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China Gaffe May Kill Millions


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As the bird flu pandemic makes its way to a mall near you, the Chinese government was secretly using up one of the human medicines that would have helped fight the virus:


Bird Flu Drug Rendered Useless

Chinese Chickens Given Medication Made for Humans


By Alan Sipress

Washington Post Foreign Service

Saturday, June 18, 2005; Page A01


HONG KONG -- Chinese farmers, acting with the approval and encouragement of government officials, have tried to suppress major bird flu outbreaks among chickens with an antiviral drug meant for humans, animal health experts said. International researchers now conclude that this is why the drug will no longer protect people in case of a worldwide bird flu epidemic.


China's use of the drug amantadine, which violated international livestock guidelines, was widespread years before China acknowledged any infection of its poultry, according to pharmaceutical company executives and veterinarians.


A health worker vaccinates a chicken against bird flu at a Chinese farm in late May. Chinese farmers also have used an anti-viral made for humans on chickens. (China Photos Via Getty Images)


Since January 2004, avian influenza has spread across nine East Asian countries, devastating poultry flocks and killing at least 54 people in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, but none in China. World Health Organization officials warned the virus could easily undergo genetic changes to create a strain capable of killing tens of millions of people worldwide.


Although China did not report an avian influenza outbreak until February 2004, executives at Chinese pharmaceutical companies and veterinarians said farmers were widely using the drug to control the virus in the late 1990s.


The Chinese Agriculture Ministry approved the production and sale of the drug for use in chickens, according to officials from the Chinese pharmaceutical industry and the government, although such use is barred in the United States and many other countries. Local government veterinary stations instructed Chinese farmers on how to use the drug and at times supplied it, animal health experts said.


Amantadine is one of two types of medication for treating human influenza. But researchers determined last year that the H5N1 bird flu strain circulating in Vietnam and Thailand, the two countries hardest hit by the virus, had become resistant, leaving only an alternative drug that is difficult to produce in large amounts and much less affordable, especially for developing countries in Southeast Asia.


"It's definitely an issue if there's a pandemic. Amantadine is off the table," said Richard Webby, an influenza expert at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.


Health experts outside China previously said they suspected the virus's resistance to the medicine was linked to drug use at poultry farms but were unable to confirm the practice inside the country. Influenza researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in particular, have collected information about amantadine use from Chinese Web sites but have been frustrated in their efforts to learn more on the ground.


China has previously run afoul of international agencies for its response to public and agricultural health crises, notably the SARS epidemic that began in 2002. China's health minister was fired after the government acknowledged it had covered up the extent of the SARS outbreak by preventing state-run media from reporting about the disease for months and by minimizing its seriousness.


In interviews, executives at Chinese pharmaceutical companies confirmed that the drug had been used since the late 1990s, to treat chickens sickened by bird flu and to prevent healthy ones from catching it.


"Amantadine is widely used in the entire country," said Zhang Libin, head of the veterinary medicine division of Northeast General Pharmaceutical Factory in Shenyang. He added, "Many pharmaceutical factories around China produce amantadine, and farmers can buy it easily in veterinary medicine stores."


Zhang and other animal health experts said the drug was used by small, private farms and larger commercial ones. Amantadine sells for about $10 a pound, a fraction of the drug's cost in Europe and the United States, where its price would be prohibitive for all but human consumption.

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  • 2 months later...

RE: Birdwatching


We don't know if it will arrive with a hawk or a buzzard, but experts say it is sure to arrive:


U.S. preparing for bird flu to arrive from eastern Asia

Migrating wildfowl expected to bring virus to Americas

Sabin Russell, Chronicle Medical Writer


Wednesday, September 28, 2005



-- As world health leaders step up their warnings about a dangerous strain of bird flu in Asia, U.S. scientists are warily scanning the skies to the far north for signs of the virus in migrating waterfowl that cross continents and make their seasonal trips to the southern reaches of the United States.


The strain of bird flu known as H5N1 has yet to mutate into a form that can be transmitted easily among humans, but it already poses a threat to people in Asian nations who live in close proximity to ducks and chickens, and it would cause huge problems for the U.S. poultry industry if H5N1 became established in North America.


During the summer, the virus was apparently carried by migrating birds from China and Southeast Asia to Kazakhstan and Siberia, in the Russian Federation, where it subsequently infected domestic chicken flocks. The more entrenched the virus becomes in the world's bird population, experts believe, the greater the chances H5N1 will eventually mutate into a human disease.


