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Fears growing that an H5 pandemic is likely
February 16, 2005 5:49 PM   Subscribe

"Fears growing that an H5 pandemic is likely" A followup to 37271 (Dec. 2004) - “It appears this virus is progressively adapting to an increasing range of mammals in which it can cause infection, and the range of disease in human beings is wide and clearly includes encephalitis.” The New England Journal of Medicine says "These cases suggest that the spectrum of influenza H5N1 is wider than previously thought." The WHO is encouraging the stockpiling of bird flu vaccines now. There is concern in Britain that they are not moving fast enough.
posted by spock (59 comments total)

 
I small an end times epidemic.

Actually, the world is due for something grand to happen the likes of which havent yet been seen on this planet.

But ya know.. I still got work tomorrow...
posted by Balisong at 5:59 PM on February 16, 2005


I smEll an end times epidemic.
posted by Balisong at 6:01 PM on February 16, 2005


God, I hope so. I really can't take much more of this bullshit.
posted by keswick at 6:13 PM on February 16, 2005


tell that to my 18 month old daughter, asshat.
posted by n9 at 7:03 PM on February 16, 2005


mmmmmmmmm fear
posted by nightchrome at 7:19 PM on February 16, 2005


tell that to my 18 month old daughter, asshat.

How dare you bring a child into this dangerous world!
posted by crazy finger at 7:31 PM on February 16, 2005


talk to the pandemic hand because the face ain't listening.
posted by WC_Helmets at 7:37 PM on February 16, 2005


"If you have children here tonight.... I am sorry to tell you this. They are not special.... I know you think they're special; I'm aware of that. I'm just trying to tell you, they're not." --Bill Hicks
posted by keswick at 8:42 PM on February 16, 2005


I'm too busy dying from avian flu, sars, and the deadly flu pandemics of the last two years running which have so decimated our population.
posted by Hildago at 11:25 PM on February 16, 2005


After reading this Im ready to give away all my clothes and wait for the rapture.

Can I take my idols with me?
posted by joedharma at 12:43 AM on February 17, 2005


"If you have children here tonight.... I am sorry to tell you this. They are not special.... I know you think they're special; I'm aware of that. I'm just trying to tell you, they're not." --Bill Hicks

Unless, one day, n9's daughter finds a cure for the H5N1.

That would be pretty special.
posted by the cuban at 2:21 AM on February 17, 2005


Balisong But ya know.. I still got work tomorrow...

I was just imagining how I'd feel if my wife, my family, my children, or my friends all were victims of a sudden pandemic and I'd lost the last few days or hours of being with them because I had to go to my meaningless job and do my meaningless work, my world essentially coming to an end while I was sitting in my shitty little cubicle just to earn a few bucks. It makes me think I should I be doing something better with my life and truly appreciating the people around me that I take for granted.

For the victims, it sounds like an unpleasant way to die: "In southern Vietnam, a four-year-old boy presented with severe diarrhea, followed by seizures, coma, and death."
posted by Meridian at 4:03 AM on February 17, 2005


I'm too busy dying from avian flu, sars, and the deadly flu pandemics of the last two years running which have so decimated our population.

This is the avian flu and the deadly flu pandemic of the last two years. They were just waiting for it to infect a pig at the same time as human flu and guess what?

Best part: president dipshit has messed up our vaccination supply lines so badly that there is little hope that we will be able to stockpile vaccines -- something that could actually same millions of lives, but won't.
posted by n9 at 4:22 AM on February 17, 2005


Best line: The US has already contracted for four million doses

For more info on what n9 is talking about, go here. (Yeah, yeah, I know, socialist rag, tendentious, bad. You don't like it, go find your own sources)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:47 AM on February 17, 2005


The responses of people to this purely news/science post (as to the previous thread) is truly fascinating. We have those who are (apparently) reminded by the post of the apocalyptic rider of "death" in the Bible and "pestilence" as part of the sign of the "last days". Then we have our caustic/sarcastic reactions to all things religion (and replies by those who missed the sarcasm). We also have our macho mockings that they've heard the warnings before and since it hasn't happened in their lifetimes - it can't happen again. None of these reactions has the slightest effect on the development and spread of a particular virus strain that scientists have been watching closely for several years. This post outlines that as they watch, their worst fears are being confirmed. Those who need a review of what a real pandemic can do may want to review the history of the Spanish Influenza.

