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Stirring the bird flu pot


Times is at it again, shoulder to the wheel: the public mustn’t relax

Experts confer expensively, humbled by virus whose antidote is a click away

What is it about Vitamin A that the Times doesn’t understand? Donald McNeil writes that Scientists Warn That Bird Flu Remains A Threat on the prime Times page 3, front or lead page of the daily International section today (Thus Feb 16).

Do the Times editors have to wait upon Dr Anthony Fauci’s office secretary to dial up PubMed before the editors can get it through their august noggins that as a major global threat Bird Flu is a non-starter? We covered all this more than a year ago in Times falls short on Bird Flu unaware of scientific literature, Duesberg on the coming bird flu global catastrophe: don’t bet on it, Bird flu flap continues needlessly. The antidote is Vitamin A, it’s clear, and ALERT – Vitamin A is probably simple antidote to bird flu, mainstream literature shows (Nov 20 2005), and they still ignore our help. It is very humbling.

The British are very proficient at eliminating veterinary diseases by killing and incinerating animals, officials said, noting that more than 160,000 birds were swiftly killed to contain the British outbreak. The Hungarians are believed capable of the same sort of response.

But the virus is out of control in poultry in three countries —” Indonesia, Nigeria and Egypt —” with combined populations of 447 million people. A year ago, it was out of control only in Indonesia, and Thailand and Vietnam had stifled outbreaks, though the virus returned later. China remains a mystery; despite official denials, there is evidence that it is circulating there, too.

Most alarming to the experts, though it got relatively less attention, was the death in January of a 22-year-old Nigerian woman, an accountant who lived in the crowded financial capital, Lagos. Officially, only one death of the H5N1 strain was confirmed, but Nigerian newspapers said the woman—™s mother died with similar symptoms two weeks earlier, and a female relative was sick but recovered.

How often does New AIDS Review have to bring it to their attention that Vitamin A is the antidote to the generation of the Tumor Necrosis Factor in the lungs which Bird Flu triggers, which is the cause of the quick and horrible suffocation and death that a few hundred unimportant Indonesian peasants have suffered for lack of instruction to Dr Fauci’s office staff to fire up PubMed and insert the words Tumor Necrosis Factor Vitamin A?

Must the peasants stripped of their chickens now all starve simply because Dr Fauci cannot understand how PubMed works? Must the Times continue this grotesque comedy by printing absurdities when the correct solution is but a click away?

We are forced to the conclusion that marketing Tamiflu takes priority in whatever sources the Times uses in these news reports.

—œI—™ve gotten at least 10 media calls in the last few months asking me to deliver the death sentence for avian flu,—? said Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. —œBut at any conference, if you get a group of virologists at the bar, after the fourth beer, they let their hair down and admit it —” they don—™t know what is happening. They—™ve been incredibly humbled by this virus.—?

(Pic is of lab researchers in Athens, Georgia swabbing the throats of chickens to see if a vaccine worked) Chastened ourselves by the evident lack of influence of New AIDS Review posts in the upper echelons of government we shed a tear for Bernie Matthews’ 165,000 innocent turkeys killed in Suffolk and another for the unfortunate farmers of Africa and Asia who don’t even get properly recompensed:

Nigerian farmers have complained that government cullers pay them only $2 for chickens that cost them $5 to $7 to raise. But payments, supported by the World Bank, seem to be made fairly promptly through local police stations.

Indonesia, by contrast, provides farmers with $1 vouchers that may not be cashed for three or four months, said Dr. Tri Satya Putri Naipospos, the country—™s director of animal health. —œIt—™s our weakest implementation,—? she admitted at a recent flu conference. —œIt should be treated as an emergency, but we still follow routine budget mechanisms.—?

Eighty percent of all Indonesian households keep poultry, and the flu is in 30 of the country—™s 33 provinces and still, she said, few take the threat seriously enough.

