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Has Time Run Out?

Commentary: On the monster at our door -- the coming flu pandemic.

By Mike Davis

August 17, 2005

Introduction by Tom Engelhardt

"Follow that chicken" is not one of the more inspiring lines in the history of detective fiction, nor one of the more frightening in the genre of horror. It's perhaps on the level of that classic grade-Z sci-fi film, Night of the Lepus, in which the giant, rampaging, mutant rabbits were just... well, big bunnies. And yet, don't be fooled, the chicken, probably first domesticated in Southeast Asia some 8,000 years ago, might prove the death of many of us, and for its possible depredations, we are painfully unprepared.

In 1918, a flu epidemic emerged from the trenches of World War I's Western Front -- essentially the war?s equivalent of the slums -- and swept across the world (twice) ridding it of somewhere between 25 million and 100 million human beings (the equivalent in today's population terms of possibly upwards of a billion people). There have been flu pandemics since, but none faintly on such a scale. For nearly a decade, epidemiologists, public health officials, and veterinary researchers -- by now, in fact just about the whole global medical/scientific community -- have been warning that such a new pandemic is a frightening possibility, if not a near certainty. At the same time, some of them have been performing prodigious genetic detective work as a mutant flu virus, H5N1, has lodged in the systems of wild fowl in southern China, moved into massed domestic fowl populations nearby, and begun to spread to human beings; all the while still genetically evolving in birds (domestic and wild), swine, and even perhaps people, "looking for" the means to leap not just from bird to bird, or bird to swine, or even from bird to human, but from human to human at a staggering rate.

Nothing could more quickly remind us that we humans are part of nature than a flu pandemic; yet three quite unnatural changes in our world have drastically increased the danger of such a pandemic. A livestock revolution has gathered domestic birds together -- think Tyson chickens -- onto giant corporate farms in prodigious numbers, clustering them into what are essentially giant bird slums, where any new disease is guaranteed to spread more easily. Meanwhile, throughout the third world, impoverished human beings have been gathering in far greater urban concentrations than anything imaginable a century ago, and any of these are potential hatcheries for a pandemic. Finally, globalization and global air travel have made the spread of a pandemic, once started, almost instantaneous. In the meantime, H5N1, spreads by an older set of air paths -- avian migration routes -- having just made it to Russia. And we wait.

What makes this an especially dangerous situation in the U.S. is that the Bush administration has largely chosen to redirect its public-health budget to preparations for "biowar" possibilities -- smallpox, Ebola Fever, and the like -- which may never endanger us, while scanting the kind of biowar (think Hitchcock's The Birds, not Osama bin Laden) that is actually likely to do so. Between the administration's priorities and Big Pharma's urge to go for the profits -- flu shots are unprofitable products -- America's public health structure is in increasingly woeful shape and certainly, despite endless warnings about what might come, in no shape at all to deal with a nationwide flu pandemic.

All of this, by the way, I know only because Mike Davis has just published a must-read, brief new book, Monster at our Door, The Global Threat of Avian Flu, a scientific detective story, a tale of potential horror, and a sociological thriller about our 21st century world. This is a situation with which we should all be acquainted. Even the President evidently belated agrees. Along with Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar (about which I won't even speculate) and a history of salt, he's taken John M. Barry's account of the 1918 flu pandemic, The Great Influenza off to Crawford to read. Maybe I should send a copy of the Davis book down to Crawford as well and Cindy Sheehan could present it to him at their meeting.

Recently, avian flu, which for some years had flown below the headlines and nested on the inside pages of our newspapers, has hit the front-page. (On this issue, as Davis points out, the New York Times has been especially good.) The latest headlines -- about a potential vaccine for this possible pandemic -- undoubtedly caused a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, relief is not actually in sight as Mike Davis explains below, offering his latest update on the monster at our door.

Has Time Run Out?
The Coming Avian Flu Pandemic

By Mike Davis

Deadly avian flu is on the wing.

The first bar-headed geese have already arrived at their wintering grounds near the Cauvery River in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. Over the next ten weeks, 100,000 more geese, gulls, and cormorants will leave their summer home at Lake Qinghai in western China, headed for India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and, eventually, Australia.

An unknown number of these beautiful migrating birds will carry H5N1, the avian flu subtype that has killed 61 people in Southeast Asia and which the World Health Organization (WHO) fears is on the verge of mutating into a pandemic form like that which killed 50 to 100 million people in the fall of 1918. As the birds arrive in the wetlands of South Asia, they will excrete the virus into the water where it risks spreading to migrating waterfowl from Europe as well as to domestic poultry. In the worst-case scenario, this will bring avian flu to the doorstep of the dense slums of Dhaka, Kolkata, Karachi, and Mumbai.

The avian flu outbreak at Lake Qinghai was first identified by Chinese wildlife officials at the end of April. Initially it was confined to a small islet in the huge salt lake, where geese suddenly began to act spasmodically, then to collapse and die. By mid-May it had spread through the lake's entire avian population, killing thousands of birds. An ornithologist called it "the biggest and most extensively mortal avian influenza event ever seen in wild birds."

Chinese scientists, meanwhile, were horrified by the virulence of the new strain: when mice were infected they died even quicker than when injected with "genotype Z," the fearsome H5N1 variant currently killing farmers and their children in Vietnam.

Yi Guan, leader of a famed team of avian flu researchers who have been fighting the pandemic menace since 1997, complained to the British Guardian in July about the lackadaisical response of Chinese authorities to the unprecedented biological conflagration at Lake Qinghai.

"They have taken almost no action to control this outbreak. They should have asked for international support. These birds will go to India and Bangladesh and there they will meet birds that come from Europe." Yi Guan called for the creation of an international task force to monitor the wild bird pandemic, as well as the relaxation of rules that prevent the free movement of foreign scientists to outbreak zones in China.

In a paper published in the British science magazine Nature, Yi Guan and his associates also revealed that the Lake Qinghai strain was related to officially unreported recent outbreaks of H5N1 among birds in southern China. This would not be the first time that Chinese authorities have been charged with covering up an outbreak. They also lied about the nature and extent of the 2003 SARS epidemic, which originated in Guangdong but quickly spread to 25 other countries. As in the case of SARS' whistleblowers, the Chinese bureaucracy is now trying to gag avian-flu scientists, shutting down one of Yi Guan's laboratories at Shantou University and arming the conservative Agriculture Ministry with new powers over research.

Meanwhile, as anxious Indian scientists monitor bird sanctuaries throughout the subcontinent, H5N1 has spread to the outskirts of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet; to western Mongolia; and, most disturbingly, to chickens and wildfowl near the Siberian capital of Novosibirsk.

Despite frantic efforts to cull local poultry, Russian Health Ministry experts have expressed pessimism that the outbreak can be contained on the Asian side of the Urals. Siberian wildfowl migrate every fall to the Black Sea and southern Europe; another flyway leads from Siberia to Alaska and Canada.

In anticipation of this next, and perhaps inevitable, stage in the world journey of avian flu, poultry populations are being tracked in Moscow; Alaskan scientists are studying birds migrating across the Bering Straits, and even the Swiss are looking over their shoulders at the tufted ducks and pochards arriving from Eurasia.

H5N1's human epicenter is also expanding: in mid-July Indonesian authorities confirmed that a father and his two young daughters had died of avian flu in a wealthy suburb of Jakarta. Disturbingly, the family had no known contact with poultry and near panic ensued in the neighborhood as the press speculated about possible human-to-human transmission.

At the same time, five new outbreaks among poultry were reported in Thailand, dealing a terrible blow to the nation's extensive and highly-publicized campaign to eradicate the disease. Meanwhile, as Vietnamese officials renewed their appeal for more international aid, H5N1 was claiming new victims in the country that remains of chief concern to the WHO.

The bottom line is that avian influenza is endemic and probably ineradicable among poultry in Southeast Asia, and now seems to be spreading at pandemic velocity amongst migratory birds, with the potential to reach most of the earth in the next year.

Each new outpost of H5N1 -- whether among ducks in Siberia, pigs in Indonesia, or humans in Vietnam -- is a further opportunity for the rapidly evolving virus to acquire the gene or even simply the protein mutation that it needs to become a mass-killer of humans.

This exponential multiplication of hot spots and silent reservoirs (as among infected but asymptomatic ducks) is why the chorus of warnings from scientists, public-health officials, and finally, governments has become so plangently insistent in recent months.

The new U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt told the Associated Press in early August that an influenza pandemic was now an "absolute certainty," echoing repeated warnings from the World Health Organization that it was "inevitable." Likewise Science magazine observed that expert opinion held the odds of a global outbreak as "100 percent."

In the same grim spirit, the British press revealed that officials were scouring the country for suitable sites for mass mortuaries, based on official fears that avian flu could kill as many as 700,000 Britons. The Blair government is already conducting emergency simulations of a pandemic outbreak ("Operation Arctic Sea") and is reported to have readied "Cobra" -- a cabinet-level working group that coordinates government responses to national emergencies like the recent London bombings from a secret war room in Whitehall -- to deal with an avian flu crisis.

Little of this Churchillian resolve is apparent in Washington. Although a sense of extreme urgency is evident in the National Institutes of Health where the czar for pandemic planning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warns of "the mother of all emerging infections," the White House has seemed even less perturbed by migrating plagues than by wanton carnage in Iraq.

As the President was packing for his long holiday in Texas, the Trust for America's Health was warning that domestic preparations for a pandemic lagged far behind the energetic measures being undertaken in Britain and Canada, and that the administration had failed "to establish a cohesive, rapid and transparent U.S. pandemic strategy."

That increasingly independent operator, Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), had already criticized the administration in an extraordinary (and under-reported) speech at Harvard at the beginning of June. Referring to Washington's failure to stockpile an adequate supply of the crucial anti-viral oseltamivir (or Tamiflu), Frist sarcastically noted that "to acquire more anti-viral agent, we would need to get in line behind Britain and France and Canada and others who have tens of millions of doses on order."

The New York Times on its July 17 editorial page, a May 26 special issue of Nature and the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs have also hammered away at Washington's failure to stockpile enough scarce antivirals -- current inventories cover less than 1% of the U.S. population -- and to modernize vaccine production. Even a few prominent Senate Democrats have stirred into action, although none as boldly as Frist at Harvard.

The Department of Health and Human Services, in response, has sought to calm critics with recent hikes in spending on vaccine research and antiviral stockpiles. There has also been much official and media ballyhoo about the announcement of a series of successful tests in early August of an experimental avian flu vaccine.

But there is no guarantee that the vaccine prototype, based on a "reverse-genetically-engineered" strain of H5N1, will actually be effective against a pandemic strain with different genes and proteins. Moreover, trial success was based upon the administration of two doses plus a booster. Since the government has only ordered 2 million doses of the vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur, this may provide protection for only 450,000 people. As one researcher told Science magazine, "it's a vaccine for the happy few."

At the least, gearing up for larger-scale production will take many months and production itself is limited by the antiquated technology of vaccine manufacture which depends upon a vulnerable and limited supply of fertile chicken eggs. It would also likely mean the curtailment of the production of the annual winter flu vaccine that is so often a lifesaver for many senior citizens.

Likewise, Washington's new orders for antivirals, as Senator Frist predicted, will have to wait in line behind the other customers of Roche's single Tamiflu plant in Switzerland.

In short, it is good news that the vaccine tests were successful, but that does little to change the judgment of the New York Times that "there is not enough vaccine or antiviral medicine available to protect more than a handful of people, and no industrial capacity to produce a lot more of these medicines quickly."

Moreover, the majority of the world, including all the poor countries of South Asia and Africa where, history tells us, pandemics are likely to hit especially hard, will have no access to expensive antivirals or scarce vaccines. It is even doubtful whether the WHO will have the minimal pharmaceuticals to respond to an initial outbreak.

Recent theoretical studies by mathematical epidemiologists in Atlanta and London have raised hopes that a pandemic might be stopped in its tracks if 1 to 3 million doses of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) were available to douse an outbreak in a failsafe radius around the early cases.

After years of effort, however, the WHO has only managed to inventory about 123,000 courses of Tamiflu. Although Roche has promised to donate more, the desperate rush of rich countries to accumulate Tamiflu will be certain to undercut the World Health Organization's stockpile.

As for a universally available "world vaccine," it remains a pipe-dream without new, billion-dollar commitments from the rich countries, above all the United States, and even then, we are probably too late.

"People just don't get it," Dr. Michael Osterholm, the outspoken director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota recently complained. "If we were to begin a Manhattan Project-type response tonight to expand vaccine and drug production, we wouldn't have a measurable impact on the availability of these critical products to sufficiently address a worldwide pandemic for at least several years."

"Several years" is a luxury that Washington has already squandered. The best guess, as the geese head west and south, is that we have almost run out of time. As Shigeru Omi, the Western Pacific director of WHO, told a UN meeting in Kuala Lumpur in early July: "We're at the tipping point."

