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Monday, October 17, 2005

The Bird Flu Iceberg

You know, Dr. Niman of Recombinomics predicted what is happening right now in Europe with bird flu months ago. He said bird flu would soon be in all the lower countries of Europe, that as soon as one country confirmed it a bunch would, and then the underreporting of human cases in Asia would no longer wash. Well, there are reports of mass bird deaths in several new areas today, Greece is confirming one H5 positive bird test, and the UK is sending scientists to Asia:
Speaking at the MRC in central London, he said: "How are people checking in the Far East for people who have recovered from the infection? Are the total number of people who have been infected the tip of the iceberg and, beneath them, are there are a lot of others who have been infected? It is an important question."

Sir John's comments came the day after the Chief Medical Officer warned that 50,000 Britons could be killed if the disease took hold among the human population.

A delegation of British experts will travel to China, Vietnam and Hong Kong on a fact-finding visit on October 23. They will spend 10 days looking at ways to increase collaboration with their Asian scientific counterparts and increase the surveillance of potentially infected birds.
There have to be a lot of cases that aren't reported in Asia. Read this and see what you think. They aren't doing the type of testing that would determine distribution in the population. Simply testing positive for antibodies does nott, acording to WHO, count as a human bird flu case. That might be a good metric for determining whether new viruses present any danger to humans. Now that we know that H5N1 does, ignoring evidence of mild cases in humans is not rational. The reported 50% rate of deaths just means that most of the human cases aren't being reported, not that the disease kills half the people who get ill. It clearly doesn't/

There is no knowing whether the disease is spreading much between humans in Indonesia, and there won't be until normal surveillance testing is done. Why it hasn't been done until now is a burning question.

Well said.

We are being led by ostriches, to a large extent. That said, I'm not relying on gov't- my preparations are being made.
Duct tape and plastic sheets? Remember to leave airholes!
We run the risk of a pandemic and we are not prepared for it. This could be a catastrophy of monumental proportions a la the 1918-1919 pandemic.
Paul - there doesn't appear to be any medical way to prepare for it, so we will need to do the old-fashioned public health measures to prevent contagion.

But I think you are right. The stuff I am reading from the countries where it is endemic seem ominous, and if it is spreading through wild birds there is no way to stop it from coming here.

Sooner or later this will become a human-to-human disease, if it is not already. I am hoping that a milder form develops when it starts to transmit through the human population.

Of course, a hope is not a plan!
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