—œFarmers say dying chickens are normal in life,—? she said. —œAnd you must realize that 62 dead people in one and a half years? That—™s not very much in Indonesia. Three hundred thousand die from TB, from dengue. People in the villages don—™t grab what is a pandemic.—?

“At a recent flu conference”? No doubt there is quite a lot of activity at the conference level over bird flu, with officials and researchers gathering to catch up with the latest data already in their computers, in exotic locations where it is necessary to stay in the most expensive hotels to avoid the local water.
(Pic is of Ivory Coast bird flu dance, see below).

The New York Times

February 15, 2007
Scientists Warn That Bird-Flu Virus Remains a Threat
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

Last winter, as the deadly bird-flu virus marched out of Asia, across Europe and down into Africa, public health experts warned of the potential for a catastrophic pandemic like the Spanish flu of 1918.

This year, by contrast, bird flu seems all but forgotten, mentioned occasionally when it claims another life or when it causes a major outbreak in, say, a British turkey farm. With flu season reaching its peak, the question for many Americans now is whether the threat they are facing is not Spanish flu but swine flu —” another widely advertised menace that never materialized.

But that is premature, scientists say, cautioning that the virus is as dangerous and unpredictable as ever. It killed more people in 2006 than it did in 2005 or 2004, they point out, and its fatality rate is rising —” 61 percent now, up from 43 percent in 2005.

More worrisome, they say, is that the disease is out of control in birds in more places than ever, including the Nile delta in Egypt and Nigeria, where public health mechanisms are weak.

—œI—™ve gotten at least 10 media calls in the last few months asking me to deliver the death sentence for avian flu,—? said Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. —œBut at any conference, if you get a group of virologists at the bar, after the fourth beer, they let their hair down and admit it —” they don—™t know what is happening. They—™ve been incredibly humbled by this virus.—?

Since viruses with very high fatality rates, like Ebola, tend to burn themselves out by killing victims faster than those who are infected can pass it on, the increasing fatality rate —” still unexplained —” may be a silver lining. But the virus has plenty of mutational wiggle room —” the 1918 virus had a 2 percent fatality rate and yet still killed 50 million to 100 million because it was so transmissible.

That is why health experts remain cautious, warning that the pandemic could begin at any time and noting that February is a particularly risky month. The Year of the Pig begins on Feb. 18, and New Year—™s celebrations in China and Vietnam have become associated with flu outbreaks because so much poultry for family feasts is on the move.

Dr. Robert G. Webster, an internationally renowned virologist at St. Jude Children—™s Research Hospital in Memphis, ended a recent talk with a slide of three animals in a reference to Asia. —œWe—™ve survived the Year of the Chicken and the Year of the Dog,—? he said. —œWill we survive the Year of the Pig?—?

—œMy take-home message,—? Dr. Webster added, —œis don—™t become complacent. Don—™t trust this one.—?

Recent flu outbreaks among poultry in Britain and Hungary are not particularly worrying, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said, because those countries are proficient at eliminating veterinary diseases.

The British are very proficient at eliminating veterinary diseases by killing and incinerating animals, officials said, noting that more than 160,000 birds were swiftly killed to contain the British outbreak. The Hungarians are believed capable of the same sort of response.

But the virus is out of control in poultry in three countries —” Indonesia, Nigeria and Egypt —” with combined populations of 447 million people. A year ago, it was out of control only in Indonesia, and Thailand and Vietnam had stifled outbreaks, though the virus returned later. China remains a mystery; despite official denials, there is evidence that it is circulating there, too.

Most alarming to the experts, though it got relatively less attention, was the death in January of a 22-year-old Nigerian woman, an accountant who lived in the crowded financial capital, Lagos. Officially, only one death of the H5N1 strain was confirmed, but Nigerian newspapers said the woman—™s mother died with similar symptoms two weeks earlier, and a female relative was sick but recovered.

If true, that suggests a cluster of cases with possible human-to-human transmission. Tests on them were negative, but human H5N1 tests are best done on fresh samples from deep in the lungs, which are hard to obtain, and false negatives are common.

