Friday, June 30, 2006

Hard Rain Journal 6-30-06: Bird Flu Update -- Four Important News Items

Hard Rain Journal 6-30-06: Bird Flu Update -- Four Important News Items

By Richard Power

The threat of a global bird flu pandemic continues. I monitor the situation closely, and include major developments in the bi-weekly GS(3) Intelligence Briefings. Urgent information or recommendations will be delivered as GS(3) Thunderbolts.

Here are excerpts from four important stories from recent days, with links to the full texts, as well as links to related posts:

The risk of bird flu mutating into a form more easily spread between people is still high and there could be an increase in human infections at the end of the year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Friday. In a report analysing more than 200 known bird flu cases, the United Nations agency identified three peaks in human infections since 2003, all concentrated during the winter and spring seasons in the northern hemisphere. "If this pattern continues, an upsurge in cases could be anticipated starting in late 2006 or early 2007," the WHO said, adding that further analysis was needed.
"Moreover, the widespread distribution of the H5N1 virus in poultry and the continued exposure of humans suggest that the risk of virus evolving into a more transmissible agent in humans remains high," it said. While the avian virus, which has spread to some 50 countries, remains mostly a disease of birds, experts fear it could mutate into a more transmissible form and spark a pandemic killing millions of people.

Stephanie Nebehay, U.N. sees "high" risk of more easily-spread birdflu, Reutes, 6-30-06

Bird flu fatalities have almost tripled this year as the lethal virus spread across Asia, Europe and Africa, prompting calls for increased supplies of medicines to fight the virus and any pandemic it might spawn. Since January, at least 54 people have died from the H5N1 avian influenza strain in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq and Turkey, according to the World Health Organization. That compares with 19 fatalities in Vietnam and Cambodia in the first six months of 2005. Human cases create opportunity for the virus to mutate into a lethal pandemic form....The rate of new infections has almost doubled to one every two days this year, from almost two a week in 2005. Since late 2003, at least 130 of the 228 people known to have been infected with H5N1 have died, according to the Geneva-based WHO.... A severe winter in Russia and the Caucasus area at the end of last year pushed migratory birds south and westward, the FAO said. By February, initial outbreaks in wild birds and poultry were reported in Iraq, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Greece, Italy, Azerbaijan, Iran, Germany, India, Egypt, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Slovakia, Switzerland and Niger. The following month, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro, Pakistan, Albania, Poland, Georgia, Cameroon, Myanmar, Denmark, Sweden, Israel, Afghanistan, Jordan and the Czech Republic reported initial outbreaks. They were joined by Burkina Faso, Palestine Authority, U.K., Sudan and Ivory Coast in April and Djibouti in May.
Bird Flu Fatalities Almost Triple, Spurring Need for Treatments, Bloomberg, 6-28-066

The World Health Organization has detailed the first evidence that a deadly bird flu virus mutated and spread from person to person within an Indonesian family, but experts said yesterday the genetic change does not increase the threat of a pandemic. The investigation said the H5N1 mutation occurred in a boy, 10, in the largest cluster of human infection reported to date in a village in Karo district, North Sumatra. A woman, believed infected by poultry, likely passed it to the boy and five other blood relatives. But the boy is thought to have infected his father, whose samples showed the same mutation, according to the report obtained by Associated Press. Only one infected family member survived. "It stopped. It was a dead end at that point," said Tim Uyeki, an epidemiologist from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention....Dr. David Nabarro, co-ordinator of all UN responses to bird flu, said yesterday by telephone, "We were fortunate in that the change that took place did not result in sustained human-to-human transmission." The report was given out at a closed-door meeting in Jakarta.
Bird flu kept to one family, Toronto Star, 6-24-06

Chinese scientists are continuing investigations into what is believed to be the world's first bird flu fatality. In a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine last Thursday, eight Chinese scientists claimed a 24-year-old Beijing man who died in late 2003 had contracted H5N1 avian influenza. The experts, including Cao Wuchun from the State Key Laboratory of Pathogens and Biosecurity, said the virus was isolated in a sample taken from the man....The dead man, who served in the army, fell ill on November 25, 2003, the year China experienced the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak....Tests at that time showed he had not died of SARS, said Wadia. At that time no human cases of avian influenza, or bird flu, had been reported by health authorities on the Chinese mainland. The first case was reported two years later, in November 2005. According to WHO sources, current outbreaks of the H5N1 virus were first recognized in early 2004 in Viet Nam. A report given by the Ministry of Health to the WHO said that the scientists have done a lot research on the dead man in the past two years and have finally resolved that he had the H5N1 virus, said Wadia....Up to now China has reported 19 human cases of bird flu, with 12 fatalities. Globally, 225 human infections have been recorded by the WHO, with 128 deaths.
Zhang Feng, Probe continues into 'first bird flu death,' 6-28-06

Related Posts:

GS(3) Thunderbolt: Karo Cluster May Indicate Human to Human Transmission of Bird Flu

Words of Power #2: Indonesia’s State of Emergency on Bird Flu Demands Your Attention

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

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