Unlike seasonal flu, this influenza strain has been extraordinarily deadly for the few humans who have caught it from close contact with infected birds. Since December 2003, when the outbreak began, 115 people are known to have contracted it, and 59 of them died in four Asian countries.


At a meeting in Washington, D.C., with health leaders from North and South America on Tuesday, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Lee Jong-wook declared that a pandemic was virtually inevitable. "There is a storm brewing that will test us all," he said. "We must anticipate it and prepare to the very best of our combined abilities."


At UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, doctors and bird veterinarians outlined efforts under way in California to monitor the dangerous H5N1 strain, which has yet to appear in birds in the Western Hemisphere, but is bound to create a scare if and when it does.


The focus is currently on Alaska, a junction where birds from the East Asia/Australian flyway -- encompassing areas infected with H5N1 -- can make a left turn and fly south along the Pacific Americas Flyway, which runs along the Pacific Coast, through California, all the way to the southern extreme of Argentina.


"Ducks, geese, gulls and terns are a natural host for these viruses," said Dr. Walter Boyce, executive director of the Wildlife Health Center at UC Davis.


He stressed that research so far has shown no evidence of any wild bird carrying the H5N1 virus in North America. But with the seasonal migrations of millions of birds now kicking into gear, Boyce said there is a concern that wild birds "will spread H5N1 around the world."


Dr. Carol Cardona, an avian flu and poultry expert at UC Davis, said the arrival of H5N1 will be problematic for chicken producers in the United States, but because birds here are raised under different conditions from those in Asia, it is less likely to wipe out vast flocks of domestic birds.


In Asia, farmers live in close proximity to many small flocks of birds where ducks, geese, chickens and pigs intermingle. In the United States, most poultry are raised in large commercial establishments that require standard "biosecurity" procedures limiting human contact with bird feces, which carry the virus.


Such biosecurity procedures have in fact worked in Asia. To date, the H5N1 virus has not turned up in the large poultry farms and processing plants that operate there, Cardona said.


In the United States, the arrival of H5N1 will necessitate tighter surveillance for bird flu, and flocks found infected would be "depopulated," the UC Davis veterinarian said. But she does not anticipate that orders would come down requiring the widespread slaughter of poultry -- even those that are raised in backyards and on hobby farms. As scary as this virus is, common sense procedures such as covering bird feed piles and keeping chickens under a roof can protect birds from virus dropped by wild, infected birds.


Dr. Warner Hudson, an infectious disease specialist at UC Davis Medical Center, stressed the importance of planning for the worst. "It's too big a bet not to prepare like crazy," he said. "For the first time, at least we have an early warning."


An experimental vaccine is being tested against the current strain of H5N1 flu, but the United States expects to produce no more than 20 million doses this year, and there is no guarantee it would work at all on a strain that passes easily among humans -- by definition, it would be a mutation of the current bug that is almost exclusively a disease among birds.


Stocks of an antiviral drug, Tamiflu, are woefully short of what would be needed to treat bird flu should it spring into a pandemic form. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stockpiled enough to treat 2.3 million people. Hoffmann-La Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant that is the world's sole supplier of the drug, has pledged to build a U.S. plant to produce Tamiflu before the year's end, but the drug supplies from that plant would not be ready until late 2006.


Should a deadly flu arrive in the United States -- and experts are not predicting when or if it would -- Hudson said that frequent hand-washing, the use of alcohol gel hand cleaners, and "respiratory etiquette" such as covering your nose when you sneeze are effective preventatives. "Stay home when you are sick," he advised.


Dr. Howard Backer, acting state health officer, said the California Department of Health Services is prepared for a pandemic, despite shortages of personnel in the state's Richmond virus lab, where samples of potential cases of bird flu would be tested. Backer said more than two dozen possible cases have already been evaluated, and all turned up negative.

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RE: Birdwatching...Or Not


Bush Plan Shows U.S. Is Not Ready for Deadly Flu



Published: October 8, 2005

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 - A plan developed by the Bush administration to deal with any possible outbreak of pandemic flu shows that the United States is woefully unprepared for what could become the worst disaster in the nation's history.


A draft of the final plan, which has been years in the making and is expected to be released later this month, says that a large outbreak that began in Asia was likely, because of modern travel patterns, to reach the United States within "a few months or even weeks."