Mike Davis is the author of the just published Monster at our Door, The Global Threat of Avian Flu (The New Press) and the forthcoming Planet of Slums (Verso).



New case of bird flu found in Japan
08/18/2005 -- 21:55(GMT+7)

Tokyo (VNA) - Japan on August 18 reported a new case of bird flu at a poultry farm at Saitama, North of Tokyo, according to local authorities.

All 98,300 chickens in the farm will be culled, and the transport of fowls and eggs within 5 km of the farm will be banned, they said, adding that they detected antibodies for bird flu when they inspected chickens at the farm.

Last year, Japan killed more than 300,000 fowls as part of its effort to prevent the avian flu virus from spreading. In June, 2005, the country also culled 94,000 chickens after the H5N2 virus was found at a poultry farm on the outskirts of Tokyo.-Enditem



Bird Flu Virus Wings Westwards

By: Deutsche Welle
Published: August 18, 2005 at 07:41
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As bird flu spreads across Russia, authorities confirmed the outbreak is the same strain of the disease that caused human deaths in Asia. Some European countries have adopted tough measures to counter the threat.

Russian health officials have confirmed that the outbreak of bird flu heading westwards through the country is the dangerous H5N1 strain. The latest city to be affected is Chelyabinsk, in the Ural mountains. Across Russia, thousands of contaminated geese, chicken and ducks have already had to be killed.

Authorities have blocked roads and slaughtered birds in the area in an effort to control the outbreak. Chelyabinsk is the sixth region in Russia to have been infected since bird flu was first discovered in mid-July. Mongolia and Kazakhstan have also reported outbreaks.

Deadly strain

H5N1 is the most deadly strain of the bird flu virus, but so far there have been no reports from Russia of humans contracting the disease.

Dick Thompson, communicable diseases spokesman for the World Health Organization, says the odds of this are low, but that the characteristics of the H5N1 strain increase the danger of a human pandemic.

"What we worry about is that it may happen that the virus infects a human, or even a pig, that has a circulating strain of normal influenza, and this normal human influenza will recombine with this avian form," said Thompson, "What will emerge is a strain that the human immune system has never seen before and moves easily from person to person, and that would ignite a pandemic."

Minimizing risks

Although European officials say there is no immediate danger to Europe, they are already moving to minimize the risk of local bird populations becoming infected. Russia's public health chief has warned that as migrating birds leave Russia ahead of winter, they will carry the disease westwards, towards Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

In response to this threat, the Netherlands, which suffered a bird flu outbreak in 2003, has adopted the toughest measures in Europe. On Tuesday, the Dutch Agriculture Ministry issued a directive to farmers to keep all poultry indoors in order to minimize contact with migrating birds from Russia. Last Friday the EU also banned the import of live birds and feathers from Russia and Kazakhstan, although in practice no such trade exists.

Inadequate supplies of anti-virals

Despite the new danger, EU officials said on Tuesday that they have no plan to increase vaccine supplies. Because a pandemic may be caused by a new mutation of the virus, Dick Thompson from the WHO says that vaccines may not be an effective measure against the disease.

"While we do believe that the virus is susceptible to a particular anti-viral, that anti-viral will be in limited supply," he said. "Countries which are depending on medical approaches, vaccines and anti-virals will find that there are actually inadequate supplies to confront a pandemic."

The best European authorities can do at this stage is to try to keep the disease away from local bird populations.



Friday, August 19, 2005. Page 1.
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Chicken Farmers Sneeze at Bird Flu

By Conor Humphries
Staff Writer


Police stopping a car near a sign reading "Quarantine Bird Flu" in the flu-affected village of Oktyabrskoye on Thursday.

The domestic poultry industry is keeping its cool as a lethal strain of bird flu sweeps across the country toward European Russia.

Even as health officials scramble to contain the disease amid reports that it has crossed the Urals, market players say that Russia's centralized, highly regulated meat industry will be able to withstand the outbreak without any serious economic damage.

"I don't see a catastrophe, I see an incident," said Iosif Rogov, board chairman of the Russian Meat Union. "The hundreds of tons that have been affected are not having an effect on production as a whole."

Since the first case of the H5N1 strain of avian flu was spotted in Siberia in July, some 11,000 birds have died from the virus and more than 121,000 have been culled, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry.

However, only one commercial operation -- a relatively small hatchery in the Altai region -- has been affected, Rogov said. The vast majority of the birds killed so far have been on small private farms, and the total death toll represents less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the country's total chicken population of 233 million, according to the Institute of Agricultural Market Studies, or IKAR.

"It is the small producers who have been affected. I don't see a threat for the Russian economy," said Yevgenia Serova, an economist specializing in agriculture at the Institute for the Economy in Transition in Moscow.

Russia's poultry industry has seen double-digit growth rates over the past four years, Serova said, attracting both Russian and foreign investors. However the domestic industry still supplies a bit more than half of the country's $5 billion poultry market, according to IKAR.

"Russia is very different from other countries that have been affected," said Albert Davleyev, Russia director of the U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council.

In Russia, all stages of poultry production typically take place at one location, making the disease easier to keep under control, he said.

In Western Europe, however, the production chain is spread out geographically, making it more susceptible to infection. In the Southeast Asian countries affected by an outbreak in late 2003, most chickens were raised on small private farms.

The same H5N1 strain, which can infect human beings, took the lives of more than 50 people in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. The outbreak led to the culling of more than 140 million birds at an estimated cost of up to $12 billion.

Besides having consolidated broiler production, Russia boasts a veterinary service that is centralized and efficient, Davleyev said.

"It is one of the better legacies of the Soviet era," he said.

While nobody denies that there are serious risks for producers, industry players consider them localized to individual farms.

Sergei Roldugin, deputy director of the Ravis Sosnovskaya factory farm in the Chelyabinsk region, said the appearance of bird flu in the region had affected neither production nor demand.

He also said his staff had no reason to be concerned about catching the virus. "Only a fool would be worried," he said, speaking by telephone.

Davleyev said a worst-case scenario would be if one or two major facilities were infected by the end of the year. Infection would require that all the birds in a plant be culled, which for a large farm would cost millions of dollars.

That risk, Davleyev said, is prompting many producers to ensure factories have safety levels higher than the legal requirement.

In any case, the industry is buffered from a sudden drop in demand. For one, Russia exports virtually no poultry and is not vulnerable to any foreign bans. Furthermore, chicken is the cheapest meat on the market, meaning many consumers will have no alternative.

Russians are less sensitive to health scares than Westerners, said Marat Ibragimov, a retail and consumer goods analyst at UralSib brokerage.

Ninety percent of Russians are aware of the outbreak, according to a recent poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation. But only 28 percent said they were ready to limit their consumption of domestic poultry.

The country's top epidemiologist, Gennady Onishchenko, said on Thursday that meat from poultry plants in the infected regions was safe to eat, Interfax reported.

"The large poultry plants in the Russian regions where bird deaths from avian flu have been registered have not suffered from this virus," thanks to the timely actions of veterinary authorities, he said.

Some regions have imposed barriers on interregional trade, but these measures have been haphazard and uncoordinated, said Dmitry Rylko, general director of the Institute of Agricultural Market Studies. However, villages where outbreaks were recorded have been put under quarantine.

In July, the virus was confirmed in poultry and wild birds near Novosibirsk, in Siberia. On Tuesday, cases were confirmed more than 1,000 kilometers to the west in Chelyabinsk. The majority of Russia's industrial chicken farms are located west of the Urals, in the European part of the country.

Incidences of the disease have been confirmed in 35 towns and villages in six regions, the Agriculture Ministry said Thursday. Officials denied reports that the disease had spread westward to Bashkortostan and Kalmykia, Interfax reported.

Nevertheless, the European Union is taking precautions due to concerns that migratory birds could carry the disease across borders.

Earlier this week, the Dutch Agriculture Ministry announced a temporary measure obliging poultry farmers to keep their birds in buildings in order to prevent them from catching the flu from wild fowl. The German government on Thursday announced that it had assembled a team of experts to monitor the development of the disease in Russia and to come up with an emergency plan in the event it reached Germany.

"We are in close contact with the Russian veterinary authorities. We have a rapid alert system within the EU, and when the time comes, if we need to put other measures in place we will," said Antonia Mochan, the European Commission's spokeswoman for health and consumer protection issues.



Veteran Member

GPs to receive advice on bird flu epidemic
(Filed: 19/08/2005)

Every GP in Britain is to receive instructions on handling an outbreak of bird flu, it has emerged.

Human transmission could trigger a pandemic
Many experts have warned that a global flu pandemic is inevitable, and it is feared that an outbreak could kill up to 50 million people worldwide, including more than 50,000 in Britain.

As part of its preparations, the Department of Health will send out information packs to GPs and other primary care staff next month.

The packs will include a copy of the Chief Medical Officer's 50-page technical guide, Explaining Pandemic Flu, as well as leaflets aimed at the general public.

The DoH said the timing of the distribution did not signify a heightened state of alert but was part of general preparations.


Veteran Member

Dutch poultry ordered indoors to prevent bird flu
19/08/2005 - 11:56:48

The Dutch Agriculture Ministry has ordered all commercial poultry farmers to get their fowl indoors by Monday to prevent them from catching avian flu from wild birds.

The decision follows reports from the Russian government in the past month that a strain of bird flu is moving westward with migrating wild bird populations and will likely eventually reach Europe.

Scientists call the strain H5N1 and there are fears it could badly hurt Europe’s commercial poultry industry and even mutate to a more dangerous form.

Today’s order will affect about 5.5 million of the Netherlands’ 90 million chickens. In 2003, the Dutch killed more than 25 million chickens to stop a bird flu outbreak. Other European governments are also considering preventative measures.


Veteran Member

Bird Flu Spreading In Kazakhstan

19 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Veterinary officials in Kazakhstan confirmed today that the bird flu virus has spread further in the country.

19 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Veterinary officials in Kazakhstan confirmed today that the bird flu virus has spread further in the country.

Kazakhstan's Agricultural Ministry said there were cases of new bird deaths in a village in the northern part of the country where the virus had not been recorded previously.

The ministry did not say if this latest outbreak involved the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu that is deadly to humans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said 9,000 birds had died or been destroyed in Kazakhstan since the outbreak started there last month.

WHO also said 120,00 birds have died or been culled in Russia.

As of today, the virus was officially registered in 40 Russian villages in western Siberia with 78 other settlements under watch after reporting suspected cases of bird flu.


Veteran Member

Germany has emergency bird flu regulation ready
19 Aug 2005 13:43:30 GMT

Source: Reuters

HAMBURG, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Germany is ready to order farmers to keep poultry penned up in an effort to avert bird flu, but not yet, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Renate Kuenast said.

Emergency regulations have been prepared under which poultry farmers could be ordered to keep their flocks in pens to prevent contact with wild birds migrating from central Asia where bird flu has been discovered, Kuenast told a news conference in Berlin.

The order has not yet been put into force and poultry farmers can work as usual for the time being, she said.

The disease would cause major damage to Europe's farming sector. An outbreak in 2003 led to the slaughter of a quarter of all Dutch poultry at a cost of hundreds of millions of euros.

Kuenast said there was a danger, although small, that the disease could be brought into Germany by wild birds migrating from central Asia and the new regulations were to counter this danger.

Mass bird deaths in a Russian region to the west of the Ural mountains this week have stoked fears that the virus may be spreading to Europe as birds migrate for the winter.

Talks would now be held with experts and German state governments about if and when the emergency regulation should be put into effect.

"It is ready for signing on my desk and can be put into action immediately," she said.

She warned against panic on the bird flu issue but said the German government had to be ready to prevent the disease entering the country or the European Union.


(AGI) - Rome, Aug.19 - "Health Minister Storace's generic reassurances after a long silence regarding bird flu in Italy are not a good way to tackle the alarming situation" said Dorina Bianchi, head of the tertiary sector office for the Daisy Coalition. "While there is growing concern for a possible spreading of the virus in Europe (Holland wants to fence in all its chicken), the Minister makes vague remarks on an anti-pandemic plan and possible vaccination requirements in case of an epidemic. That's not much compared to a mutating virus which is spreading rapidy in south east Asia. The Italian's legitimate concern regards monitoring on the introduction of exotic animals, production and purchase of specific anti-virus drugs, in adequate quantities. A few years back, a similar disease led, particularly in Lombardy and Veneto, to the elimination of more than 33 million birds, for an overall cost exceeding 500 mln euro. In order to avoid a similar situation from occurring again, or actually even a worse one, involving humans, it is pointless to play down the issue: what we need are credible, quick, efficient and transparent measures". (AGI)



Poultry sent through Postal Service a threat to state flocks
Health certificates not required on birds in mail
Saturday, August 20, 2005


Hundreds to thousands of game birds, fighting cocks and other fowl are shipped into North Carolina each day through the U.S. Postal Service without proof they've been checked for highly contagious diseases, state agriculture officials said Thursday.

