suggests the deadly virus may be mutating in
ways that are making it more capable of being passed between humans who
so far are not immune to the infection.
Here are some key questions and facts about bird flu.
What Is Bird Flu?
* Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by strains
of the influenza virus. The disease, which was first identified in
Italy more than 100 years ago, occurs worldwide.
All birds are thought to be susceptible to infection with avian
influenza, though some species are more resistant than others.
* Infection causes a wide spectrum of symptoms in birds, ranging from
mild illness to a highly contagious and rapidly fatal disease resulting
in severe epidemics. The latter is known as "highly pathogenic avian
influenza." This form is characterized by sudden onset, severe
illness and rapid death, with a mortality that can approach 100
Fifteen sub-types of influenza virus are known to infect birds, thus
providing an extensive reservoir of influenza viruses potentially
circulating in bird populations.
Is Bird Flu Harmful to Humans?
* Human fatalities from avian influenza were unknown before 1997, when
six people in Hong Kong died after being infected with the H5N1 strain
of the disease.
But the destruction of Hong Kong's entire poultry population-around
1.5 million birds-within three days, reduced opportunities for
further direct transmission to humans, and may have averted a pandemic.
In April 2003, a Dutch veterinarian who had been working on a farm
infected with bird flu became ill with an H7 strain of the disease and
died of pneumonia. The vet did not take medication against avian and
Human Casualties from Bird Flu
* 37 Vietnamese have died since late 2003. The disease has also killed
12 Thais and four Cambodians.
Could Bird Flu Become a Human Pandemic?
* Although avian flu is very infectious in birds, it does not spread
easily among humans. There is a danger, however, that an avian virus
may mix with a human one and form a new disease.
The new virus could share genetic material from both viruses, being
highly infectious like human flu and dangerously fatal like the avian
variety. * According to a WHO report earlier in May, the spate of human
bird flu cases in Vietnam this year suggested the deadly virus may be
mutating in ways that are making it more capable of being passed
The finding points to the greatest fear of health experts that the
H5N1 virus could unleash a pandemic and kill millions around the globe
if ever it gained the ability to be transmitted among humans
* New influenza strains have caused pandemics, most recently in
1956-1957 and 1967-1968, killing a combined 4.5 million people.
Bird flu death toll five times what had been reported, China
29 May, 2005.
An official from China's agricultural department said the death toll
from bird flu in the West of China is five times greater than official
reports had stated. The number of migratory birds killed was much
larger than people had thought, he said. He added that the reports
refer only to the death of birds and that no humans have died.
Rumours are rife among experts and throughout the internet that there
has been a massive cover-up. People are saying nobody really knows how
bad the situation really is/was. Rumours abound that many humans have
Officials now say more than 1,000 migratory birds have died after being
infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu. The H5N1 is the most lethal
one. Official reports had talked about just 178 birds, all of them
geese, perishing in Qinghai Lake - now, they say the real number is
China has not reported one human death from bird flu - even though
nearby countries such as Vietnam have had 38 deaths. In total, the
number of human deaths from bird flu in South East Asia has totalled
Health experts say that in order to tackle a possible pandemic which
could spread to humans and become a human-to-human transmissible
disease, we need accurate, reliable information. If authorities are not
able to provide reliable figures it is virtually impossible to know
what to do and when and where to do it. A pandemic could kill millions
and millions of people throughout the globe.
Prepare for pandemic, expert warns
Global economy could shut down within days
'The loss of human life will be devastating'
By Elaine Carey,Medical Reporter,
5 May, 2005
The next influenza pandemic will shut down the global economy within
days, leaving the world in chaos, yet industrial nations are doing
nothing to prevent it, says an article in the New England Journal of
"We need bold and timely leadership at the highest levels of the
governments in the developed world," writes Dr. Michael Osterholm,
director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at
the University of Minnesota, in today's issue.
"The loss of human life even in a mild pandemic will be devastating and
the cost of a world economy in shambles for several years can only be
Osterholm, a leading expert on infectious diseases, says the world's
nations have become so interdependent for food, drugs and other
supplies that a pandemic that would shut down international travel
would be devastating.
"When you shut down transportation ... it will cause disruption within
hours and chaos within days," he said. "Look at what SARS did to
Toronto and that was so limited in terms of duration."
Even if Canada could produce enough influenza vaccine for its entire
population, "the economy will tank because the rest of the world won't
have it and the rest of the world supplies a great deal of resources
and goods to Canada," he said. "It is not enough to have a national
interest. You've got to have international interest."
But most of the developed world is not listening, he said.
"This is not a major issue on the G-8 agenda and it should,
unfortunately move right to the front."
Dr. Paul Gully, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said in an
interview it would be impossible to shut down international borders if
a pandemic struck because countries have become so interdependent.
And past pandemics have shown that shutting borders doesn't stop the
spread of disease anyhow, said Gully of the Canadian Public Health
Agency. The 1918 pandemic spread very quickly even though there was
limited air travel.
"It's going to spread anyway and we don't think closing down the air
system, closing borders, would in fact be possible," he said. "But we
have to deal with that and discuss it and agree to that beforehand."
Interest in pandemics was really spurred by SARS with the sudden
recognition that infectious diseases could have such an economic
impact, he said.
Canada is involved in efforts to develop an international plan to deal
with a pandemic and also to assist Third World countries deal with one,
Osterholm said a worldwide co-operative project has to be launched
aimed at producing and delivering a pandemic vaccine for everyone in
But even if that started tonight, it would still take years to develop
enough capacity to produce it, he said.
"Frankly the crisis could for all we know have started last night in
some village in Southeast Asia," he said. "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."
But Gully said even if a vaccine could be developed for the globe, most
Third World nations don't have the ability to deliver it to their
"The challenge in the developing world is having a health system
infrastructure to utilize it ... that is a question mark."
A pandemic vaccine can't really be developed beforehand because
scientists don't know exactly what virus it will be until it hits, he
"We can go so far but we certainly can't develop a vaccine and
stockpile it. That's the nature of the beast."
Osterholm and other health experts say it's not a matter of if but when
the next pandemic hits. They occur every 30 to 40 years and the last
one hit Hong Kong in 1968, 37 years ago.
If the current H5N1 strain of avian flu virus in northern Vietnam
becomes a pandemic, as many experts predict, it could rival that of
1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people, Osterholm writes.
With the world's current population, that could mean 180 million to 360
million deaths worldwide.
(These news items are posted under 'Fair Use' provisions)
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