Bird Flu

While I am grateful to the NY Times and WaPo for a day off from the Plame affair, I really didn’t want to read this:

Public health officials preparing to battle what they view as an inevitable influenza pandemic say the world lacks the medical weapons to fight the disease effectively, and will not have them anytime soon.

Public health specialists and manufacturers are working frantically to develop vaccines, drugs, strategies for quarantining and treating the ill, and plans for international cooperation, but these efforts will take years. Meanwhile, the most dangerous strain of influenza to appear in decades — the H5N1 “bird flu” in Asia — is showing up in new populations of birds, and occasionally people, almost by the month, global health officials say.

If the virus were to start spreading in the next year, the world would have only a relative handful of doses of an experimental vaccine to defend against a disease that, history shows, could potentially kill millions. If the vaccine proved effective and every flu vaccine factory in the world started making it, the first doses would not be ready for four months. By then, the pathogen would probably be on every continent.

Theoretically, antiviral drugs could slow an outbreak and buy time. The problem is only one licensed drug, oseltamivir, appears to work against bird flu. At the moment, there is not enough stockpiled for widespread use. Nor is there a plan to deploy the small amount that exists in ways that would have the best chance of slowing the disease.

This isn’t going away, it can’t be negotiated, so we better start preparing. Just as a curious side note, the the late night crazies at Art Bell’s Coast to Coast have been fretting about this for years.

28 replies
  1. 1
    Richard Bottoms says:

    Good thing George Bush is in charge. I’m sure his crew will get right on it. It’s not like they’re distracted by a $300,000,000,000 war.

  2. 2
    John Cole says:

    Is there literally ANYTHING you will not use as a platform for a simplistic attack on Bush?

    I mean Bird flu, and the first damned thing you can think of is to attack Bush?

    You people.

  3. 3
    Richard Bottoms says:

    Bush is in charge. I can’t put it any more simply. If HIS CDC fails to respond who is responsible?

  4. 4
    demimondian says:

    [T]he late night crazies at Art Bell’s Coast to Coast have been fretting about this for years.

    I’m reminded of the economic profession in America, which has successfully predicted twelve of the past three recessions.

  5. 5
    Stormy70 says:

    Steven Den Beste wrote on this topic back when he was blogging about where these diseases are found and why. Here is one post.

  6. 6
    demimondian says:

    Is there literally ANYTHING you will not use as a platform for a simplistic attack on Bush?

    What can I say? We’ve studied at the feet of the masters, the Limbaughs, the Drudges, the Robertsons.

    Seriously, what pisses me off about this is that the Chinese government distributed amantadine to poultry farmers, thus selecting for strains which are resistant to those cheaper, easier-to-synthesize, and thus more-widely available, medications. (HS51 sensitive to either of them any more according to the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza.) The net result is that more people are going to die, both inside and outside China.

  7. 7
    ppGaz says:

    I agree with Richard. Maybe the Potatohead Government can put down its moral chest thumping long enough to prepare the country for a real threat, and do it without its usual incompetance and self-justification. Maybe we can do without the coming War on Influenza, or War on Worldwide Viruses, or declaring an Axis of Ague.

    Just sit down with the real experts and do the due diligence and fund the proper preparations. Kick state and local governments in the ass and them moving, too. Take a leadership role and don’t try to politicize it.

    If they’d do that, I’ll be the first to line up to say “thanks.”

  8. 8
    BoZ the Rider says:

    November 6, 2001: Jeffrey Paris Wall’s body was found sprawled next to a three-story parking structure near his office. Mr. Wall, 41, had studied at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a biomedical expert who held a medical degree.

    November 16, 2001: Dr. Don Wiley, 57, disappears during a business trip to Memphis, Tennessee. His body was later found in the Mississippi River. Wiley was one of the world’s leading researchers of deadly viruses, including HIV and the Ebola virus. He was an expert on the immune system’s response to viral attacks.

