As the world is being scared by the so called Avian Flu (H5N1 virus), and tons of newsbulletins are thrown at us daily, ordinary people from Budapest to Boston don't get the answers to their basic questions: Is this threat real? Do I have to fear? What shall I do? This blog tries to collect the answers from all possible sources available on the net.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Take it with humour - contd.
Hermann the German is in fact an American, living in Berlin, and he's got an outstanding sense of humor. He says that Germans have found a substitute (Ersatz) for the Birdflu, having noticed that "the troubling disappearance of last year’s potential bird flu epidemic". And "now, after months of sustained effort, a breakthrough was finally reached over the weekend: The vibrio vulnificus bacteria has been discovered in the Baltic Sea." Continue to Hermann's blog, where you can also learn that the Polonium-scandal may also have something to do with the fading of the bidflu-scare.
The good news is that British scientists are said to be on the verge of producing a revolutionary flu vaccine ... that works against all major types of the disease. Described as the 'holy grail' of flu vaccines, it would protect against all strains of influenza A - the virus behind both bird flu and the nastiest outbreaks of winter flu.
Just a couple of injections could give long-lasting immunity - unlike the current vaccine which has to be given every year.
The brainchild of scientists at Cambridge biotech firm Acambis, working with Belgian researchers, the vaccine will be tested on humans for the first time in the next few months.
A similar universal flu vaccine, being developed by Swiss vaccine firm Cytos Biotechnology, could also be tested on people in 2007 - and the vaccines on the market in around five years.
Importantly, the vaccines would also be quicker and easier to make than the traditional jabs, meaning vast quantities could be stockpiled against a global outbreak of bird flu.
The bad news is that we have had such news before.
But the really good news would be if the Brits really came up with a universal flu-vaccine, because it would mean the end of the scareproducers.
In 2006, bird flu didn’t become the killer pandemic everyone feared. In fact, there were no confirmed deaths in developed countries from bird flu. But the alarm, stoked by Western media reports, led to an unexpected—and unfortunate—outcome: A rash of abnormal behavior, hallucinations, and even deaths attributed to Tamiflu, the medicine marketed as a key drug capable of fighting the disease. In November, the Canadian health ministry issued a warning on Tamiflu after 10 Canadians taking the drug had died suspiciously. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration received more than 100 reports of injury and delirium among Tamiflu takers for a 10-month period in 2005 and 2006. That’s nearly as many cases as were logged over the drug’s five-year trial period. For now, the cure seems worse than the disease.
I'm nearing my sixth X and forget almost everything instantly. No wonder that I envy those who have a fine memory. One of them is William H. Sardo Jr., 94, who is one of the few survivors of the world's worst disaster, which killed 50 to 100 million people, and still remembers how it happened. He spoke to the reporters of The Washington Post.
Here are some excerpts:
At the height of the flu pandemic in 1918, William H. Sardo Jr. remembers the pine caskets stacked in the living room of his family's house, a funeral home in Washington, D.C.
The city had slowed to a near halt. Schools were closed. Church services were banned. The federal government limited its hours of operation. People were dying -- some who took ill in the morning were dead by night.
''That's how quickly it happened,'' said Sardo, 94, who lives in an assisted living facility just outside the nation's capital. ''They disappeared from the face of the earth.''
Sardo is among the last survivors of the 1918 flu pandemic. Their stories offer a glimpse at the forgotten history of one of the world's worst plagues, when the virus killed at least 50 million people and perhaps as many as 100 million.
More than 600,000 people in the United States died of what was then called ''Spanish Influenza.'' The flu seemed to be particularly lethal for otherwise healthy young adults, many of whom suffocated from the buildup of liquids in their lungs.
In the United States, the first reported cases surfaced at an Army camp in Kansas as World War I began winding down. The virus quickly spread among soldiers at U.S. camps and in the trenches of Europe. It paralyzed many communities as it circled the world.
''They kept me well separated from everybody,'' said Sardo, who lived with his parents, two brothers and three other family members. His family quarantined him in the bedroom he had shared with his brother. Everyone in the family wore masks. The city began shutting down. The federal government staggered its hours to limit crowding on the streets and on streetcars. Commissioners overseeing the district closed schools in early October, along with playgrounds, theaters, vaudeville houses and ''all places of amusement.'' Dances and other social gatherings were banned.
''There was a feeling that they couldn't turn to God, other than in prayer,'' Sardo said. ''They liked the feeling of going to church, and they were forbidden.''
The flu's spread and the ensuing restrictions ''made everybody afraid to go see anybody,'' he said.
''It changed a lot of society,'' Sardo said. ''We became more individualistic.''
In a list of 12 rules to prevent the disease's spread, the Army's surgeon general wrote that people should ''avoid needless crowding,'' open windows and ''breathe deeply'' when the air is ''pure'' and ''wash your hands before eating.''
At the time, rumors swirled that the Germans had spread the disease -- which Sardo did not believe.
As the death toll started to mount, there was a shortage of coffins. Funeral homes could not keep up. Sardo's father, who owned William H. Sardo & Co., and other funeral-home directors turned to soldiers for help embalming and digging thousands of graves.
Talk of the threat of another pandemic brings back memories for Sardo, who says he has gotten a flu shot every year they are available.
''It scares the hell out of me. It does,'' Sardo said.
Apocalypse Prologue Well, having found the video I posted earlier today (see below) I made a little search on Youtube for more posts on the topics. And see what I found. This is an intro to a - probably Chinese - videogame on the Apocalypse to be brought on us be the Avian Flu. Not too many have downloaded it up to now, and there was only one comment: "love the idea ... nice music too." Sure.