This loophole, a violation of state law that requires all birds entering North Carolina to be certified as healthy, poses a potential health and bioterrorist threat to the state's $2.1 billion poultry industry, they said.

"The Postal Service regulations are inadequate and present a great potential of contamination of the poultry industry of North Carolina with disease," said Joe Reardon, a food and drug protection official with the N.C. Department of Agriculture.

During a briefing for state and federal officials, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a Farmville Republican, vowed to pressure federal postal and agriculture officials to require birds shipped by mail to carry a certificate verifying they are free of contagions.

"It's a problem we have to address," Troxler said. "We don't want to be impeding commerce, but we do want to protect the health of the citizens of this state and nation and the health of the poultry industry."

Between 1,000 and 3,000 birds are mailed to North Carolina each day, Reardon said. More than 70 percent - shipped through Postal Service hubs in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte - don't have a health certificate.

These potential carriers of such ailments as Newcastle disease and the avian flu virus, which can kill animals and humans, are stacked alongside health-certified chickens and turkeys destined to become breeding stock for North Carolina's 4,500 poultry farms, Reardon said.

An outbreak in North Carolina has national implications - one in seven turkeys consumed in the United States comes from North Carolina, Reardon said.

In a study in 2002-03, investigators from Reardon's office found fans blowing on certified and uncertified birds alike, raising the contamination risk.

The study found that workers processing mail near the stacked bird crates were also exposed to potential infection from viral diseases such as avian flu, which killed eight people during a 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong.

The study was conducted during the height of a California outbreak of Newcastle disease, a virus-borne illness deadly to birds but of minimal risk to humans.

Investigators found that birds shipped to North Carolina came from breeders only one county away from the hot zone of an outbreak that spread to Texas, Nevada and Arizona and cost California $100 million to eradicate.

This story can be found at: http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ%2FMGArticle%2FWSJ_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031784547190&path=!localnews!environment!sub!article&s=1037645509115


ebola in Sichuan province?

real news from China hard to get, here is something new I think:


The twp deaths reported above would seem to be linked to the swine-related outbreak in Sichuan Province, which may be spreading via contaminated pork. Although the cause of the infections and deaths has been said to be streptococcus suis, the high case fatality rate and the sudden appearance of the disease raise questions about the diagnosis.

Third party boxun reports have implicated Ebola in the swine infections. Moreover, Sichuan is situated next to Qinghai Province. Migratory birds from Qinghai Lake moved H5N1 to Chany Lake in Novosibirsk in Siberia, which has led to a major H5N1 wild bird flu outbreak in Russia and Kazakhstan. That outbreak is now spreading into Europe to the west and Mongolia to the east. Reports of H5N1 infections in China are conspicuously absent.

Restrictions by China have limited third party testing of the swine and human victims, and now new cases are appearing at an ever increasing distance from Sichuan. Third party testing for agents other than Streptococcus suis would be warranted.

see also:


Ebola was translated as i-bo-la. That's it. It says that SZ77++A3231 virus is a type of ebola. When asked to describe, the doctor said that it's not appropriate to explain. It says that what happened in that location was not due to pig filovirus, it was a kind of ebola. The reason that the government wanted to say that it's pig filovirus was due to the politics -- they didn't want to admit that they had ebola. Pig filovirus may be passed on to human body, but the damage wouldn't be like the one from ebola. And filovirus won't spread among pigs that fast.

Could I impose on the friend once more to ask for a review of the original text again, just to be certain that the translation of the Mandarin word for "virus" is correct? In the interview, Dr. Wang used "virus" for the incident. He did mention that the death in the city might be caused by the virus (ebola) plus bacteria (plague). The combination made the symptom or the illness worse.


Airport guards against bird flu
20/08/2005 17:28 - (SA)

Rome - The Rome-Fiumicino international airport has begun implementing precautionary measures involving passengers and merchandise originating from regions affected by bird flu, the airport said on Saturday.

Passengers travelling to the Rome airport from China or Russia may be immediately hospitalised in an infectious diseases clinic if they shows signs of respiratory problems, airport authorities said in a statement.

The new measures also foresee the "destruction by incineration of any poultry-based food found in the luggage of passengers travelling from risk areas," the text said.

On Friday Russian authorities announced that the H5N1 virus had reached the southern republic of Kalmukia bordering the Caspian Sea. Officials said they believed the virus had been carried west from Asia by migrating birds.

Kalmukia is the seventh Russian region to be hit by the virus, but the first region west of the Urals to be affected.

Virus 'raging' in Russia

The virus is currently raging in Russia, Kazakhstan and countries throughout Asia, which have been slaughtering domestic fowl in an effort to contain the disease.

The H5N1 virus, which can jump from birds to humans, has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003.

It is currently believed to be impossible for the disease to spread between humans, but a genetic mutation of the virus could start a pandemic, medical experts have warned.

Earlier this month, the European Commission prohibited the importing of live birds and feathers from Russia and Kazakhstan, adding those countries to a list that also includes Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, Pakistan and Malaysia.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization issued a new warning saying that the geographical spread of the H5N1 bird flu strain "is of concern because it creates further opportunities for human exposure



All ports to be closed if bird flu strikes
By Kerry-Anne Walsh and Hannah Edwards
August 21, 2005
The Sun-Herald

Australia's air and sea ports would be closed off from the world in the event of an Asian bird flu outbreak.

The dramatic safeguarding measure against the deadly disease is part of a Federal Government draft management plan circulated for comment to health professionals, the tourism sector and state governments.

The plan paints a bleak picture of Australia under siege from the virus, which Health Minister Tony Abbott has warned is a real threat.

The power to close air and sea ports under the Quarantine Act would only be a last resort, a Health Department spokesman said.

"If we did have to go down that path, there would be significant consultations with other bodies," he said. "It is a reserve power we have. The absolute priority in all this planning is the protection of human lives and safety."

Mr Abbott has predicted 13,000 Australian deaths with more than 2 million others affected if there was a pandemic of a strain of the disease.

The threat facing humans is if bird flu, which rarely spreads among people or from bird to humans, mutates into a lethal new strain of highly infectious human flu. The impact would be like that of the flu pandemic of 1918-19, which killed more than 20 million worldwide and 11,500 in Australia.

The Government has been stockpiling medicines in preparation for a possible outbreak.

An incident room, established to cope with disasters after the Bali bombings and activated during the SARS epidemic, has been monitoring the outbreaks of bird flu in Asia.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the world is now in "the gravest possible danger of a pandemic".

Under the draft plan, if there was a serious outbreak of the disease the Government could ban gatherings of people, close schools and quarantine anyone suspected of carrying the virus.

"Fever clinics" would be established and certain hospitals designated as specific "influenza hospitals" or "care centres" to stop the spread of the disease. Mobile medical teams would roam suburbs treating home quarantine cases.

In a recent speech, Mr Abbott said: "It's clear that we cannot guard against all contingencies and that a severe outbreak would test our national capacity in ways unknown for half a century."

Australia reaps $8 billion a year from the inbound tourism industry, latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show. If the gates were closed to visitors for just one day in the event of an outbreak, the loss to the economy would be $22 million.

The Australian Tourism Export Council estimates there are 350,000 international visitors in the country at any one time.

Deadly strains of bird flu first emerged in Hong Kong in 1997. It has since spread to regions of Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. An outbreak reported in Russia last week has raised fears the disease may be heading towards Europe



Chen holds meeting on flu threat

2005-08-20 / Taiwan News, Staff Reporter / BY Evelyn Chiang

An official report suggests that about 5.3 million people in Taiwan would be in danger if avian influenza was capable of human-to-human transmission, the Office of the President reported yesterday.

President Chen Shui-bian (³¯¤ô«ó) held a top-level national security meeting yesterday morning to map out plans in case of an outbreak of avian flu.

The Department of Health report said that an avian flu pandemic could infect 5.3 million people, hospitalizing 70,000, and killing 14,000.

According to the World Health Organization's assessment, the avian flu virus - most possibly a mutated strain of H5N1 - would kill between two million and seven million people world-wide should it become as infectious as the common flu.

The Council of Agriculture said that it already has programs in place such as epidemic prevention, domestic and foreign epidemic control, and emergency handling procedures.

A joint COA-DOH health drill will be held in October to test emergency avian flu outbreak measures, the council reported yesterday.

The COA said the government needs to speed up the research and production of vaccines for avian flu.

DOH Minister Hou Sheng-mao said that based on expert analysis, January to March would be a critical period for a possible outbreak.

Hou said that people are not immune to avian flu, and an epidemic is possible.

He pointed out that during the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed about 40 million people worldwide, 25,000 people died in Taiwan.

He said the DOH could prevent an outbreak by using four lines of defense: block foreign sources, border inspection, community prevention, and medical system soundness.

"All the public health experts agreed that it's not a matter of whether an avian flu epidemic could happen or not, but it is only a matter of time when it will happen," he said.

President Chen said the fundamental solution to fighting the avian flu is to manufacture a vaccine. He suggested Taiwan have a vaccine reserve for 10 percent of the population.

The Executive Yuan has promised to appropriate NT$6 billion for the construction of pharmaceutical factories to produce the vaccines. Taiwan currently has a stockpile of about 160,000 doses of "Tamiflu," the most effective anti-flu medicine in the world which is enough for 0.7 percent of the population, according to the DOH.

The government has also authorized the Academia Sinica, National Health Research Institutes, and the Industrial Technology Research Institute to participate in international H5N1 vaccines research and development projects.



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ITALY: Rome Airport has begun Bird Flu Screening


20/08/2005 17:28 - (SA)

Rome - The Rome-Fiumicino international airport has begun implementing precautionary measures involving passengers and merchandise originating from regions affected by bird flu, the airport said on Saturday.

Passengers travelling to the Rome airport from China or Russia may be immediately hospitalised in an infectious diseases clinic if they shows signs of respiratory problems, airport authorities said in a statement.

The new measures also foresee the "destruction by incineration of any poultry-based food found in the luggage of passengers travelling from risk areas," the text said.

On Friday Russian authorities announced that the H5N1 virus had reached the southern republic of Kalmukia bordering the Caspian Sea. Officials said they believed the virus had been carried west from Asia by migrating birds.

Kalmukia is the seventh Russian region to be hit by the virus, but the first region west of the Urals to be affected.

Virus 'raging' in Russia

The virus is currently raging in Russia, Kazakhstan and countries throughout Asia, which have been slaughtering domestic fowl in an effort to contain the disease.

The H5N1 virus, which can jump from birds to humans, has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003.

It is currently believed to be impossible for the disease to spread between humans, but a genetic mutation of the virus could start a pandemic, medical experts have warned.

Earlier this month, the European Commission prohibited the importing of live birds and feathers from Russia and Kazakhstan, adding those countries to a list that also includes Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, Pakistan and Malaysia.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization issued a new warning saying that the geographical spread of the H5N1 bird flu strain "is of concern because it creates further opportunities for human exposure".


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When a Bug Becomes a Monster

Published: August 21, 2005
Health officials in New York are working with increasing urgency to develop a defense in case a deadly strain of influenza begins to spread widely.

The city and state health departments are concerned about a dangerous strain of avian flu that continues to sweep across Asia, infecting millions of birds. While the virus is not easily transmissible from person to person at this point, scientists are worried about the theoretical possibility that it could combine with a more common form of influenza and become a rapidly spreading killer.

Estimating the Toll of an Influenza Pandemic in New York CityNew York City health officials have been meeting every two weeks since February to develop a response plan. They hope to have an updated draft ready in the next few weeks. At about the same time, the state hopes to have its draft plan ready as well.

"It may never happen," said Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a deputy city health commissioner who is leading the flu planning, referring to the development of the strain. "But on the scale of emergency planning, this is high on the list."

As part of their preparations, the leaders of the frontline forces of New York's disaster preparedness teams will run a "tabletop" simulation involving more than a dozen city and state departments next month that will envision the city facing a situation similar to the outbreak of Spanish flu in 1918, which left at least 33,000 dead in the city alone. At least 20 million to 40 million people died worldwide. The exercise is designed to test the emergency response system by challenging leaders to make quick decisions and seeing if and where communication breaks down or resources run out.

If a pandemic similar to the one of 1918 occurred today, as many as 2.8 million New York City residents could be infected within months, sending more than 200,000 to the hospital and clogging the morgues with 400 deaths a day during the peak infection period.

The plans being developed by the city and state are likely to include recommendations on the stockpiling of equipment and drugs. However, those decisions may be delayed as city and state officials wait to see federal plans.