    November 21, 2001: World-class microbiologist and high-profile Russian defector Dr. Vladimir Pasechnik, 64, dies of a stroke. Pasechnik, who defected to Britain in 1989, succeeded in producing an aerosolized plague microbe that could survive outside the laboratory. He was connected to Britain’s spy agency and recently had started his own company.

    November 24, 2001: A Swissair flight from Berlin to Zurich crashes during its landing approach; 22 are killed and nine survive. Amiramp Eldor, 59, head of the haematology department at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv and a world-recognized expert in blood clotting dies.

    December 10, 2001: “Dr. Robert Schwartz, 57, was stabbed and slashed with what police believe was a sword in his farmhouse in Leesberg, Va. His daughter, who identifies herself as a pagan high priestess, and three of her fellow pagans have been charged.” The police have no motive as to why they would have wanted to kill Schwartz, who was a single parent and said to be very close to his children. Schwartz worked at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology on DNA sequencing and pathogenic microorganisms.

    December 14, 2001: Nguyen Van Set, 44, dies in an airlock filled with nitrogen in his lab in Geelong, Australia. The lab had just been written up in the journal Nature for its work in genetic manipulation and DNA sequencing. Scientists there had created a virulent form of mousepox. “They realized that if similar genetic manipulation was carried out on smallpox, an unstoppable killer could be unleashed,”

    January 2002: Ivan Glebov and Alexi Brushlinski. Glebov died as the result of a bandit attack and Brushlinski was killed in Moscow. Both were well known around the world and members of the Russian Academy of Science.

    February 9, 2002: Victor Korshunov, 56, is bashed over the head and killed at the entrance of his home in Moscow, Russia. He was the head of the microbiology sub-faculty at the Russian State Medical University and an expert in intestinal bacteria.

    February 11, 2002: Dr. Ian Langford, 40, is found dead, partially naked and wedged under a chair in his home in Norwich, England. When found, his house was described as “blood-spattered and apparently ransacked.” He was one of Europe’s leading experts on environmental risk.

    February 28, 2002: While taking delivery of a pizza, Tanya Holzmayer, 46, is shot and killed by a colleague, Guyang Huang, 38, who then apparently shot himself. Holzmayer moved to the US from Russia in 1989. Her research focused on the part of the human molecular structure that could be affected best by medicine. Holzmayer was focusing on helping create new drugs that interfere with replication of the virus that causes AIDS.

    March 24, 2002: David Wynn-Williams, 55, is hit by a car while jogging near his home in Cambridge, England. He was an astrobiologist with the Antarctic Astrobiology Project and the NASA Ames Research Center. He was studying the capability of microbes to adapt to environmental extremes, including the bombardment of ultraviolet rays and global warming.

    March 25, 2002: Steven Mostow, 63, dies when the airplane he was piloting crashes near Denver, Colorado. He worked at the Colorado Health Sciences Centre and was known as “Dr. Flu” for his expertise in treating influenza, and expertise on bioterrorism. Mostow was one of the country’s leading infectious disease experts.

    November 12 2002: Dr. Benito Que, 52, was “an expert in infectious diseases and cellular biology at the Miami Medical School. Police originally suspected that he had been beaten on in a carjacking in the medical school’s parking lot. Strangely enough, though, his body showed no signs of a beating.

    June 24, 2003: Dr. Leland Rickman, a UC San Diego expert on infectious diseases and, since Sept. 11, 2001 a consultant on bioterrorism. He was 47. Rickman died while on a teaching assignment in Lesotho, a small country bordered on all sides by South Africa. He had complained of a headache, but the cause of death was not immediately known. The physician had been working in Lesotho with Dr. Chris Mathews, director of the UC San Diego Medical Center’s Owen Clinic, teaching African medical personnel about the prevention and treatment of AIDS. Rickman, the incoming president of the Infectious Disease Assn. of California, was a multidisciplinary professor and practitioner with expertise in infectious diseases, internal medicine, epidemiology, microbiology and antibiotic utilization

    July 18, 2003: David Kelly, a British biological weapons expert, was said to have slashed his own wrists while walking near his home. Kelly was the Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific officer and senior adviser to the proliferation and arms control secretariat, and to the Foreign Office’s non-proliferation department. The senior adviser on biological weapons to the UN biological weapons inspections teams(Unscom) from 1994 to 1999, he was also, in the opinion of his peers, pre-eminent in his field, not only in this country, but in the world.