If such an outbreak occurred, hospitals would become overwhelmed; riots would engulf vaccination clinics; and even power and food would be in short supply, according to the plan, which was obtained by The New York Times.


The 381-page plan calls for quarantine and travel restrictions but concedes that such measures "are unlikely to delay introduction of pandemic disease into the U.S. by more than a month or two."


The plan's 10 supplements suggest specific ways that local and state governments should prepare now for an eventual pandemic by, for instance, drafting legal documents that would justify quarantines. Written by health officials, the plan does yet address responses by the military or other governmental departments.


The plan outlines a worst-case scenario in which more than 1.9 million Americans would die and 8.5 million would be hospitalized with costs exceeding $450 billion.


It also calls for a domestic vaccine production capacity of 600 million doses within six months, more than 10 times the present capacity.


On Friday, President Bush asked the leaders of the nation's top six vaccine producers to the White House to cajole them into increasing their domestic vaccine capacity, and the flu plan demonstrates just how monumental a task these companies have before them.


In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration's efforts to plan for a possible pandemic flu have become controversial, with many Democrats in Congress charging that the administration has not done enough. Many have pointed to the lengthy writing process of the flu plan as evidence of this.


But while the administration's flu plan, officially called the Pandemic Influenza Strategic Plan, closely outlines how the Health and Human Services Department may react during a pandemic, it skirts many essential decisions, like how the military may be deployed.


"The real shortcoming of the plan is that it doesn't say who's in charge," said a top health official who provided the plan to The Times. "We don't want to have a FEMA-like response, where it's not clear who's running what."


Still, the official, who asked for anonymity because the plan was not supposed to be distributed, called the plan a "major milestone" that was "very comprehensive" and sorely needed.


The draft provided to The Times is dated Sept. 30, and is stamped "for internal H.H.S. use only." The plan asks government officials to clear it by Oct. 6.


Christina Pearson, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, responded, "We recognize that the H.H.S. plan will be a foundation for a governmentwide plan, and that process has already begun."


Ms. Pearson said that Mr. Leavitt has already had one-on-one meetings with other cabinet secretaries to begin the coordination process across the federal government. But she emphasized that the plan given to The Times was a draft and had not been finalized.


Mr. Leavitt is leaving Saturday for a 10-day trip to at least four Asian nations, where he will meet with health and agriculture officials to discuss planning for a pandemic flu. He said at a briefing Friday that the administration's flu plan would be officially released soon. He was not aware at the briefing that The Times had a copy of the plan. And he emphasized that the chances that the virus now killing birds in Asia would become a human pandemic were unknown but probably low. A pandemic is global epidemic of disease.


"It may be a while longer, but pandemic will likely occur in the future," he said.


And he said that flu planning would soon become a national exercise.


"It will require school districts to have a plan on how they will deal with school opening and closing," he said. "It will require the mayor to have a plan on whether or not they're going to ask the theaters not to have a movie."


"Over the next couple of months you will see a great deal of activity asking metropolitan areas, 'Are you ready?' If not, here is what must be done," he said.


A key point of contention if an epidemic strikes is who will get vaccines first. The administration's plan suggests a triage distribution for these essential medicines. Groups like the military, national guard and other national security groups were left out.


Beyond the military, however, the first in line for essential medicines are workers in plants making the vaccines and drugs as well as medical personnel working directly with those sickened by the disease. Next are the elderly and severely ill. Then come pregnant women, transplant and AIDS patients, and parents of infants. Finally, the police, firefighters and government leaders are next.


The plan also calls for a national stockpile of 133 million courses of antiviral treatment. Presently the administration has bought 4.3 million.


The plan details the responsibilities of top health officials in each phase of a spreading pandemic, starting with planning and surveillance efforts and ending with coordination with the Department of Defense.


Much of the plan is a dry recitation of the science and basic bureaucratic steps that must be followed as a virus races around the globe. But the plan has the feel of a television movie-of-the-week when it describes a possible pandemic situation that begins, "In April of the current year, an outbreak of severe respiratory illness is identified in a small village."


"Twenty patients have required hospitalization at the local provincial hospital, five of whom have died from pneumonia and respiratory failure," the plan states.


The flu spreads and begins to make headlines around the world. Top health officials swing into action and isolate the new viral strain in laboratories. The scientists discover that "the vaccine developed previously for the avian strain will only provide partial protection," the plan states.