With a vaccine for the strain of influenza referred to as avian flu A(H5N1) many months away from final testing and production, most of New York's planning is being done on the assumption that there will be no vaccine available to prevent illness and only limited drugs to treat patients and help protect essential workers. City and state officials say they are considering stockpiling Tamiflu and other anti-viral drugs that have shown some effectiveness at combating the virus, but they are waiting to see the national plan before they spend millions of dollars.

Still, it is not clear how effective any drug will be against a mutated strain. Therefore, the response plans will set a framework for dealing with some of the more delicate issues that would have to be addressed in event of pandemic flu, such as when and where to establish quarantines and how to deal with sick people entering the region by airplane. Health officials are also thinking through the risks and benefits of measures like canceling public gatherings, ordering businesses shuttered and closing schools. The challenges are as basic as getting people to cover their mouths when they sneeze and as complex as increasing the capacity of laboratories to do testing.

"In February, very basic things were on the table," Dr. Weisfuse said. "Now we are focusing on some of the tough issues."

The plans will also try to provide a comprehensive communications strategy to quell public fear as well as provide orderly guidance on where to seek assistance, something that many critics say was poorly coordinated during both the anthrax attacks in 2001 and the flu vaccine shortage last year.

However, city and state officials have little control over perhaps the most vexing problem: how to help bolster the preparedness of hospitals at a time when the general health infrastructure of the state is financially troubled and overburdened even without an emergency.

The heightened concern stems from the fact that avian flu continues to spread across Asia, moving from poultry to migratory birds and infecting humans who have eaten contaminated meat. Sick birds have been found from Vietnam to Siberia, tens of millions of which have died either from the virus or from government decisions to kill sick birds so they do not spread the virus.

Estimating the Toll of an Influenza Pandemic in New York CitySince 2003, about 100 people have been infected, mainly from eating sick birds, and half of them have died. If the strain does mutate to become easily spread among humans, it would likely have a lower mortality rate, but would be far more devastating, because it would be so widespread.

If avian flu combines with a more common human strain, the results could be devastating. Influenza has a relatively short incubation period, only one to four days. In addition to making quarantine extremely difficult, it also means that a particularly potent strain can bring death quickly, leading victims to cough up blood and struggle for breath.

For two years, the federal government has been working on national plans and would have the lead role in dealing with any pandemic. But experts agree that local health departments would largely have to fend for themselves, as resources would be stretched to the breaking point everywhere.

Health officials are also wary of overreacting, as the federal government did in the 1970's, ordering millions of doses of vaccine to combat what it thought was the imminent threat posed by swine flu. After many patients had adverse reactions to the vaccine, the program was aborted. In the end, there was no pandemic, and the government faced more than $1 billion in claims from those who were vaccinated.

New York has developed a sophisticated system to analyze health data from hospitals and doctors, searching for patterns that health officials hope will alert them to an outbreak of avian flu early.

While health workers may be limited in how they can treat the illness because of a shortage of medicine, at the very least it would help give hospitals valuable time to prepare for an influx of patients.

In 1918, the first hint that Spanish flu was in New York came in August. But it was not until October that the health department began to take extraordinary measures to deal with the outbreak. By then, hospitals were in a state of confusion, unable to cope with numbers of sick and dying.

Belatedly, Dr. Royal S. Copeland, the city's health commissioner, set up a central clearinghouse of information about where hospital beds were available.

The state now has a hospital tracking system, called Herds, that allows officials to share information about bed capacity as well as the availability of equipment and medicine. But during last year's flu vaccine shortage, many private doctors, who are not in the network, felt left out of the information loop, a problem city officials now acknowledge.

The city has a Health Alert Network to inform doctors about the latest news in the event of an emergency, but only a small percentage of the health care providers in the city are signed on to the network.

But the most significant problem in 1918, as it would most likely be today, was the sheer inability of hospitals to deal with a sudden surge in patient demand, a problem compounded by the failure of nurses and trained hospital workers to show up during the crisis.

"The biggest weak link is hospital capacity," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

Since Sept. 11, officials have wrestled with trying to increase hospitals' surge capacity for even a onetime catastrophic event. Pandemic flu would place far greater stress on the system, lasting for weeks if not months.

Susan C. Waltman, a senior vice president at the Greater New York Hospital Association, sad that if a pandemic occurred, hospitals would consider discharging all but the most critically ill. Elective operations would probably be postponed and only seriously ill patients would be admitted to the hospital. She said hospitals were also exploring alternative sites to house patients or set up triage centers, although there are no specific locations selected.

Additionally, engineers are studying the ventilation systems in many hospitals to see if it is possible to create isolated sections so that an already difficult situation is not made worse by having the entire facility contaminated.

"The real issue is trying to control transmission," Ms. Waltman said.

Many hospitals have recently redesigned their emergency room entrances so that the acutely ill can enter without coming into contact with others in the building, she said.

Suggesting steps for the public is more difficult. Getting people to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough is critical, but also hard to control. Even a seemingly simple measure, like telling people to wear surgical masks, is more complicated then it first appears. It turns out, according to city health officials, that masks have not been shown to be effective at limiting transmission and might create a whole new problem of disposal.



Don't ignore enormity of Maine Biological's chicken virus scheme

The punishments seem appropriate: Maine Biological Laboratories will pay a $500,000 fine and four of its former executives will serve a year in federal prison.

It is important, however, that people in central Maine understand the enormity of the offense.

Officials with Maine Biological Laboratories, known as MBL, put thousands of people at risk in 1998 when they illegally smuggled a chicken virus into the United States from Saudi Arabia so the Winslow-based company could create a vaccine.

It is illegal to import avian influenza into the country, even for research purposes.

When handing down the fine last Friday in Bangor, U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. said the risk that MBL created was "enormous" and "potentially devastating."

He said the virus, if handled improperly, could have harmed people over a wide area.

"And it was all for money," the judge said.

The company, through its chief executive officer, David Zacek, pleaded guilty last month to multiple charges in connection with the dangerous and complicated scheme.

In such cases, federal sentencing guidelines call for a fine of between $560,000 and $1.1 million -- in addition to the illegal profits made from the sale of the avian virus vaccine.

Based on the MBL's ability to pay and still remain in business, however, Woodcock followed prosecutors' recommendations and fined the company $500,000, which it is being allowed to pay over 10 years.

Given the tremendous risks associated with the virus-smuggling scheme, and with MBL executives' attempts to hide it from federal regulators, a larger fine would have been perfectly appropriate.

But prosecutors said they did not ask for more because the illegal activities have stopped and because the government was not looking to put MBL, which employs 136 in Maine and New Jersey, out of business.

The court was wise to consider the state's employment picture when determining the fine and payment schedule in this case of corporate wrongdoing.

The case dates back to May 1998, when Fakieh Poultry Farms in Saudi Arabia was hit with an outbreak of avian influenza.

In search of a solution, the farm's owners smuggled samples of the virus to MBL in Winslow and to a professor in Delaware.

After a year of research, MBL began producing a vaccine for the virus in May 1999.

That same summer, MBL illegally shipped 8,000 bottles of the vaccine to Saudi Arabia, billing Fakieh Poultry Farms almost $900,000 -- which represented more than $319,000 in profit.

MBL officials falsified production records and shipping documents to allow them to send the vaccine to the Saudis, according to documents.

The extent of the deception was heightened a few months later when MBL officials, after learning that the federal government was planning a surprise visit to the Winslow plant, ordered employees to move a batch of the avian vaccine to an executive's garage in Belgrade Lakes to hide it from inspectors.

Thankfully, a whistle-blower among the lab's workers told federal authorities about the scheme.

A lengthy, federal probe of MBL not only revealed the Saudi chicken virus plot but many other violations of federal regulations.

It also revealed that MBL employees at many levels knew about the virus scheme and other improprieties but kept quiet.

News of the criminal proceedings against MBL has hurt its sales, reputation and ability to recruit employees, including essential researchers.

Now, executives hired to replace now-former MBL officials who broke the law have a difficult job ahead of them.

They must prove that the old Maine Biological Laboratories, the one that intentionally put thousands of people at risk, no longer exists.



Flight H5N1 is approaching Britain. Brace for impact
By Robert Matthews, Science Correspondent
(Filed: 21/08/2005)

When doctors announced the deaths of some people in Hong Kong from a new form of flu in 1997, it made few headlines. Something called Avian Influenza A(H5N1) had apparently spread from chickens to humans in the city's teeming backstreets, infecting 18 people and killing six before vanishing. The jump across the species barrier was a surprise, but the outbreak seemed like a storm in a distant teacup.

But now the same virus has turned up at the threshold of Europe. Last week Russian scientists revealed that thousands of domestic birds around the Chelyabinsk region of the Ural mountains had perished after contracting H5N1, which had apparently been transported there by migrating birds.

The good news is that the virus has so far failed to repeat the feat it first achieved in Hong Kong, and find a way of infecting humans. The bad news is that many experts think that it is only a matter of time before it succeeds.

Since the Hong Kong outbreak, the H5N1 virus has spread across Asia and infected another 100 or so people, killing around half. So far, all the victims appear to have contracted the virus after direct exposure to birds.

Yet each time the virus succeeds in infecting humans, it increases the chances of triggering the nightmare scenario: human-to-human transmission. The consequences could hardly be more worrying. Some scientists are already drawing parallels with the so-called Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, in which another bird flu virus - code-named H1N1 - hit the right genetic combination needed to trigger human-to-human transmission. The resulting pandemic led to at least 20 million deaths, double the number of people killed in the First World War.

"The population is higher now, so we could be talking about 100 million deaths or more," says Prof Neil Ferguson, an expert on virus epidemics at Imperial College, London. "The 1918 scenario is within what people should be planning for."

According to Prof Ferguson, such an epidemic is most likely to start once the H5N1 virus infects someone already harbouring standard human flu. "Then the two viruses can recombine to produce a type capable of human-to-human transmission," he says. "We're worried because this bird virus is so lethal. It kills 50 per cent of those infected at the moment, though that could change once it gets into humans."

By comparison, Prof Ferguson adds, the virus responsible for the 1918 pandemic killed only a few per cent of those it infected. Small wonder, then, that alarm bells are ringing. Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) made clear its concern about the spread of H5N1 beyond south-east Asia. It called for close surveillance of the situation in Russia, and checks on respiratory patients who may have been exposed to sick birds.

It has begun negotiations to stockpile anti-viral drugs, which both reduce the symptoms of those already infected and provide some protection against the virus.

Many national governments are drawing up strategies to combat H5N1. In Britain, the Department of Health has made contingency plans for dealing with an outbreak, and has set aside £200 million to buy enough anti-viral drugs for a quarter of the population.

It emerged last week that GPs are being sent information packs about how to deal with an outbreak, and guidance for patients. There are no plans for a mass vaccination campaign, however. Officials point out that any vaccine based on the current strain of H5N1 could prove useless against a human-to-human version.

Despite the efforts to avert a pandemic, many experts remain sanguine about our ability to cope with the threat. They point out that the virus is still confined almost entirely to the bird population, making control of an outbreak relatively simple. As soon as tests confirm the presence of the virus in a flock, the plan of action is dramatic and draconian: rapid and massive culling. The strategy stopped the original Hong Kong outbreak in 1997. It also halted an outbreak of the H7N7 bird flu, which also infected humans, in Holland in 2003.

"At the current state of play, on a scale of one to 10, I'd put the risk of a pandemic pretty low down, at around three to four," said Nigel Horrox, the president of the British Veterinary Poultry Association and an independent poultry veterinary surgeon who regularly works in Asia. "Some context is also needed here. There have been 60 to 70 human deaths out of several billion in Asia. On the Thai Songkran bank holiday you'll get many more deaths on Bangkok's roads in two or three days."

Simple honesty is widely seen as crucial by many experts. They point out that the speed of international trade and travel makes any attempt at bureaucratic foot-dragging potentially disastrous.

In November 2002, Guangdong province in China was hit by a new type of virus called SARS, which caused pneumonia-like symptoms, killing one in 10 of those infected. Yet Chinese officials attempted to cover up the outbreak, only informing the WHO in February the following year. By that time, the virus had spread to Hong Kong and Vietnam. It went on to claim almost 800 lives in a dozen countries, from Canada to the Philippines. According to Prof Ferguson, if bird-culling policies fail to stop the H5N1 virus, it could spread to every continent in the world within eight weeks.

Even so, prompt action could stop the virus from triggering a pandemic. In research published this month in the journal Nature, Prof Ferguson and colleagues showed that the outbreak could be contained if the first few dozen people affected were identified, and around 20,000 of those closest to them treated with anti-viral drugs. He told The Sunday Telegraph: "Given that the potential consequences are so severe, I'm trying to persuade the WHO and governments to put more money into containment."