In Nigeria, despite the culling of 700,000 birds, avian flu has been found in birds in 19 of the country—™s 36 states, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Dr. Oyedele Oyediji, president of the Animal Science Association of Nigeria, told local papers that bans on poultry movement and culling orders were simply not being enforced.

—œIf you go to the markets in Lagos now,—? he said, —œyou would notice that poultry products like guinea fowl, ducks, turkey and chicken from the northern part of the country are still available.—?

Nigerian farmers have complained that government cullers pay them only $2 for chickens that cost them $5 to $7 to raise. But payments, supported by the World Bank, seem to be made fairly promptly through local police stations.

Indonesia, by contrast, provides farmers with $1 vouchers that may not be cashed for three or four months, said Dr. Tri Satya Putri Naipospos, the country—™s director of animal health. —œIt—™s our weakest implementation,—? she admitted at a recent flu conference. —œIt should be treated as an emergency, but we still follow routine budget mechanisms.—?

Eighty percent of all Indonesian households keep poultry, and the flu is in 30 of the country—™s 33 provinces and still, she said, few take the threat seriously enough.

—œFarmers say dying chickens are normal in life,—? she said. —œAnd you must realize that 62 dead people in one and a half years? That—™s not very much in Indonesia. Three hundred thousand die from TB, from dengue. People in the villages don—™t grab what is a pandemic.—?

The picture is not entirely bleak, however. Dr. Joseph Domenech, the F.A.O.—™s chief veterinarian, said he thought the prospects for controlling the spread in birds were —œa lot better than three years ago or even one year ago.—?

For unknown reasons —” possibly weather patterns and better poultry vaccination in northern China —” not as many migrating swans and geese carried the virus across Western Europe and down into Africa as did last winter. The main culprit now in spreading the virus seems to be trade in poultry, health officials say.

Also, Dr. Domenech said, more poor countries have become alert to outbreaks. For example, he said, the virus was found last year in spots from the Ivory Coast to Cameroon, a 1,000-mile stretch of West Africa, in countries with —œvery weak animal health prevention.—? Despite nominal customs bans, Nigeria exports poultry throughout the region, he said.

—œBut we did not have any explosive outbreak,—? he said.

Also, African nations rarely follow the dangerous Asian practice of herding huge flocks of domestic ducks with clipped wings into paddies after harvests to eat leftover rice and snails. Their droppings can pass the infection among themselves and on to wild ducks. Vietnam tried to ban the practice, —œbut it was a mistake,—? Dr. Domenech said. —œIt cannot be enforced. So now they will vaccinate ducks instead.—?

The virus has also been found in cats. That is not new; one of the most startling outbreaks killed 103 tigers in a Thai zoo in 2004. But a recent sampling of 500 stray cats collected near bird markets in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, found that 20 percent of them were infected. However, no human is known to have been infected by a cat.

World Health Organization reports almost always link human cases to poultry, but Dr. Naipospos, the Indonesian animal health official, released data at a flu conference in early February calling that into question. In the 82 human cases studied, she said, only 45 percent of victims were directly exposed to sick poultry. Thirty-five percent had —œindirect—? exposure, which meant sick birds in the neighborhood, and 20 percent were —œinconclusive.—?

Virologists say they believe that what must be avoided is a situation in which humans with seasonal flu catch H5N1, too, because the viruses could mix.

Indonesia—™s best prevention against that, Dr. Naipospos said, is the —œTamiflu blanket.—?

—œWe learned that in Garut,—? she said, referring to a cluster of cases last August in West Java. More than 20 people died or suffered serious symptoms. The government quickly gave the antiviral drug Tamiflu to more than 2,000 people. Ultimately, only three cases in the cluster were confirmed, but scientists say they suspect that some were missed.


Wacky Ivory Coast bird flu dance

Bird Flu Dance Craze Sweeps Ivory Coast

June 2, 2006—”This isn’t your grandfather’s Funky Chicken.