In June, federal health officials find airline passengers infected with the virus "arriving in four major U.S. cities," the plan states. By July, small outbreaks are being reported around the nation. It spreads.


As the outbreak peaks, about a quarter of workers stay home because they are sick or afraid to become sick. Hospitals are overwhelmed.


"Social unrest occurs," the plan states. "Public anxiety heightens mistrust of government, diminishing compliance with public health advisories." Mortuaries and funeral homes are overwhelmed.


Presently, an avian virus has decimated chicken and other bird flocks in 11 countries. It has infected more than 100 people, about 60 of whom have died, but nearly all of these victims got the disease directly from birds. An epidemic is only possible when a virus begins to pass easily among humans.


Lawrence K. Altman contributed reporting for this article.

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RE: Preventing Pandemic Impossible


Official: Preventing Pandemic Impossible



Published: October 15, 2005

Filed at 1:28 p.m. ET


HAIPHONG, Vietnam (AP) -- After wandering amid cages of birds and rabbits at an open-air market in Hanoi, after watching the gutting of a freshly slaughtered chicken, and after visiting a Haiphong family sickened by bird flu, the United States' top health official came to a grim conclusion: Preventing the start of a global flu outbreak is just about impossible.


U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt was wrapping up a fact-finding mission Saturday in the region hardest-hit by bird flu. He said his tour of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam has painted a clearer picture of just how daunting it would be to identify and contain an outbreak if the virus mutates to a form easily spread among people. It could skip across borders and oceans, killing millions and crippling entire nations.


''Can we create a network of surveillance sufficient enough to find the spark when it happens, to get there fast enough?'' he said. ''The chances of that happening are not good.''


Leavitt, who is expected in Indonesia on Sunday, told reporters the trip has given him a realistic view of the challenges in Asia where people and animals living closely together is rooted in the culture.


''I was at a market in Cambodia and talked with a pig vendor who traveled 600 kilometers (373 miles) the night before to sell her pigs,'' he said. ''She had carried them on the top of a bus in a box next to a load of chickens, and I was sitting next to her ... with several other baskets of geese and several baskets of turkeys and ducks and then right next to pigs.''


He said the U.S. government was considering ways to help offset the economic loss to Asian farmers forced to slaughter infected flocks, but help would be limited. Without subsidies, poor farmers resist killing their sickened livestock.


Leavitt doesn't believe the United States -- or the rest of the world -- is prepared for a flu pandemic. While bird flu has rarely spread person-to-person and has infected just 117 people in two years, most health experts expect it to mutate one day to a more contagious form. The current virus has killed about half of the people it infects, although no one knows how deadly a new form of the bug might be.


The drug that seems most effective against bird flu is Tamiflu, which was created to treat ordinary human flu but is now in short supply and can't be made fast enough because of pandemic fears.


Leavitt has been talking with drug and vaccine manufacturers to try to increase the stockpile should a catastrophic outbreak reach North America. The government currently has enough Tamiflu to treat about 4.3 million Americans.


Manufacturing of a new vaccine has just started, and Leavitt said the United States may help finance some of the $100 million production burden.


Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested patent rules might be suspended in an outbreak to allow other companies to make generic forms of Tamiflu, produced by Swiss-based Roche Holding AG. In recent days, a company in India announced plans to do that.


However, Leavitt said the United States supports intellectual property laws that bar such action.


The HHS secretary -- who was accompanied by the disease chief of the National Institutes of Health and the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others -- said he would use information gleaned from his trip to work on U.S. preparedness and to start asking questions of Americans. Health officials have said a quarantine is the best approach if a flu pandemic is unleashed, but Leavitt said Americans are not ready.


''People have not exercised adequate personal preparedness to last more than three or four days in their normal environment without going to the store,'' he said. ''What's the responsibility of communities? What's the responsibility of families? Is it important that the mayor of a small town be thinking about a decision between Tamiflu and a swimming pool?''

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RE: Tamiflu Suicide?


Is the drug that many nations are relying on to prevent spread of bird flu going to create more problems that expected?


Japan links Tamiflu to 2 teen suicides

64 cases of disorders connected to avian flu treatment

Sabin Russell, Chronicle Medical Writer


Tuesday, November 15, 2005


An expensive, hard-to-find flu drug that nations are stockpiling against a possible influenza pandemic has been linked to 64 cases of psychological disorders and two teenage suicides in Japan, according to media reports there.