While scientists and health officials race to cover all bases, some experts are drawing comfort from events so far. "If the doomsday scenario is realistic, why hasn't it happened yet?" asks Mr Horrox. "This virus has had lots of opportunities across Asia to mutate but hasn't, so the probability must really be very low."

Ultimately, however, no one knows what the tiny packet of genes known as H5N1 will do next. It could fade back into its host population of birds among which it produces no ill-effects. Or it could produce a human pandemic of apocalyptic proportions. For now, scientists can only hope they are smart enough to deal with whatever their microscopic adversary throws at them. "I think we're doing all we can," says Prof Ferguson.



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Bird flu virus: A crisis waiting to explode

It is spreading fast and nations are stockpiling antidotes

Posted online: Saturday, August 20, 2005 at 0229 hours IST

Health experts claim bird flu is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Initially, it was seen as a few isolated cases in South-East Asia, may now be the beginnings of a global pandemic. The virus is spreading rapidly and has already reached as far as Russia. The World Health Organisation too has warned of the possibilities of a worldwide avian influenza outbreak. With no vaccine ready for commercial use, countries across the world have started stockpiling what limited drugs are available.

The world first heard of bird flu when it hit Hong Kong in 1997. The H5N1 strain of the virus caused severe respiratory problems for 18 people of which an alarming one-third died. Rapid destruction of Hong Kong’s entire poultry population reduced the chances of further direct transmission to humans and a possible epidemic. February 2003 saw 2 more cases of H5N1 avian influenza, which resulted in one death. But it was really the outbreak that came later that year which has culminated in the state of affairs today. Between December 2003 and now, more than a hundred human cases of bird flu have been reported across four countries in Asia - Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand - the last two being among the worst hit. Fatalities have occurred in over half the infected patients. The total number of human infections seems insignificant given the time period. However, it is a series of factors related to these outbreaks that is causing concern. To date, there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission - a development that could very quickly give rise to a pandemic.

However, many experts have expressed a fear that it may only be a matter of time before the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu combines with the human influenza virus and mutates into a form that can be transmitted among people. And the H5N1 variety has already demonstrated a propensity to acquire genes from viruses infecting other animals like pigs.

Furthermore, despite the low level of human fatalities, tens of thousands of fowl have been infected. In most cases this has resulted in the relevant governments culling millions of birds to control the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, in some instances action was either delayed or not taken at all.

At the end of June this year, more than two hundred migratory geese tested positive for the H5N1 strain in Qinhai Lake in North Western China. But Beijing did not cull the infected birds claiming they were a rare and protected species and vaccinated them instead. However, birds that survive the infection excrete the virus for at least 10 days, orally and in faces, facilitating its further propagation. No more cases of bird flu have been reported in China since. But given the country’s track record, in particular its cover-up of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), it is plausible that the true extent of the problem has been kept under wraps - a potentially explosive situation.

In the following six weeks, fowl in Siberia, Kazakhstan, Tibet, and Mongolia tested positive for avian influenza. Migratory birds, possibly from China, are being cited as the culprit. But the outbreak has been steadily moving westwards. Most recently it struck Chelyabinksk a major industrial region in the Ural Mountains in Russia, which separate the European and Asian parts of the country.

These birds in Russia will soon leave to winter in warmer climates which will expose the Middle East, Africa, Australia, the West Coast of the US and of course India to the threat of bird flu. So far, human casualties have been limited both in terms of numbers and geographic scope.

But a broad geographical distribution of H5N1 increases the likelihood of dual infections leading to recombination that can produce a pandemic version of the virus that can be transmitted from human-to-human.

The situation is further complicated by the absence of a commercially viable avian influenza vaccine for humans. Currently, the only known treatment is the flu drug oseltamivir which Roche produces under the name Tamiflu. This can protect against infection but not treat those who are sick.

The fact that several Western countries have started stockpiling the drug is testament to the fact that the world is taking the threat seriously. The US has enough Tamiflu to treat 2.3 million people and is working to acquire more. Britain, France, Finland and Norway are placing orders that would cover up to 40% of their populations. The World Health Organisation is in talks to build a reserve of drugs for poorer countries.

Epidemiologists predict a flu pandemic will emerge three or four times every hundred years. Two of the last three global pandemics have originated in Asia. Outbreaks of the Asian flu in 1957-58 and the Hong Kong flu in 1968-69 killed over a million people. Spanish flu killed 40 million people world wide in 1918-1919.



Farmers in China fear return of bird flu

August 19, 2005


CHANGJI, China -- Li Zhiqiang's chicken coop stood empty for weeks after a bird flu outbreak on a neighbor's farm in June prompted officials to destroy his 2,700 chickens in an effort to contain the disease.

''A huge truck came by and our chickens were put into plastic bags, two or three in each. They were squawking so loudly,'' said Li, whose farm in Changji is 25 miles northwest of Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region in China's remote northwest.

The government declared the outbreak under control after slaughtering thousands of birds in the area. But amid reports of a bird flu epidemic in Russia, which abuts Xinjiang to the north, Li and his neighbors worry the virus could be brought back by the wild ducks blamed for its spread.

The farmers disinfect pens and coops at least once a day and follow a strict schedule for vaccinating their birds.

Visitors are usually banned from going near their poultry. ''We raise animals for a living. We're always worried that something like that will strike,'' said Li, 43.

Bird flu is a serious threat to poultry flocks, but international health officials are particularly concerned about its spread because of the danger the virus could mutate into a form that is both deadly to humans and easily spread between people. Most flu pandemics have originated from bird flu viruses.

The H5N1 strain that appeared in Southeast Asia in 2003 has killed at least 61 people in that region



Officials bust bird smugglers in raid

JOINT OPERATION: The MJIB and the CGA caught a fishing boat carrying about 4,500 birds as it tried to enter port in Kaohsiung, officials said
By Rich Chang
Monday, Aug 22, 2005,Page 1

Investigators yesterday intercepted a Taiwanese fishing boat carrying more than 4,500 smuggled birds from China, as health experts warned of the potential for a devastating outbreak of avian flu in Taiwan.

The Ministry of Justice's Investigation Bureau (MJIB) and the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) yesterday conducted a joint operation to nab the smugglers.

"The Kaohsiung-based fishing boat Yung Gi Fa attempted to smuggle several species of birds in from Fujian Province, some of which initially came from Southeast Asia -- an area affected by avian flu," the CGA said in a press release yesterday.

"The more than 4,500 birds included thrushes, Indian grackles, canaries, white eyes and others," the statement said.

The CGA said the species carried by the smugglers were potential carriers of avian flu. The birds would have gone to bird markets if investigators had not uncovered the smuggling, the CGA said.

The CGA personnel and reporters covering the story were all asked to wear surgical masks when they entered the room in which the birds were being kept.

The birds would be destroyed soon, the CGA said.

The MJIB and CGA learned that the fishing boat Yung Gi Fa was attempting to smuggle a large number of birds from China, and yesterday morning, law enforcement officials were able to track the boat as it entered Kaohsiung Harbor.

Investigators arrested the captain of the fishing boat, Chen Sze-fu (³¯½çºÖ), 37, as well as a sailor named Tseng Man-ter (´¿º¡±o), 24.

President Chen Shui-bian (³¯¤ô«ó) recently expressed concerned about rampant smuggling from China through the "small three links" -- direct trade and transport links between Kinmen, Matsu and China -- saying that Taiwanese and Chinese fishermen might trigger an outbreak of avian flu and other epidemics in Taiwan by circumventing health and sanitary inspections through their illicit activities.

The president therefore ordered the government to conduct strict surveillance and interdiction operations in the area, focusing especially on illegally imported animals and products.

The CGA has launched a crackdown on Chinese vessels intruding into waters off the islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu to counter smuggling of animals and products.

The Department of Health has warned there was a serious risk of avian flu breaking out in Taiwan between January and March next year, and a US health agency has predicted as many as 14,000 Taiwanese deaths in the event of an outbreak.

Department officials have said a simulation by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted 5.3 million Taiwanese -- nearly one-quarter of the population -- could be infected by avian flu, of which 70,000 would be hospitalized and 14,000 would perish.

Chen has said the avian-flu virus might become capable of human-to-human transmission, which could result in a more serious impact than SARS, the government should learn lessons from the past and take effective action in advance.

Department officials said if bird flu breaks out in Taiwan, its impact on the country is expected to be around 10 times greater than that of SARS in 2003.


rl consulting

Poultry Industry News
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Germany has emergency bird flu regulation ready
GERMANY - Germany is ready to order farmers to keep poultry penned up in an effort to avert bird flu, but not yet, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Renate Kuenast said.

Emergency regulations have been prepared under which poultry farmers could be ordered to keep their flocks in pens to prevent contact with wild birds migrating from central Asia where bird flu has been discovered, Kuenast told a news conference in Berlin.

The order has not yet been put into force and poultry farmers can work as usual for the time being, she said.

The disease would cause major damage to Europe's farming sector. An outbreak in 2003 led to the slaughter of a quarter of all Dutch poultry at a cost of hundreds of millions of euros.

Kuenast said there was a danger, although small, that the disease could be brought into Germany by wild birds migrating from central Asia and the new regulations were to counter this danger.

Mass bird deaths in a Russian region to the west of the Ural mountains this week have stoked fears that the virus may be spreading to Europe as birds migrate for the winter.

Talks would now be held with experts and German state governments about if and when the emergency regulation should be put into effect.

"It is ready for signing on my desk and can be put into action immediately," she said.

She warned against panic on the bird flu issue but said the German government had to be ready to prevent the disease entering the country or the European Union.



ADEA releases study on Bird Flu and its implication on UAE

Aug 22, 2005 - 06:49 -

Abu Dhabi, Aug. 22, 2005 (WAM) -- A study released by the Abu Dhabi Environment Authority has warned against the possible danger of the Bird Flu virus finding its way into the UAE and the ability of the virus spreading to human beings.

"The ability of virus to infect and kill humans, domestic poultry and wild birds poses global health concerns and serious economic implications," the study said adding that the ability of the virus to jump hosts and chances of human to human transmission makes the currently circulating H5N1 strain as one of the most deadly viruses which can cause pandemic.

"If it becomes pandemic, it can kill several million people in a relatively short time, some what like the Spanish Flu of 1918 which killed about 40 million people," the study said.

The 31-pages study highlighted on Bird Flu and its implications for the UAE, the nature of the virus, its spread in birds and humans, how deadly is the virus countries infected from 2003 to 2005. The study also gave some statistics on Bird Flu-related fatalities, including human deaths and poultry loss, chances and possible sources of Bird Flu in the UAE, particularly sources related to migratory bird, wildlife trade and disease implications, falconry, poultry and waterfowl import.

The study also dealt in details about breeding seabirds colonies, commercial poultry and private bird collections. It also dealt with the way forward, including eradication, prevention and monitoring of the virus.

Some of the recommendations made by the study to get away from the virus include developing a contingency plan, eradication and control of infected birds, vaccination of poultry and captive collections, stocking of flu drugs, suspending poultry import from countries currently infected with Bird Flu, mandatory quarantine implementation, avian disease surveillance programme, wild bird monitoring and studies on movement and migration.

The study said recent outbreaks of bird flu, mostly in South-east Asia and more recently in Siberian region of Russia had caused death and destruction of several million poultry, several thousand wild birds and 60 persons. "The virus although currently in about 12 South-east Asian countries, Russia Kazakhstan and more recently in Mongolia has ability to reach most unlikely places through wild birds, domestic poultry and humans," the study said. "Given the rate of spread and scale of destruction it can cause, each country should be fully prepared to meet any such challenge. The virus poses a global health risk and is a global concern, however besides contributing to global efforts to stamp out the disease, actions need to be taken locally," it added.

It pointed out that as bird flu was one of the diseases that threaten humans, domestic poultry and wild birds alike, there was a need for concerted efforts from agencies which deal with human health, commercial poultry production and wildlife to develop human health and safety measures and effective programmes to conserve wild birds.

It said preparedness to fight the disease at local level should include a multitude of actions, from understanding the nature of virus and its ability to mutate and transform, to diseases surveillance and monitoring of water birds, to temporarily banning import of poultry and poultry products from the S-East Asia and Russia.

The study called for a contingency plan for the UAE to deal with the virus, procure stocks of vaccines, anti viral drugs and Vitamin C supplements are equally important towards preparedness and will go a long way in dealing with any such eventuality without panic and chaos.

The UAE is on high alert against Bird Flu. This is in view of the spread of the disease in some Asian countries and the possibility of its spread to Europe and the Middle East region.

As part of the tough measures to ensure the virus does not find its way into the UAE, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Saeed Mohammed Al Raqabani, recently issued a ministerial decree banning the importation of live birds and its products from Mongolia as a precautionary measure against the transmission of the Bird Flu virus.