A local deejay is attempting to lighten the mood after the arrival of the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in early May. Twenty-one-year-old DJ Lewis has invented a wacky bird flu dance that is sweeping nightclubs in the West African country’s major city of Abidjan (Ivory Coast map).

The infectious craze has hundreds of people shaking, flapping their arms, and clucking on the dance floor—”an imitation of chickens’ death throes when they are culled to stop the virus from spreading.

“I created the dance to bring happiness to the hearts of Africans and to chase away fear—”the fear of eating chicken,” Lewis told the BBC.

“If we kill all our chickens and poultry, our cousins in the village will become poor. So I created the bird flu dance to put joy back into our hearts.”

Ivory Coast health experts have been encouraging people to continue eating chicken, saying well-cooked poultry poses little risk of transmitting bird flu.

—”Victoria Gilman

5 Responses to “Stirring the bird flu pot”

  1. Dave Says:

    No. of US dollars spent on bird flu: ~$3.9 Billion

    No. of news articles about dreaded bird flu: 1.4 Million

    No. of scientists working on bird flu: ~500-1000

    No. of made-for-t.v. movies on bird blu: 1

    No. of Americans killed by bird flu: ZERO

    Priceless!

  2. Wilyretrovirus Says:

    —œI—™ve gotten at least 10 media calls in the last few months asking me to deliver the death sentence for avian flu,—? said Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. —œBut at any conference, if you get a group of virologists at the bar, after the fourth beer, they let their hair down and admit it —” they don—™t know what is happening. They—™ve been incredibly humbled by this virus.—?

    It’s beginning to sound like another mysterious virus. One described as cunning, elusive, enigmatic…

    Is there a pattern to these various bird flu outbreaks? Any rhyme or reason? They appear to be utterly random.

    Is somebody pulling the strings? Here in Washington State, the health department has been airing “bird flu” ads on television. Giving us health and safety tips for the inevitable pandemic.

  3. Wilyretrovirus Says:

    —œFarmers say dying chickens are normal in life,—? she said. —œAnd you must realize that 62 dead people in one and a half years? That—™s not very much in Indonesia. Three hundred thousand die from TB, from dengue. People in the villages don—™t grab what is a pandemic.—?

    Was this paragraph intended as some sort of dark humor?

    People in the villages don—™t grab what is a pandemic.(???)

    TB==> 300,000 dead

    Bird Flu==> 62 dead

    Somebody, please help me, because if 62 dead is a “pandemic”, what is 300,000 dead?

  4. Martin Kessler Says:

    Like AIDS (as a contagious pandemic), Bird Flu is a legend in the minds of its creators.

  5. Truthseeker Says:

    People in the villages don—™t grab what is a pandemic.(???)

    TB==> 300,000 dead

    Bird Flu==> 62 dead

    Thanks Wily. The information passes from the research data of the scientist to the notes of the reporter to the editor’s copy to the printed page to the NIH funding application to the NIH funding approval to the White House announcement to the side effects insert of Tamiflu to the profit sheet to the investment report to the business page to the investor’s bank account without going through the minds of anybody involved…

    Guess we now have to write out a list as follows (borrowing from a comment at Dissident-Action):

    Top killers

    Diarrhoea: kills over 2m

    Pneumonia: kills over 2m

    Malaria: kills about 1m

    TB: 0.3m

    (So called) Aids: kills about 0.3m

    Bird flu: .000062m

    But of course this statistic only reflects the success of the tough but fair health policy ruthlessly applied to our feathered friends world wide to contain the spread of H5N1 wherever it is detected.

    Like AIDS (as a contagious pandemic), Bird Flu is a legend in the minds of its creators.

    Yes, indeed, Martin, and one that quickly became a biblical fiction in the minds of millions, owing primarily to a) the magic of instant federal funding, and b) the baffling phenomenon of so many people who really know nothing about the science at all suddenly being willing to die before they will allow it to be examined by anybody else.

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