The drug is Tamiflu, also known as oseltamivir, which will become the world's first line of defense if the avian influenza now spreading among migrating birds from Asia to Eastern Europe ever mutates into a form that transmits readily to people.


In February 2004, according to an online edition of Japan Times, a 17-year-old high school boy under treatment with Tamiflu died after he jumped in front of a truck.


A year later, a 14-year-old junior high student, also taking the drug for influenza, jumped to his death from the ninth floor of his condominium.


The newspaper also reported that Japan's Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Agency -- the Japanese equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration -- has logged 64 cases of psychological disorders linked to Tamiflu.


Terry Hurley, a spokesman for Tamiflu maker Roche, said Monday that the company was aware of the two apparent suicides and had informed "regulatory authorities around the world.''


In the case of the first teenage death, Hurley said the boy had taken Tamiflu after first being treated with amantadine, an older anti-flu drug that is well-known for central nervous system side effects. In the second case, he said there was insufficient information to determine whether the boy's fall was the result of accident or suicide.


Both tragedies, he indicated, could have been triggered by the illness itself.


"Neuropsychiatric disturbances, such as those seen in the two cases, are known complications of influenza and its associated high fever,'' he said.


Japan's Tamiflu label carries a more extensive list of side effects than that required in the United States. Adverse events reported on the Japanese label include "impaired consciousness, abnormal behaviors, hallucination and other psychological and neurological symptoms,'' Hurley said.


Tamiflu's U.S. label lists a range of side effects, but the most common are nausea and vomiting. Of the others noted in the clinical trial of the drug, only vertigo, insomnia and bronchitis occurred at a higher rate than those taking a placebo for comparison.


Hurley said the company could not comment on the unspecified psychological disorders reported in Japan, but that conditions such as convulsions, tremor, lethargy and excitability are all consistent with influenza and dehydration.


Dr. Roger Baxter, director of flu programs for Kaiser Permanente, said he was not aware of psychological side effects in that health system's experience treating patients with Tamiflu. However, he said the central nervous system side effects of two older flu drugs, amantadine and rimantadine, are very common and can include confusion and occasional seizures.


Japan's experience with Tamiflu is noteworthy because it is the only country where Roche has had marked success in selling it as a treatment for ordinary influenza. At a meeting at Roche headquarters in Basel last week, pharmacy chief executive William Burns said Japan was the one government that embraced Tamiflu treatment for seasonal influenza as a public health issue, and that consequently that country provides "the best clinical experience and exposure in the regular winter season.''


Japan's enthusiasm for Tamiflu has not diminished. The country has started the last few influenza seasons with enough of the drug on hand to treat 10 percent of its population, and it has ordered enough for a stockpile to treat 25 million in the event of a bird flu-sparked pandemic.

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RE: Poodle Poop Poses Problems


Does anyone get the feeling that the bird flu problem may be bigger than we are being told?


French pet owners told to stay calm

France's food safety agency ordered residents in areas affected by bird flu to keep their cats indoors and dogs on leashes to avoid spreading the virus.


But they said there was no reason to abandon pets in panic and told pet owners to stay calm.


France's government had asked the food safety agency, AFSSA, for a study on the risks of cats getting bird flu even before a cat in Germany was found to have died of the flu earlier in the week - the first report of an infected mammal in continental Europe.


France has recorded 29 cases of H5N1 in wild birds and an outbreak at a turkey farm - the only case of commercial poultry infected in the European Union.


All of France's cases have been confined to the southeastern Ain region.


The food safety agency ordered residents in the Dombes district of the Ain region to keep their cats indoors and dogs on leashes when outdoors.


It said veterinary authorities should investigate any unusual cat deaths in the infected zones, and urged people not to touch dead animals, animal droppings or any detritus likely to attract carnivorous animals.


Some French cat owners panicked after the German announcement and bombarded the animal protection society with anxious calls. In some cases, owners abandoned their pets.


The food safety agency urged calm. "These precautionary measures, which are temporary, should in no case lead to abandoning pets," it said in a statement released by the Agriculture Ministry on Saturday.


© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2006, All Rights Reserved.