I wonder if you noticed my absence for roughly six months. And I'm still alive :) though the Flu is still there, and as I read on BBC online the scare-production is till on and going. This flu, I learn, could kill 62 million people, experts have warned. Will this scaremongering never stop? They cite The Lancet, which says that the 1918 pandemic claimed 50 million lives, and experts predict the toll today would be higher than this, despite hstrain Lethal global flu epidemics tend to occur three or four times a century. Some scientists believe a new one may be imminent and could be triggered by bird flu. So far there have been only 258 cases of the latest strain of avian flu, H5N1, recorded in humans. Nothing new. And, again, they - the experts, suggest, that the well to do, affluent minority of the global population are on the safer side, whereas the poor majority, living in the so called developing countries have a good chance to be wiped out - and with them a good portion of the planet's problems. As you know, I'm not suggesting that there is no such thing as the birds flu and that one should not be alerted and take all possible measures to avoid the malady. What I suggest, is that certain business interests are behind the drive to scare us more than necessary, so that we will buy their products - their latest drugs and gadgets that would protect us from ---- from turning into what someone captured on this video:
Imagine what would happen if the experts were right: the population would die, not of the direct effects of the virus, but because of the cacophony the 62 million human beings turned cocks would create!
I wonder why nobody is a safe means against this: small earplugs for all of us. But the fear is that this strain could mutate and spread quickly and easily between people, triggering a deadly pandemic. I wish you a happy new year!
European Public View on Avian Flu The European Union has undertaken a Eurobarometer Poll about its citizens' awareness of the Avian Flu. They've just released e Special Report on their findings, which can be downloaded as a PDF document here. It is really very interesting. I copy here their conclusions, but I urge you to read the whole text. The study had three main objectives: to determine the level of knowledge of citizens with regard to the health risks linked to both avian influenza and the policies designed to fight the spread of the virus, and finally to gain an insight intochanges in consumer behaviour in view of declared, real and intended changes in this area. The results show that the respondents generally have a very good knowledge of the health risks linked to avian influenza. The average of correct answers by European Union citizens regarding the statements testing their knowledge of the contamination process was 66%. It can be assumed that the information campaigns organised were to a great extent successful and provided clear information about the health risks involved. This level of knowledge seems to be somewhat higher in the countries that were affected by the virus, in particular France, Germany, Denmark and Poland. The second part of the report shows that, as regards the knowledge of EU policies adopted to fight the spread of the virus and support poultry meat producers, between 58% and 70% of correct answers were reported amongst EU25 citizens, which demonstrate, again, a relative success of information campaigns. Nevertheless, only 29% of Europeans remember that influenza epidemic of 2003 was successfully contained. If EU institutions and national public authorities wish to increase further the knowledge of citizens regarding important issues, such as the health risks linked to avian influenza and the policies designed to fight them, they should focus on improving communication strategies targeting less educated people and people without a professional activity. These categories are clearly less well informed about the risks linked to the virus and about the EU policies launched to contain the epidemic. European Union citizens are not very fearful of contamination through the consumption of poultry, eggs and egg-based products. More than three quarters of EU25 citizens (78%) declared that they had not decreased their consumption of poultry meat compared to six months before the poll. A large proportion number of EU25 citizens declared they ate the same number of eggs (83%) and quantity of egg-based products (85%) as six months before the poll. The last part of the report demonstrated that European citizens believe that the information provided by the media was clear and that their health was the main concern of the EU public authorities. Nearly two-thirds of EU25 citizens interviewed declared that media information on avian influenza was clear (60% compared to 34% who thought the media were not clear) and that the European Union public authorities are sincerely concerned about the health of EU citizens (70% compared to 21%).
First Case in Hungary H5 virus confirmed in geese in Hungary
The Hungarian authorities have informed the public and the European Commission of a confirmed outbreak of avian influenza in a domestic flock of geese in Bács-Kiskun, in the south of the country. The tests carried out so far have shown that is a H5 highly pathogenic strain, while it is still to be determined whether or not this is the H5N1 strain. Samples will be sent to the Community Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza in Weybridge for further tests. The flock was situated in a county where cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza occurred in wild birds earlier this year (see an earlier press release from Bruxelles.) Although the measures applied in response to the wild bird cases had been lifted, a high level of surveillance was maintained in the area, which enabled the rapid detection of the outbreak in the domestic geese.
All 2 300 geese in the flock were immediately culled upon suspicion of the virus and all poultry, including farmed ducks and geese, in the 1Km radius around the outbreak, are also being culled today. Rigorous control and monitoring of other holdings in the surrounding area is being carried out. A high risk area has been established around the outbreak with a 3 km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone. The whole counties of Bács-Kiskun and Csongrád will become a restricted buffer area around the high risk area to separate the outbreak from the non-affected part of the country. The establishment of these zones aims to prevent any further spread of the virus, and to provide reassurance to the consumers, poultry sector and trade partners about the safety of products dispatched.
In the protection zone, poultry must be kept indoors, movement of poultry is banned except directly to the slaughterhouse and the dispatch of meat outside the zone is forbidden except where products have undergone the controls provided for in EU food controls legislation (i.e. meat sourced from healthy animals in registered farms, subject to ante and post mortem checks by vets in the slaughterhouse). In both the protection and the surveillance zone, on-farm biosecurity measures must be strengthened, hunting of wild birds is banned and disease awareness campaigns for poultry owners and their families must be carried out.
If confirmed as an outbreak of H5N1, this would constitute the fifth outbreak of high pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in domestic poultry in a Member State of the European Union (previous outbreaks occurred in domestic poultry in France, Sweden, Germany and Denmark). Cases of avian influenza H5N1 have occurred in wild birds in thirteen Member States of the EU to date.