The ban has been issued in accordance with information received by the Ministry from the World Animal Health Organisation, which disclosed spread of avian bird flu virus in Mongolia.

According to the study, so far there had been no reported cases of bird flu in the UAE, but given the number of wild birds migrating to UAE and the amount of international trade in wildlife, both legal and illegal, there could be serious consequences in case disease enters UAE. Although most of the birds migrating to UAE come from Europe, there are species of birds which also come from Russia and Central Asia. Prominent among these are falcons, Houbara and possibly some waders.

The study said species breeding in the Caspian Sea area, anatids, waders and some Passeriformes were likely to move between their breeding quarters and wintering areas in the Gulf including the United Arab Emirates. Given the recent spread of disease in the Novosibirsk in the Siberian region of Russia Kazakhstan and Mongolia, the UAE is much more prone to bird flu.

It said Bird Flu, like SARS, EBOLA and Mad Cow Disease does not depend on humans hosts for its survival and hence it will continue to persists and occur from time to time. Given this it is imperative to have measures in place for dealing with any emergencies arising out of the spread of flu in the country and also take precautionary measures to prevent any occurrence of infection.



Veteran Member

Mon, August 22, 2005

Flu drug sales rocket'We're on a collision course to panic,' U.S. expert warns


NORTH AMERICAN sales of the drug oseltamivir have more than tripled in recent months -- a trend seen by public health experts as evidence that individuals are stockpiling the once little-used antiviral as a hedge against a possible flu pandemic.

With similar reports emerging in other countries as well, a leading advocate for pandemic preparedness is concerned that public demand could soon outstrip the limited global supply.

"We are on a collision course to panic," warns Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"I think that what's going to happen is ... that this drug -- which has yet to really be demonstrated to have any clinical impact on H5N1 infection -- is now going to become the 'I can't get product, therefore I must have it right away product.'

H5N1 is the avian flu strain experts fear may be poised to trigger a pandemic.

It has been decimating poultry stocks and infecting small numbers of people in Southeast Asia for the last 20 months and recently spread to parts of Russia.

Swiss drug maker Roche won't say how much oseltamivir -- sold as Tamiflu -- it can make. But the company insists individuals don't draw from the same pool as the lengthening queue of governments placing stockpile orders.

"We allocate seasonal-use product based on forecasted figures and have separate pandemic supply," Roche Canada spokesman Leigh Funston explained by e-mail.

Canadian Tamiflu sales jumped to more than 76,000 prescriptions in the 12-month period ending in June, compared to 22,000 prescriptions in the entire 2004 calendar year, says IMS Health, which compiles drug sales data.

U.S. sales have surged as well, to nearly 1.7 million prescriptions in the first half of 2005 from just under 500,000 in 2004.


Avian flu

The threat from above

Tuesday August 23, 2005
The Guardian

Does anyone remember the "Y2K bug"? For those who do not, it was predicated around the possibility that older computer programs would get to midnight on December 31 1999 and their internal clocks would flip back to 00.00:00, causing all sorts of chaos. Several years worth of scare stories were followed by billions of pounds of spending in upgrading computer networks and software. The more nervous predicted some sort of techno-meltdown and stockpiled krugerrands and water. But as clocks ticked around from 23.59:59 to 00.00:01 on the first day of 2000, the net effect was undetectable. The question is: did the years of apocalyptic warnings and billions spent on preparation actually avert a crisis? Or would 2000 have come into being with only a few hiccups? We will never know if that money was well spent.

Article continues


A similar question now faces the world. In place of Y2K read H5N1, the strain of Avian flu circulating through Asia since 1997 and carried by migrating wild fowl. H5N1 and its related variations can infect both birds and humans. At the moment it is difficult to catch - so far only those who have been in direct contact with infected birds have developed the virus, and do not appear to have passed it on to other humans. Yet it is particularly deadly, since humans have no immunity to the strain. Around half of those infected to date have died, albeit a total of less than 60 people worldwide in the last two years. So despite its strike rate, H5N1 is not yet comparable to the 1918 outbreak of Spanish influenza that killed 50 million people. That could change very quickly. Viruses can mutate rapidly and unpredictably, and fear of a new variation of H5N1 - one less deadly but more infectious - is keeping scientists and policy-makers awake. After all, Spanish influenza first appeared as the H1N1 bird flu virus.
In the case of both Y2K and H5N1, much time and energy could be spent to no discernible purpose. After all, H5N1 has not yet mutated into a mass killer in several years. But there is a big difference between the two potential bugs: Y2K had a definite end-point, at the dawn of the millennium. The H5N1 flu strain has no such chance of a clear ending. In fact, the dangers surrounding H5N1 get more severe: in recent days Russian officials have quarantined a poultry farm in Siberia because of an outbreak, with the World Health Organisation warning that the spread of the virus "creates further opportunity for human exposure". Scientists estimate that the virus is spreading at a rate of 30 to 50 kilometres a day, and has now reached the Urals mountains. Meanwhile, poultry farmers in the Netherlands have been told to keep their birds indoors to avoid exposure from migrating flocks. At this point the story reads like the opening chapters of a lurid Michael Crichton novel.

The subject has even reached Britain. doctors are being briefed to watch for the warning signs of avian flu. But for all the talk of 100 million deaths worldwide, it is worth considering appropriate courses of action. So far the Department for Health is stockpiling enough vaccine for a quarter of the British population. But it is international cooperation that remains the best and safest cure. Real-time monitoring of the virus is necessary, to track genetic changes. Early warning virology centres need to be established in the high-risk areas of Asia. That will require funding - and will be expensive, but a pittance compared with the cost of an outbreak. It will require high levels of cooperation with some of the world's more protective governments, especially China, but also Russia and Kazakhstan. A full-blown human outbreak in Burma, for example, if covered up by that country's repressive regime, would end any hopes that a preventive strike of regional culling and vaccination will keep H5N1 from becoming a superbug.



Bird Flu… Coming Soon to a Place Near You!
Thomas Dawson

By Thomas Dawson
August 22, 2005
This pandemic is for the birds! It appears that birds around the world will become infected. Certainly there is substantial danger that the avian flu could spread to people and become a threat to mankind. But the media is getting carried away, as if a human pandemic is a foregone conclusion. It is far more likely that we will suffer severe economic repercussions from the loss of birds and swine.

It is easy to view the migratory birds as the primary culprits in spreading the disease. They certainly have made it impossible for us to contain it. These migratory birds do not seem to be dying in very large numbers. This would indicate that they tend to develop immunity. It also means that they become carriers of the flu. Now, many of these infected birds are migrating toward Europe. In the coming weeks, many arctic birds will begin their migratory flights toward the North American continent. There is concern that some of these may be infected as well.

Aside from some migratory birds dying from the flu, the governments have been killing many thousands of infected domestic birds in Mongolia and China and more recently in Kazakhstan and Russia.

The avian flu will probably eventually infect our poultry and swine farmers in North America and Europe. This alone could be devastating and would increase the likelihood of multiple mutations. For this reason, domestic flocks will have to be eradicated as soon as the infection is discovered. If infections become widespread, the ensuing unavailability of pork and poultry could cause economic hardship. The price of other protein foods would skyrocket.

Depending whom you listen to, less than sixty people in Asia have died of avian flu in the past three years. Forty-two of them have died in Viet Nam. There are a number of variations of avian flu, but the consensus is that a particular strain (H5N1) poses the greatest danger to humans. It is known that this strain can be transmitted from birds to humans. This strain has also been known to infect and kill swine. It appears that this strain can acquire or exchange genetic attributes from other strains of flu. Swine flu not only easily infects humans but it is also able to spread from one human to another. This is one of the main reasons for the regular flu season we experience every year. It is thought that a very deadly strain is likely to develop when the H5N1 strain infects swine that already have swine flu and spreads from pig to person. It could then spread from person to person, causing a worldwide epidemic or pandemic.

Because it has been known to pass from birds to humans, a similar scenario could occur if a bird was to infect someone who already had a contagious flu.

The problem will not become out of control until a strain of deadly flu can migrate from person to person. When and if this does happen, people traveling from one place to another will spread the flu very quickly. Tens of thousands of people pass in and out of our ports and airfields from Asia every day. The same thing happens with Europe. Once this avian flu can pass between people, the whole world is endangered.

At this point in time, there are no vaccines for the H5N1 strain. Even if there were, chances are that any pandemic outbreak would be made by a mutation or different strain that had finally become infectious from person to person in humans. A new vaccine would have to be developed to handle the mutated strain.

There is an antiviral drug that is claimed to be effective against the H5N1 when used within 48 hours of infection. It is sold under the name Tamiflu. Another drug sold under the name Relenza is also supposed to be effective.

The World Health Organization (WTO) has real concerns that a contagious form of avian flu that infects people will develop, and will quickly spread around the world.

The government of Australia is encouraging input from the health sector and others for a potential plan to contain the virus, should it break out in Australia.

The Netherlands government has ordered all birds to be contained indoors, effective 8/22/2005.

It is a good thing to see that responsible governments and agencies are taking precautions, but lets not get into a panic before we have proof of a real emergency.


Mr. Gravy

Veteran Member
European farmers act to halt spread of bird flu

From: http://news.ft.com/cms/s/9f3c3688-1335-11da-beee-00000e2511c8.html


European farmers act to halt spread of bird flu
By our International Staff
Published: August 22 2005 19:03 | Last updated: August 22 2005 19:03

European farmers on Monday began taking action to prevent the spread of a deadly strain of bird flu from Asia, amid fears it could devastate the poultry sector and infect humans.

Dutch farmers were ordered to bring all 5.5m free-range poultry indoors and the German government said it might take similar action within days. The moves came amid renewed calls for an international effort to contain the disease as concern grew that it could be spread by wild birds migrating from Siberia.

“All countries of the world must unite in the struggle against bird flu,” said Yevgeny Nepokhlonov, a senior Russian government veterinary official.

The discovery of the H5N1 virus in Siberia in July has prompted fears the lethal flu strain which has killed more than 60 people in south-east Asia and ravaged the region's poultry industry could spread across the Ural mountains into Europe.

Veterinary experts from the 25 European Union member states meet on Thursday to discuss what further action, if any, should be taken. The European Commission said yesterday it saw no need at the moment for other European countries to follow the Dutch lead. The EU has already banned live poultry and feather imports from Russia and Kazakhstan.
EU leaders split over response to disease
Click here

“Our assessment of the risk is that it is relatively low but not non-existent,” said a spokesman.

The commission argues that Australia and New Zealand also receive migratory birds from Asian countries affected by the virus, but that neither country had reported cases of bird flu in the last two years.

The UK also played down the threat posed by migratory birds. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was not planning any measures to keep poultry indoors. However, fears of a global epidemic have prompted calls for a cull of migratory birds in areas like Siberia, south-east Asia and South Africa.

Mr Nepokhlonov warned that since flying birds were thought to be susceptible to the virus “the disease could now crop up in any corner of the planet”.

Russian authorities said yesterday the outbreak of bird flu had been contained and that no big industrial poultry farms had been contaminated.

Some 120,000 birds have been culled in Russia since the disease broke out in July. Bird flu has killed more than 11,000 more, but there have been no reported human cases.

Japanese authorities yesterday said they had detected another outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm near Tokyo, although the strain involved is less virulent that the H5N1 variety.

Reporting by George Parker and Sarah Laitner in Brussels, Isabel Gorst in Moscow, Hugh Williamson in Berlin and Fiona Harvey in London


More H5N1 Wild Bird Flu in Sverdlovsk In Russia?

Recombinomics Commentary
August 23, 2005

The new case of the loss of wild birds is fixed in Sverdlovsk region
The killed weft are discovered on the shore Of the shchelkunovskyyo lake in several kilometers from To syserti on the boundary with the Chelyabinsk province. According to the data of the veterinary supervision of region, one survived bird the veterinary surgeons transported to a study into Ekaterinburg, the correspondent reports.

The above machine translation of reported dead wild birds on the border between Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk provinces in western Siberia at the base of the Ural mountains provides more evidence of a western migration of H5N1 wild bird flu (see map). This migration from southern Siberia is being reinforced by birds migrating from northern Siberia, which may account for recent laboratory positive data from wild birds in Tomsk and Kanti-Mansi. The migration from the north was stated in the latest OIE report from Russia. The report cited August 20 as the migration date for birds from northern Siberia to begin flying to southern Siberia.

If the new cases are from birds migrating from the north, then the distribution of H5N1 in wild birds is more extensive than prior reports. These additional reservoirs of virus may signal a more widespread distribution of H5N1 which could include North America, Europe, and regions in Asia where there have not been prior reports of H5N1.

The explosion of H5N1 cases in 2005 is similar to the outbreak in 2004 in Asia. In many areas, H5N1 has become endemic, and the new H5N1 sequences in wild birds will increase the number of dual infections and recombinations, which could yield new and more dangerous versions of H5N1.