    November 20, 2003: Scientist Robert Leslie Burghoff, 45 was killed by a hit and run driver that jumped the kerb and ploughed into him in the 1600 block of South Braeswood, Texas. He was studying the virus plaguing cruise ships.

    April 2004: Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly, a distinguished Iraqi chemistry professor dies in American custody from a sudden hit to the back of his head caused by blunt trauma. It was uncertain exactly how he died, but someone had hit him from behind, possibly with a bar or a pistol. His battered corpse turned up at Baghdad’s morgue and the cause of death was initially recorded as “brainstem compression”. It was discovered that US doctors had made a 20cm incision in his skull.

    May 5, 2004: A Russian scientist at a former Soviet biological weapons laboratory in Siberia died after an accident with a needle laced with ebola. Scientists and officials said the accident had raised concerns about safety and secrecy at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology, known as Vector, which in Soviet times specialized in turning deadly viruses into biological weapons. Vector has been a leading recipient of aid in an American programme.

    July 3, 2004: Dr Paul Norman, 52, of Salisbury, Wiltshire, was killed when the single-engine Cessna 206 he was piloting crashed in Devon. He was married with a 14-year-old son and a 20-year-old daughter, and was the chief scientist for chemical and biological defence at the Ministry of Defence’s laboratory at Porton Down, Wiltshire.

    July 21, 2004: Dr Bassem al-Mudares’ mutilated body was found in the city of Samarra, Iraq*. He was a PhD chemist and had been tortured before being killed.

    August 12, 2004: Professor John Clark, head of the science lab which created Dolly the sheep, was found hanging in his holiday home. Prof Clark led the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, one of the world’s leading animal biotechnology research centres. He played a crucial role in creating the transgenic sheep that earned the institute worldwide fame. Prof Clark also founded three spin-out firms from Roslin – PPL Therapeutics, Rosgen and Roslin BioMed.

    January 7, 2005: Korean Jeong H. Im, retired research assistant professor at the University of Missouri – Columbia and primarily a protein chemist, died of multiple stab wounds to the chest before firefighters found in his body in the trunk of a burning car on the third level of the Maryland Avenue Garage.


    Why are so many biology-related scientists dying?

  9. 9
    ppGaz says:

    Why are so many biology-related scientists dying?


  10. 10
    Bob says:

    The first time I heard Art Bell, he was interviewing some guy about The Goatsucker, a vampire in Mexico that generally attacked goats. I was camping with the family and was having trouble sleeping and so plugged an earplug in.

    Even though no one around this neck of the woods has seen any goatsuckers, or aliens that aren’t working at minimum wage, I have always found Art Bell’s radio presence to be comforting in these troubled times. I missed it when he cut down his broadcasting time.

  11. 11
    Emma Zahn says:

    Why are so many biology-related scientists dying?

    Those on your list didn’t just die. They died violently.

    Seriously, your post creeped me out. What is your source?


  12. 12
    JonBuck says:


    Without a source, I’m going to view that information with heavy skepticism.

  13. 13
    ppGaz says:

    Those on your list didn’t just die. They died violently.

    Seriously, your post creeped me out. What is your source?

    Whoop, there it is …. the terrorists win. I mean, the trollerists win.

    This conspirowacko story has been making the Usenet rounds for years. I’ve read quite a bit of material on the subject, but I have never seen any evidence that there is any actual connection between the cited incidents.

    As they say in the debunking threads …. in a country of 280 million people, you have at least 280 liklihoods of a million-to-one probability coming to pass at any given time.
    Yes, Virgina, there are coincidences.

  14. 14
    Joel says:

    I think part of the lack of serious public alarm about the bird flu is quite simply the name. “Hey it’s just the flu, nothing to be to concerned about…” kind of attitude. Scientists should start refering to it as “flesh eating bird disease” or some other title that fires the public imagination. That’ll get people to pay attention.