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RE: Flu Self Help


Any American who expects the government to prevent an avian flu epidemic, or to be capable of responding to one if, G-d forbid, one breaks out, has only to look to the U.S. Gulf Coast and what happened to it before, during and after last year's hurricanes to know that they're up shit creek.


There's no assurance that any effective vaccine will be available in time, and Tamiflu isn't a sure thing, either. Fortunately, flu prevention isn't impossible. Although nothing is fool-proof, stocking up NOW on alcohol-based hand sanitizer (like Purell) and on disposable surgical face masks would be a good idea, because when an epidemic strikes they will become scarce and expensive. Get used to the idea of using a face mask everytime you need to go out during an epidemic, just as people in Asia commonly do now when they've got a cold or flu. Even if you're healthy, it'll reduce the chances of being infected by air-borne viruses. Frequent hand and face washing with soap and water, and use of hand sanitizer (where washing isn't quickly available) will also help you protect yourself. Avoid going out, but there will inevitably be times when you must, like to buy food or to go to work. (You'll need to use a mask even at work.)


The flu virus is transmitted through air-borne aerosol particles (caused by the sneezing or coughing of infected individuals) or by touching something contaminated with the virus and then touching your face, especially your eyes, nose or mouth, all of which are avenues of entry for the virus. Careful hygiene can reduce the risk significantly.


Younger readers (like escorts, who are frequently in contact with clients and their diseases) should be aware that they're at high risk, if this flu turns out to function like the Spanish flu. The disease causes a "cascade" of immune reactions as the body tries to fight the infection. In younger people, who have stronger immune systems, the "cascade" can be overwhelming, and it's the body's own immune reaction that ends up killing the patient. That's why so many younger people died during the Spanish flu pandemic. This works differently than common flu, which is usually most dangerous for the very young or the elderly, whose immune systems are undeveloped or weaker than that of healthy adults.


Let's pray this never comes, but if it does, there are easy things you can do to help protect yourself and reduce the risk of catching the disease yourself. Just plan ahead.

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RE: Flu Self Help


IMHO, even if we had a competent government, it couldn't do enough to make much of a difference. The reason is that each viral strain requires a new vaccine, vaccines have a very long lead time, and we are talking hundreds of millions of potential doses. It just isn't physically possible if the virus mutates to keep up with vaccines at those numbers.


Given this, prevention and containment is the best strategy. Trilingual's suggestions are good ones.


I would add that now is a good time to stock up on ordinary things to carry life through a crisis. Have several months worth of as many necessary things as you can and keep them stocked and up to date. This is simple and relatively inexpensive to do, especially with nonperishables. If a severe flu epidemic strikes, it could have unpredictable consequences, including the distribution of goods. Better to be prepared.

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RE: Flu Self Help


Good point. I guess we'd better learn to love tuna fish! We'll probably be eating a lot of it during an epidemic! Breakdowns in the distribution chains are very possible in a pandemic, as workers get sick or stay away from work or, G-d forbid, die. There may be bare supermarket shelves and closed service stations. Times will be very hard until a pandemic burns itself out. Let's pray it doesn't happen, but being prepared would be a smart thing to do.

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RE: Flu Self Help


Armagedon is at hand, and Jesus is a vegetarian. Mercury levels in tuna will kill you. Mad cow, bird flu, transfats and caffeine. Oz is right...life is short. Enjoy it. Just wear a mask and a condom and avoid second-hand smoke.

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RE: Did Disney Duck?


The panic that may ensue with a bird flu problem in the US is starting in France:



The Times March 09, 2006



Flu panic hits cats, dogs - and Disney

From Adam Sage in Paris




DISNEYLAND PARIS was accused yesterday of hiding a dead swan as panic over bird flu spread across Europe.


The allegations, angrily denied by the resort, were made by trade unions who said managers had hushed up the discovery to avoid scaring off visitors. The row came amid what experts are describing as an avian flu psychosis after the arrival of the H5N1 virus.




In France, police officers have been sent to shoot wild ducks, the fire service has been inundated with requests to pick up dead pigeons, and cockerels banned from fighting are allegedly expiring from apoplexy.


The scare reached Disneyland when two unions, the French Democratic Workers Confederation and Workers’ Force, said staff has seen a dead swan in the adventure park.


Although there was no suggestion the swan had fallen victim to bird flu — or even proof that it had actually existed — the report featured prominently on the radio news.