<B><font size=+2 color=green><center>Survival of Hosts Has Avian Flu Scientists Worried</font>
<font size=+1 color=red>Cardona, California and the cry of repetition</font>
August 23 2005
<A href="http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/6848662p-6744368c.html">Anchorage Daily News</A>
Anchorage Daily News - <u>They know it's coming. Hospitals already are monitoring for its arrival. Scientists are swabbing wild bird bottoms in Alaska, California and elsewhere in a hunt for the first signs of the deadly virus</u>.

And the bad news is getting worse.</B></center>

What has scientists newly worried is not the fact that the avian flu virus H5N1 already has killed at least 60 people overseas. Or that it has spread from Southeast Asia to China and Russia.

What has them convinced about the diminishing odds of escaping a worldwide health catastrophe -- one study estimates that fatalities in the United States could surpass half a million -- is that wild birds overseas no longer seem to be dying.

That means the virus is mutating, and scientists fear it has now adapted so that it can survive the annual migration of wild birds from Asia to North America without killing its hosts.

"That's a real danger sign," said veterinarian Carol Cardona of the University of California Davis.

Cardona is part of the growing army of scientists and health-care professionals gearing up to fight what could become the first flu pandemic since 1918, when a Spanish flu virus -- also believed to have been spread by birds -- killed between 20 million and 40 million people around the world.

More Americans died in that outbreak than were killed in World War I. And already the projections are that the next pandemic, perhaps just months away, will kill similar numbers of people.

So far, the virus has not mutated or combined with other influenza viruses so that it can spread from human to human.

"Most experts believe it is not a question of if, but when," said David Daigle of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

According to a recent report by the Trust for America's Health, the U.S. toll could top 540,000.

While scientists and health officials stress that there is no evidence of an Asian variety of the H5N1 virus in the United States now, it could arrive at any time with passengers unloading from an overseas flight from Thailand, China or Russia.

Or it could arrive on the wings of an infected bird.

Cardona, who also is a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security's National Center for Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense at UC Davis, is helping oversee in California a national effort to detect the virus's avian arrival.

This year, she said, some 2,000 nonmigratory wild birds will be checked to see if they have any signs of the Asian H5N1 virus. The nonmigratory birds are easier to locate and swab, she said, and they are likely to pick up the disease from waterfowl and other birds migrating south from Alaska on the Pacific Flyway.

In Alaska, veterinarian Jonathan Runstadler is overseeing state-funded research doing a similar thing to migratory birds that have flown from Asia to their summer nesting grounds.

Runstadler said they hope to swab 5,000 birds before the fall migration begins in a matter of weeks.

The concern is that migratory birds from Asia, already in Alaska, will mix with other birds soon to be headed south to the mainland United States. Because ducks and geese carry other flu viruses that already have made the leap to human-to-human transmission, the concern is that the deadly H5N1 strain will combine with one of them to produce the killer bug.

"This may be the place where new viruses are created," said Runstadler, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska's Institute for Arctic Biology.

In California, the goal is to keep the virus from poultry farms in the Central Valley and southern part of the state before they become incubators or, worse yet, breeding grounds for a deadly form that can be transmitted from human to human.

"We all believe that wild birds are not likely to cause a pandemic without an intermediate host for the virus," Cardona said. "And poultry are likely to be that host."

Already, she said, poultry growers and backyard farmers are being urged to keep the water and feed for their chickens and ducks protected from wild birds so that the virus can't be passed along.

The deadly strain of the H5N1 virus was first detected in Southeast Asia more than two years ago. Tens of millions of domestic ducks and chickens have been slaughtered and burned to stop its spread, but the virus quickly migrated to China and then Russia and now other countries as well, carried by wild birds.

More than 60 people who have come into contact with sick birds have died.

While there have been no reports of the virus being transmitted between people, British researchers reported finding the H5N1 virus in the spinal fluid of a young Vietnamese boy earlier this year, indicating that the virus is mutating to the point it can infect the human brain.

Researchers working on an anti-viral drug to fight the virus have been surprised by its accelerating mutation.

Recently there have been reports from the National Institutes of Health that a drug known commercially as Tami-flu has shown promise in studies involving rats that it could suppress the spread of the virus.

"That's very encouraging," said Ken August, spokesman of the California Department of Health Services. "But to produce enough for all Americans and then to distribute it to all who need it would be an enormous challenge."


Scientists fear pigs may play role in bird flu
Officials meet farmers to plan ways to stop spread of viruses

James Meikle, health correspondent
Wednesday August 24, 2005


Government officials are in discussions with farmers about restricting the movement of pigs as well as poultry as they prepare for the possible arrival of avian flu in the UK.
Powers to cull and control poultry as well as remove potentially infected birds from the food chain are already available but it emerged yesterday that talks are under way on whether further measures might be necessary.

Scientists fear that pigs can act as "mixing vessels" for flus that would otherwise be mainly harmful to birds - although humans in close contact can be infected and killed by such viruses - and turn them into a highly contagious disease that spreads easily between humans.

The trend towards outdoor breeding of pigs as well as the popularity of free-range chicken means that British farms may be susceptible to the threat from migrating wild birds bringing bird flu from other parts of the world.

Avian flu is not regarded as a pig disease so there are no powers to cull them at present although the European commission is introducing a directive that would enable governments to act. Fred Landeg, the deputy chief vet, will be Britain's representative at an EC meeting in Brussels tomorrow to discuss avian flu and other issues.

Meanwhile, the government insisted there was no need to shut free-range chickens indoors as was ordered in the Netherlands on Monday.

The environment department, Defra, yesterday met with industry bodies. It said: "There will be continuing dialogue to ensure we are best prepared to meet any heightened risk of disease or any future outbreak. We are continuing to review together the assessment of the risk of avian influenza but are content that the risk remains low and there is no need at this stage for the industry to be asked to bring indoors free-range birds.

"We are looking jointly at what steps might be appropriate in future in different circumstances to respond to changes in levels of risk."

Bob McCracken, the president of the British Veterinary Association, said it was vital to spot the arrival of avian flu early and called on the government to authorise more proactive surveillance in at-risk areas such as farms where poultry was kept outdoors and with water where migrating birds were likely to land.

"We would not go out and blindly sample domesticated birds throughout the UK," he said. "We would concentrate our efforts on those areas where we believe contact with migrating birds is more likely."

Ian Campbell of the National Pig Association said: "At this moment, the actual risk on the pig side is relatively low, though clearly the expectation is that it will grow."

There was no clear indication of how many farms have pigs and poultry on them, especially since the law did not require poultry owners to be registered. "I suspect the number that have a few poultry running round the place is probably quite significant." About 30%-35% of the pig breeding herd was now thought be outdoors, he said.

The RSPB warned against any clamour for the destruction of wild birds. A spokesman, Andre Farrer, said: "If you kill wild birds, it would not only be highly likely to be ineffective, but also would be likely to disperse the birds in a highly unpredictable manner."

Although migrating flocks could bring bird flu to Britain, it is also possible that travellers to areas where there have been outbreaks could return with it. There are no plans to screen for it at ports or airports because flu is infectious before symptoms show.

But GPs are being warned to look out for patients who might have had a travel history. Tests could show within hours whether a patient had a virus of the H5N1 type which has caused such problems in south-east Asia.

If a pandemic arrived, the government hopes its ordering of 14.6m courses of antiviral drugs for those most at risk, plus 2m courses of vaccines for key workers, even if these might not be effective against a new strain of flu, could hold the line against it while other measures were developed.

Officials hope to learn from problems in the Netherlands where bird flu struck two years ago. A vet died and at least 1,000 people were infected.

History of outbreaks

A nasty form of bird flu, once known as fowl pest, was first identified in Italy in 1878.

In the 1920s, the US suffered two outbreaks. Milder forms of the disease in birds, caused by influenza A viruses, have been relatively common worldwide, but highly pathogenic subtypes have also been reported more often over the past 30 years. There are no effective vaccines that can be quickly administered and other drugs may help the disease to spread.

In 1997, the type known as H5N1 caused problems in Hong Kong. It originated in China in water birds, which often do not show signs of illness, spreading to geese and then more generally to poultry. Eighteen people caught the bird flu and six died. New controls were imposed on markets.

Four years later, a variation of this flu struck Hong Kong again, and was responsible for two reported cases and one death. In 2003 another H5N1 flu hit south-east Asia, leading to the culling of millions of birds.

Fifty-seven of the 112 confirmed human cases have died so far, but transmission from person to person seems to have been limited. There is no evidence yet that a deadly mutation has taken place to make it spread more easily between people.

Another avian flu virus, H7N7, hit the Netherlands two years ago. A vet died and 1,000 people were infected. Some 30 million poultry were culled.

The last outbreak of avian flu in Britain was detected in a flock of turkeys in Norfolk in 1992. It was swiftly contained.



Veteran Member
BBC on EU vet meeting 8/25

The BBC Newshour had two extended slots about the very real threat to some people's favorite suppers (get your tinned meat now) and the potential for a crossover into humans.

The BBC website also had an article on the subject:


EU vets discuss bird flu danger

There are fears bird flu could spread westwards
Veterinary experts from across the EU are meeting in Brussels amid fears that bird flu may reach the West, after being detected in Russia.
Dutch officials will explain why they have ordered that all of the country's poultry be moved indoors.

However, it is thought unlikely that the measure will be followed by other countries at this stage.

Experts in Britain said that was not yet necessary, but called for greater resources and bird surveillance.

The Netherlands suffered a devastating outbreak of the virus among its poultry two years ago, and Dutch government experts will be explaining why they have decided to go further than other EU countries.

Health officials are concerned that avian flu has spread from the Far East to Russia and Kazakhstan, and that it could be carried further by wild birds migrating from the areas currently affected.

Philip Tod, European Commission spokesman for health and consumer protection, said he hoped veterinary experts would be able to advise "whether the birds which migrate across western Europe from Russia are those which come from the affected regions in Siberia".

He said he hoped the vets would make recommendations on how to step up Europe's vigilance and protect its bird populations from infection.

The disease has killed dozens of people in Asia after they contracted it from birds.

But some officials are worried that if the disease mutates, it could pass easily between humans, and threaten a lethal flu pandemic.

Professor Hugh Pennington, of Scotland's University of Aberdeen, told the BBC that senior public health figures had said "this is the one thing that really keeps them awake at night".

There was a fear, he said, that a pandemic could be worse than when flu spread worldwide in 1918, killing 40 million people.

He called for increased resources so that surveillance of both poultry flocks and wildfowl populations could be stepped up.
Last edited:


Veteran Member
Balkans May Be Bird Flu Gateway to Wider Europe
Reuters Alert

Michael Winfrey

SOFIA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Birds heading south for the winter from Siberia may carry a deadly strain of avian flu to the Balkan peninsula and mingle with other flocks from northern Europe, experts said on Thursday.

Millions of birds migrate each year to Black Sea neighbours Romania and Bulgaria for the milder winter climate, making the area a potential gateway to central Europe for the bird flu virus, which has already swept into Russia from southeast Asia.

Samuel Jutzi, head of the United Nations agency in charge of monitoring and controlling the flu, said its quick spread indicated migratory birds may be able to carry it over long distances and that it could reach the Balkans in a few months.

"Knowing the flyways and the bird species that use them, there is a high likelihood that the virus will continue to spread as it has so far," Jutzi, Director of the Animal and Production and Health Division of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation, told Reuters.

"Particularly in the southeastern part of the Balkans, given that these flyways go down there ... It is quite probable in the future and is a major concern for us."

The European Commission has said there is a relatively low risk of migratory birds spreading the virus but has banned poultry products from Russia and Kazakhstan.

One strain of bird flu potentially dangerous to humans, H5N1, has decimated flocks of poultry in southeast Asia and has killed more than 50 people over the past two years.

H5N1 has been officially registered in six Russian regions in Siberia and the Urals, and has also been confirmed in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

Experts fear the strain, which has killed around half of the people who contract it, could mutate into a variation easily spread among humans and spark a pandemic that could kill tens of millions of people.


Lakes and rivers along the Black Sea coast ranging from Ukraine to northern Turkey attract millions of birds each winter from an area stretching from northern Russia to Scandinavia.

Europe's largest wetlands, Romania's Danube delta, and lakes in northern Bulgaria, are popular among flocks of red-breasted geese from Siberia as well as white-fronted geese from Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany.

"There is a risk of spreading the deadly strain of flu to local wildlife if any of them is infected," said Boris Barov, head of Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds.

Jutzi said countries in southeast Europe may lack the capacity to detect and deal with a widespread outbreak.

Bulgaria and Romania are two of Europe's poorest countries.

"They are presumably less prepared to detect and react early and also to put into place the necessary movement controls on poultry to really reduce the virus's spread," Jutzi said. "That is of quite substantial concern to us."