  15. 15
    Geoduck says:

    “Terror Flu”. If we call it that, maybe the press and the administration would both pay closer attention.

    No, I take that back. For the press, we’d need to label it Natalee Holloway Syndrome.

    And I prefer the Mexican word for goatsucker: Chupacabra.

  16. 16
  17. 17
    ppGaz says:

    I’m … hurt. I got nothin for “Axis of Ague?”

    Where’s the love?

  18. 18
    Richard Bottoms says:

    Meanwhile back on planet Earth, would the CDC get off its ass and prod who “ever” is in charge get craacking.

  19. 19
    Sojourner says:

    Meanwhile back on planet Earth, would the CDC get off its ass and prod who “ever” is in charge get craacking.

    Sorry. They’re too busy trying to prove that HIV is transmitted via sweat and spit.

  20. 20
    Knemon says:

    “What can I say? We’ve studied at the feet of the masters, the Limbaughs, the Drudges, the Robertsons.”

    I learned it from watching you, Dad!

    About the scientists’ deaths – to know if this is significant, you’d need a control. Take another field of science with roughly the same number of people working in it, and compare.

    Sorta reminds me of that “Clinton Body Count” list which pops up on the internet every now and again. WIthout control comparison, such things are meaningless.

  21. 21
    Brian says:

    Sorry dudes. DC is more focused on important stuff like yet more subsidies for oil companies, and highway pork.

    You can just hear it, after the flu hits, why didn’t we do more? etc.

    An abject lesson in the concept of “opportunity cost”.

  22. 22
    Gary Farber says:

    Amusingly, apparently you and I posted on this at the exact same minute.

  23. 23
    Gary Farber says:

    Whoops, actually, a minute later I recall that you’re on Eastern time, and I’m on Rocky Mountain time, so I actually posted two hours before you did. But subjectively we posted at the same time…. ;-)

  24. 24
    Surgeon General says:

    “Is there literally ANYTHING you will not use as a platform for a simplistic attack on Bush”?

    Well I dunno John. Is Bill Clinton still in charge of the US Public Health Service? Is Donna Shalala still Secretary of HHS? When the pandemic sweeps across America like Captain Tripps remember to blame Clinton! Wag the dog and all that.

  25. 25
    Birkel says:

    Swine flu circa 1977…
    The vaccinations killed a number of children and the government paid out in the attendant lawsuits.
    Swine flu would most likely strike the Southern hemisphere during their summer before it hit the Northern hemisphere.

    Farkin’ idiots.

  26. 26
    Birkel says:

    I guess I assume the commenters here will be able to draw the parallel that seems so obvious to me.
    Is that too much to hope?

    You see… ’cause the swine flu hadn’t hit the Southern hemisphere it was rather likely that it wouldn’t devastate the Northern hemisphere…

    Insert avian flu where swine flu…

    Oh, never mind trying to talk facts to the converted.

  27. 27
    BSR says:

    If you want a real reason to blame Bush, how about focusing on why he cut research on influenza to pump up the research on anthrax & smallpox.

    The only anthrax threat we have experienced has been determined to be from US sources. But the neocons found this a convenient way to build up Saddam as a potential biological terrorist threat. A questionable anthrax vaccine was forced on our troops going to Iraq (where no anthrax is known to exist).

    Meanwhile, this administration (despite plenty of warnings and studies about asian bird flu) has chosen to ignore this issue.

    Some studies have predicted that without massive preparation, the worldwide death toll from an outbreak could be between 20 & 70 million, far exceeding the death toll in 1918.

    After last year’s flu-vaccine fiasco (it’s only made in a couple of non-us factories, and we can’t secure a supply) it’s inconceivable that we still don’t have a US facility to manufacture vaccines. When this breaks out, are we going to have to start another war to get the supply?

    If this comes in the next 3 years, the blood will be on Bush’s hands.

  28. 28
    Richard Bottoms says:

    But he’s resolute. And that’s all that counts.

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