The resort, which attracts 12 million visitors a year, denounced the claims as “unacceptable lies.” A spokesman said the only birds found dead on the site were a sparrow and pigeon, which had succumbed to natural causes. Disneyland accused unions of making up the swan scare story to put pressure on management during wage negotiations.


The confirmation yesterday of two new cases of bird flu in cats on the German Baltic Sea Island of Rügen provoked fresh concerns from animal welfare societies.


Hundreds of cats have been abandoned in France and Germany over the past two weeks. “A lot of owners pretend they have suddenly developed an allergy to cat fur,” a worker at the French Society for the Protection of Animals said.


In Marseilles riot police sealed off an industrial estate where a dead swan with the H5N1 virus was found last weekend. Pet owners near by were told to keep cats indoors and dogs on a lead.


Anne-Marie Pigache, a council worker in nearby Saint Mitre, said 30 people had asked her to dispose of her backyard chickens. She had refused.


The French poultry industry has lost €130 million (£90 million) as a result of the bird flu scare, with 46 countries banning French fowl and foie gras and a 30 per cent slump in domestic sales. One supermarket is now offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal for roast chicken.


Cockerel breeders said they, too, were suffering after the authorities banned fights. Jean Louis Hoyez, president of the French Club of Northern Fighting Cocks, said: “These animals are bred for their aggressiveness, and when they can’t fight, they just die of apoplexy.”

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RE: Birdwatching...Or Not


Hint to Bush: keep an eye on Alaska!


Bird flu expected in U.S. by summer

Alaska is virus' likely entry point


March 9, 2006









The H5N1 virus has been confirmed in Sweden. U.S. monitoring will be increased; officials predict birds migrating across the Arctic Circle will spread the flu to Alaska. (MATS KOCKUM/Associated Press)

Avian flu is likely to spread to birds in the United States by midyear and could produce an epidemic among humans at any time, the United Nations official who monitors global efforts to fight the disease said Wednesday.


"We have a virus capable of replicating inside humans. We have a virus that humans are not resistant to. We have a virus about which we don't understand everything," said David Nabarro, a physician at the World Health Organization.


"It is at this stage of a pandemic alert that we have the luxury of being able to be prepared."


Wild birds migrating over the Arctic Circle from Africa and Europe in the next few months would carry the H5N1 virus to Alaska, said Nabarro, the UN's senior system coordinator for avian and human influenza. The virus would probably be carried to the rest of the United States six months later when birds from Alaska migrated south.


It was the first prediction by a top global health official pinpointing when birds carrying the flu will reach the lower 48 states -- and was buttressed by U.S. officials who said testing will expand dramatically.


U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt told a Senate committee March 1 that the virus' appearance is "just a matter of time; it may be very soon."


Stepped-up testing


Frank Quimby, an Interior Department spokesman, said Wednesday that the focus of concern is on Alaska and the nearby Pacific flyways.


"It's a breeding ground where birds from Asia and North America go in the spring and mix together," he said.


Federal, state and local health officials may test as many as 100,000 birds for avian influenza this year, mainly in Alaska. Officials had tested about 12,000 birds from 2000 through 2005, Quimby said.


The stepped-up U.S. testing is to begin in April.


Avian flu infected at least 31 people worldwide in the first two months of this year, killing 20 of them, according to the Geneva, Switzerland-based WHO. That's twice as many cases and fatalities reported compared with the same two months of 2005. The virus has killed at least 96 of 175 people infected since late 2003.


Complex migratory routes


Ken Rosenberg, director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., agreed that the deadly flu now in Asia and parts of Europe and Africa is expected to show up in wild birds in the United States. "I wouldn't be surprised if it will be within the next year," he said.


It makes sense to focus monitoring on Alaska, Rosenberg said, but migratory routes are so complex that there's no guarantee that Alaska is where the virus will first arrive in North America or that it will follow recognized flyways.


Migrating birds can show up "virtually anywhere and come from virtually anywhere," he said.


Nicholas Throckmorton, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said all notable deaths of wild birds in the United States will be investigated. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also will monitor wetlands and bird habitats, he said.


Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo in Washington said it's clear that migratory birds have played a role in the spread of bird flu elsewhere and that Alaska is an important place to look for it. But he said that's not the only way the virus could reach the United States.


"I would say movement of birds through the illegal pet trade is probably the most likely way it's going to get here," Marra said, adding that his comment is just a guess.

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