Both countries have banned the import of wild and domestic birds from Russia and Kazakhastan. Bulgaria introduced a monitoring programme for early detection of bird flu in 2002, and Romania carries out random testing in the Danube delta.

So far they have detected no cases.

"We are closely watching the situation and are in contact with neighbouring countries and World Organisation for Animal Health. We are ready to react," said Georgi Georgiev, a scientist with Bulgarian Veterinary Institute. (Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Ilieva in Sofia and Radu Marinas in Bucharest)


Migrating flocks 'will bring bird flu to Britain'
By David Rennie in Brussels
(Filed: 26/08/2005)

Migrating birds will eventually carry bird flu from Asia to Britain, the head of the British Veterinary Association said yesterday.

Bob McCracken, president of the BVA, said: "Wild birds that have migratory pathways over Europe and the UK will become infected. It is inevitable that bird flu will be carried to this country."

Veterinarians test a goose in Siberia for the virus
But after a day-long debate, European Union experts said the immediate risk of sick birds reaching Europe and infecting flocks was "probably remote or low," though it varied from region to region in the EU.

The veterinary officers - from all 25 European Union national governments and the European Commission - held the emergency summit in Brussels to discuss an avian influenza outbreak now making its way west across Asia, after recently reaching Siberia and the Ural mountains in Russia.

They agreed that the current outbreak in Russia and Kazakhstan was "cause for serious concern", and called for increased surveillance of farmed and wild birds, and stepped up farm hygiene.

They stopped short of endorsing the measures taken this week in Holland, where farmers with free range or outdoor flocks were being ordered to shut all birds indoors.

The Chief Veterinary Officer, Debbie Reynolds, who represented Britain at the meeting, said: "The experts concluded that it would not be proportionate for the current risk of disease to introduce a general ban on keeping poultry outdoors. The risk of the virus spreading into the European Union via migrating birds is remote or low."

Dutch officials have not forgotten an outbreak of another strain of bird flu that led to the destruction of 30 million chickens in 1999-2000, at an estimated cost of £100 million.

The virulent strain of bird flu involved in the latest outbreak, H5N1, has been endemic in south-east Asia and China for two years already. It has now killed more than 14,000 birds in Russia, and prompted the culling of 130,000 domestic birds. The Russian flu appears to be a less infectious Chinese sub-variety, and not identical to that found in South East Asia.

The H5N1 strain has shown itself capable of jumping the "species gap" to humans, and has killed more than 60 people since 2003, most of them in Vietnam. It is extremely dangerous to humans once caught, killing between half and a third of all those sickened.

But, crucially, the H5N1 strain is not very contagious, spreading poorly if at all between humans. Most of those infected are believed to have been sickened by close contact with diseased birds, in regions where millions live in close contact with live poultry.

EU vets meeting in Brussels discussed only the chance that bird flu could spread to birds in Europe, not humans. A senior EU official was at pains to draw a clear distinction between the chance of poultry falling sick in Europe, which could be a commercial catastrophe, and the doomsday scenario of the virus mutating into a new form of flu that could spread quickly between humans - the so called "global pandemic" scenario.

The official said: "We are very far from a risk of the infection of humans by migratory birds from Asia. The potential risk is that migratory birds will bring the infection to domestic poultry in Europe. Once that happens, the risk for humans is increased."

In a statement, the EU expert group said they lacked information about the extent to which wild birds were to blame.

The EU has asked member states to step up sampling of migrating wildfowl along high-risk migration routes. They have also asked customs and border police agencies to enforce strictly an import ban on poultry meat and feathers from infected areas of Asia.

Birds from Siberia migrate south mainly to southern Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania.



Veteran Member

China experts say bird flu bigger threat than SARS
26 Aug 2005 11:26:46 GMT

GUANGZHOU, China, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Bird flu now poses a bigger and more worrying threat to people than SARS, medical experts in southern China, the region where Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome first surfaced, said on Friday.

The main reason, they said, was that humans had learned how to effectively control the spread of SARS, but had not done the same for bird flu, which can be spread by wild birds.

Bird flu has killed 62 people in Asia since 2003 and forced the slaughter of millions of fowl.

The World Health Organisation has warned that bird flu has the potential to trigger a global pandemic if the virus mutates and becomes easily transmittable between humans.

"Bird flu has not been effectively contained. The threat of it mutating so people can transmit it is still there, and the threat is very large," said Zhong Nanshan, one of China's leading SARS experts.

"Bird flu is more dangerous" than SARS, he said in the southern city of Guangzhou.

SARS emerged in southern China, swept through the province of Guangdong, and spread globally in 2003, infecting 8,000 people and killing 800 of them.

Fears of a global outbreak of bird flu have grown since the deadly strain of bird flu, once largely confined to Asia, was found in eastern Russia and Kazakhstan.

It was not clear, however, if the strain was the H5N1 virus, which was found in several countries in Asia.

An outbreak of easily spread bird flu among humans could be disastrous, said Li Baojian, a professor at Zhongshan University who is involved in SARS medicine research.

"For human health and life it poses a big threat, and this threat affects global economic development, political stability. It is very acute and very frightening," he told Reuters.

Experts have said southern China is the perfect breeding ground for new diseases, and a likely starting point for a long overdue flu pandemic because of the warm weather and the proximity in which animals and humans live.

The last major flu pandemic was in the late 1960s when some 4 million people died. Despite warnings, there were no major outbreaks of SARS last winter and Li said experts were still investigating why.

The initial outbreak was contained with quarantine and isolation. One theory is that that stopped the disease in its tracks, Li said.

Another is that the coronavirus that causes SARS mutated and may be carried by some people and animals without producing symptoms, he said. There have been cases of healthy people carrying the SARS antibodies.


August 26, 2005 4:50 PM

Finland says finds possible bird flu in seagull

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's agriculture ministry said on Friday it had found a possible case of bird flu in a seagull in the northern town of Oulu.

"As a result of a monitoring programme in Finland, we have now made an initial finding of a possible bird flu virus in a seagull," the ministry said in a statement. "The studies are ongoing and a final result will come in three weeks."

Fears of a global outbreak have risen since the avian virus spread recently from Asia into Siberia in eastern Russia and Kazakhstan. The World Health Organisation has been urging governments to buy in antiviral drugs like Tamiflu.



Senior Member
Boxun.com reports up to 700 deaths/3000 infections (China) from H5N1 (unconfirmed)

A potentially important news story from Boxun.com... the news is not confirmed, but this poorly translated story indicates that perhaps 100 to as many as 700 people have died in China of H5N1 with more than 3,000 people infected. That is how I read it. Any opinions on what this is saying?


China closes northwest complete birds and beasts flu epidemic situation placement spot, large-scale awaits calmly the marquis bird to leave the country

(Editor's note: Below the abundant news is unable to verify the news)

Since the Chinese military in August the last ten days of the month already one after another northwest local epidemic situation placement closure, after the epidemic situation placement spot was the Qinghai fatal birds and beasts flu eruption causes the large-scale herdsman to die, for solves the local medical treatment facility to lack with the region oversized question but non- is public by the Chinese military secret establishment is temporarily infected personnel's centralism to place the facility. At present because Chinese official seal news, therefore is unable to understand has how many people to force to isolate, before this the news is more than 1,000 people, but from a placement scale and the quantity analysis, its actual population probably surpasses several thousand.

So far the overall casualty or confuses, has the hearsay is more than 100 people, some more than 700 people, have the death to infect more than 3,000 people and so on, because does not have the real evidence therefore is unable to confirm, but one kind of phenomenon appearance, has the military to guard against the pastoral area which the personnel comes in and goes out to be able to appear the so-called community to be missing the phenomenon, namely the herdsman, the domestic animal vanishes, home use facility destruction phenomenon, because the local control is severe, therefore understands extremely difficultly.

From places such as Qinghai, Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shaanxi compiles the news in addition, each place official before this hearsay carries on the capture after the wild marquis bird to force artificially to inject the birds and beasts flu vaccine and 圈养 the partial time news confirmation is false. The authority after May certainly such movement, the authority accurate information has not been, after the death migratory bird disinfection burns down, the migratory bird which does not have the unusual symptom (including viral 携带者) does not give the consideration, waited for its freedom leaves the country. Leaves the country for 1 month not newly to send case of illness namely to announce the Chinese birds and beasts flu disseminates terminated, the guard work announces successfully, the work key transfers the centralism domesticated fowl cultivation the guard work.


Avian flu virus infected civets in Vietnam
Aug 26, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Reports today said three rare palm civets that recently died in captivity in Vietnam were infected with an H5N1 avian influenza virus, adding another species to the list of those susceptible to the pathogen.

The three Owston's palm civets died in June, and tests of samples in a Hong Kong laboratory detected the H5N1 virus, according to Reuters and Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports. The animals died in the same cage in Cuc Phuong National Park, about 55 miles south of Hanoi.

Staff members at the park said no other animals or people had fallen ill.

In addition to birds and humans, H5N1 viruses have been known to infect pigs, housecats, tigers, and leopards. The virus has killed millions of poultry and at least 57 people in outbreaks in Asia since late 2003.

Civets figured in another relatively new infectious disease: SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Chinese scientists concluded that masked palm civets—a different species from Owston's—were the main animal source of the SARS virus, which infected about 8,000 people around the world in 2003. Civets are used for food in southern China.

The civets that died of avian flu were a female and two offspring, all of which had been born in captivity, reports said. It was not clear how they became infected.

Reuters quoted Do Van Lap, a manager at the park, as saying, "How they were infected remains unknown as they were raised together with 20 other civets, their cages close to each other, but the remaining civets are strong."

Lap said initial suspicion fell on park staff members who lived in a village where some chickens had died, but tests did not find the virus. He said the civets were not fed chicken.

The story said Cuc Phuong National Park has a wildlife protection project that involves raising peacocks, pheasants, freshwater turtles, and deer in captivity, as well as civets. "All the remaining animals are safe, so we reckon the three civets are isolated cases," Lap told Reuters.

In an Associated Press (AP) report, Scott Robertson, technical adviser for the civet conservation program at the park, commented, "It's another good example of how dangerous this thing [the H5N1 virus] is." He said the WHO and Vietnamese health officials were expected to test park employees.

Peter Horby, a WHO epidemiologist in Hanoi, said the finding does not signal an increased risk of avian flu in humans, since people have less contact with civets than with poultry, according to the AP. Poultry have been the source of nearly all human cases so far.

Owston's palm civet is an endangered species that is confined to parts of northern Vietnam, northern Laos, and neighboring areas of China, according to a report from Vietnam's National Center for Scientific Research.

Also in Vietnam, a pilot program to vaccinate poultry against avian flu in two provinces is running behind schedule, according to a report today from the Vietnam News Agency. About 72% of targeted birds in the northern province of Nam Dinh have been vaccinated, but only 38% have been vaccinated in Tien Giang province in the south, where flooding has caused problems, the story said.

In other developments, officials in Finland reported a possible avian flu outbreak in seagulls, but it was probably not a highly pathogenic strain, according to a Reuters report today.

A flu virus was found in sick and dead seagulls in the northern town of Oulou, the report said, but the strain was not identified. Finland shares a border with Russia, where H5N1 avian flu has surfaced in poultry in recent weeks, but not in areas near Finland.


Bill P

Asian bird flu outbreak 'could trigger 1930s-style collapse'
By Malcolm Moore (Filed: 26/08/2005)


An outbreak of Asian bird flu, which experts said yesterday is bound to hit the UK, could trigger an economic collapse similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s, two financial analysts warned yesterday.

In a lengthy research report titled An Investor's Guide to Avian Flu, Sherry Cooper and Donald Coxe warn that the food, tourism and insurance industries could be devastated in a relatively short time.

Lee Jong-wook: millions and millions of deaths
The two analysts, who work for BMO Nesbitt Burns, a Canadian bank, said: "The combination of collapsing demand from China and India and the likelihood of a collapse in demand for housing and cars in the OECD nations would mean prices of base metals and steel would plunge." They also said companies would be hit by panicking staff and that "rates of both absenteeism and death would be sharply higher than should be necessary".

Yesterday, the World Health Organisation said it was stepping up its fight against bird flu by securing enough doses of the Tamiflu anti-viral agent to treat 3m people.

"If it hits, and we are unprepared, there will be millions and millions of deaths," warned Lee Jong-wook, the head of the WHO.

The risk of an outbreak has risen since the virus spread into Russia, although it has yet to be passed from human to human. Asian bird flu has killed 50 people since 2003, and forced millions of poultry to be slaughtered.

The two analysts said that the world would be better placed to deal with a new epidemic, since the internet could allow people to shop from the safety of their homes. They warned not to invest in IT shares though, because most IT companies rely on the Far East for their components.