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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

H5N1 Bird Flu In Azerbaijan And Georgia

See these two FluClinic threads: Azerbaijan. Georgia. Way too many clusters - it looks like Turkey. That's not Georgia, US - this is European Georgia. Media reports in Indonesia continues to be worrisome. Their staggering death rate is a result of underreporting of cases in humans. Indonesia recently detected H5N1 in sparrows; they are quite depressed about this because it is clear that they have little chance of stamping it out by controlling domestic fowl. As one of the posters on the current Indonesia thread remarked:
Indonesia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia all have reports of large groups with flu symptoms reporting to hospitals. Each of these areas have confirmed bird flu deaths in humans and large bird incidents either occuring currently or very recently. In Azerbaijan a dead dog was also confirmed with H5N1.
Maybe I was too optimistic in thinking that H2H H5N1 wouldn't emerge until 2007. We'll know in a few months.

The "Tamiflu blanket" theory has been shown to be absolutely ridiculous. On average, it is taking three weeks from first human cases to first confirmations. By my count, the number of new countries confirmed with H5N1 in flu or birds since January 2006 is at least 26. In many countries, confirmation in poultry is following the first human cases, and those first few human cases are usually deaths. The degree to which a severe H5N1 infection can ravage lung tissues is shown by the fact that the first H5N1 human case in Azerbaijan was initially diagnosed as dying from lung cancer. She was 17.

The aggregate country thread at the FluClinic is here. The last country update is here. It's highly useful. For instance, Kuwait found H5N1 in a flamingo, so that should make us think twice about the birds in the Bahamas who were not tested.

Yep, every time I read you I think "she's just way too optimistic".
OK, been reading the posts on "currevents". At first, I thought it was just a group of people enjoying the excitement of a doomsday scenario. I still think that, to some degree. :) However...

They are posting many articles from around the world. They seem to have some knowledgeable, responsible people monitoring these boards. There is some credibility here.

It's hard to tell exactly what's going on -- the translations are sometimes poor. But, as you said, Indonesia and the Caucasus seem to be having some trouble. It's also important to remember that the "social" fallout from something like this -- the panic --can be as painful and deadly as the virus itself.

I still have one question -- why do so many rely on Dr. Niman and the Recombinetrics(?) company? First of all, recombinetrics is not universally accepted in the genetics community, I believe. Secondly, Dr. Niman has a commercial interest here, not just as a doctor, but an "evangelist" for this theory. Is he trustworthy as an objective source in view of this? Just interested in your opinion.


PS: My wife tells me that you and she used to exchange comments on Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred, and that you might be familiar with "Whatshisname" from that, who is me. :)
The only thing I can tell you about Niman is that he has been right for almost a year in his predictions about the Qinghai strain. The experts were wrong. Among other stuff that impressed me was that he discussed in detail two specific mutations in the Qinghai strain and their effect on mammals. One of them was found in Turkey.

Nobody can be right all the time. I'm not at the point where I would take his comments as gospel, but he has written quite a bit justifying his reasoning, and he has gone so far as to point to the actual sequences. His theory is that flu virii are somewhat predictable in how they change. They pick up segments from other circulating virii that have matchpoints.

So he has been specific, detailed and predictive. He said H5N1 was in Europe in the fall. It now turns out that it was. He was writing about its acquisition of S227 months before it was found.

At this point, I read him very carefully. For example, last fall he explained in some detail that gene snippets from viral strains circulating in Europe which had cropped up in the Asian H5N1 strains circulating within the last several years meant that the Qinghai strain would move to Europe on the wings of wild birds and that it would infect mammals there. WHO was saying that dead birds don't fly and that it was spreading via domestic poultry.

When someone is willing to be that specific, contradicts the CW so absolutely and has been proved correct several times, I pay attention to that person. Also he seems to be very commonsensical about how the governments were going to handle the same thing.

If he's a nutcase he has a crystal ball. Because no one, no one was saying what he said, and what he said has happened.

BTW, he was very concerned about H5N1 in Israel because of some other avian flu strains circulating there.
I accept the premise that, if events prove him right, then he should be listened to. I intend to do a little more research on his theory, as well.

I've read some articles that indicate that other viruses are more worrying, such as SARS. I know that SARS is very virulent and highly contagious. However, just from a layman's point of view, watching the rapid geographical spread of H5N1, and its rapidly-increasing cross-species potential, I can't help but feel that it's winning the "Captain Trips" contest, at the moment.
SARS is bad. Ebola is bad. For whatever reason, the latest strains) of H5N1 seem to be spreading among both mammals and birds. Several of the scientific studies have indicated that H5N1 is far more persistent in the environment than normal flu viruses. Maybe that is why? The article said this was a development over the last few years.

It's worth noting that China couldn't get a handle on SARS until it realized that the virus was being carried by wild animals and banned them from being marketed to humans.

If we could stop H5N1 even from coming in contact with humans we could control its impact. But no one seems able to do that - partly because so much of the world is so poor. It is not an option in many parts of the world to kill all the chickens.
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