Fear is an emotion that can be debillitating, but you aren't going to live long without a healthy fear of things that can shorten your life. We do live in a time when science has the ability to blunt a pandemic, but only if it's warnings are actually listened to. All the science in the world isn't going to save you if nobody takes the necessary steps in time.

This is the role of governments - to protect their population. They respond to the will of the people. If enough people point and say "Hey, why aren't you taking this seriously?" they may get off their collective butts in time. Blogs have demonstrated the ability to focus attention and public outrage on various issues, and will probably continue to do so in the future. Based on the reactions of our small sample commenters in the two threads on this subject however, I can see why governments are in no rush to address this issue in a timely manner. Perhaps (in the U.S.) they are hoping that a larger percentage of elderly will be affected and help in solving that pesky problem with Social Security funding.

Like most sane people, I dearly hope the fears of a pandemic do not come true. But if it does, I would hate to see that millions of lives (including mine and those close to me) could have been spared if the proper warnings had been acted upon.
posted by spock at 7:08 AM on February 17, 2005


While the Spanish Flu usually only infected less than 1/3 of the population in most places and killed only a fraction of those infected - "by the end of January 2005 there had been 54 human cases of H5N1 infection, all in Vietnam and Thailand, and 41 deaths."

That is a 76% mortality rate.
posted by spock at 7:21 AM on February 17, 2005


While most concern has centered on SE Asia, I was not aware of the fact that in April 2004, Ottawa ordered the slaughter of 80 per cent of the farm poultry in B.C. in an attempt to contain an outbreak of avian flu. That is significantly closer to (my) home.

Q: When they kill millions of birds to stop the spread of the flu, what do they do with all the dead chickens?

A: "...most of the birds – as many as 80 per cent, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency – may end up in the food supply. CFIA officials will test SAMPLES (emphasis mine) from various flocks. If the samples come back free from disease, birds from those flocks will go to market."

Holy crap. If that is what they do in Canada, I hate to ask what they do with them in SE Asia.
posted by spock at 7:38 AM on February 17, 2005


You mean, Weesa gonna DIIIE?
posted by BobFrapples at 8:02 AM on February 17, 2005


Jesus Christ Spock. You... you really have earned your moniker.

Beyond that, I teach highschool, so I've got enough germ-resistance to take on any silly avian flu. Bitches.
posted by bardic at 8:08 AM on February 17, 2005


Thanks for the posts, spock. (I mean that without sarcasm.)
posted by Prospero at 8:08 AM on February 17, 2005


Following quotes from http://www.emediawire.com/releases/2005/2/emw202815.htm:

"Recent events in Asia have created what some experts believe is a “perfect storm” of circumstances that increase the risk that an influenza pandemic could emerge. These circumstances include the endemic spread of avian influenza in domestic poultry populations, public health problems related to the tsunami, and the growing numbers of human cases of avian influenza."

"...recent epidemiological and laboratory studies suggest that the virus “may be evolving in ways that increasingly favor the start of a pandemic.” The virus has reportedly become hardier, surviving several days longer in the environment than earlier strains. It has also expanded its adaptability to a range of mammalian hosts, including humans, tigers and domestic cats."

[A new study] "will concentrate on possible event trajectories in the first few months of a global influenza pandemic, and the global financial and business implications."


(You don't have to die for a pandemic to affect your little world - although that remains a possibility.)

posted by spock at 8:10 AM on February 17, 2005


Human-to-human transmission of H5N1 (one of the necessary steps to something actually becoming a pandemic) has now been suspected.

And from the BBC: Bird flu cases 'underestimated' -
"The main focus has been on patients with respiratory illnesses but clearly that's not the only thing we should be looking for.

"Therefore the number of cases of H5N1 may have been underestimated."

"Dr Farrar said the presence of the virus in the faeces suggested that it could be spread from person to person - especially where people are living in crowded conditions."
posted by spock at 8:32 AM on February 17, 2005


No proven connection but I find these posts to the PoultrySite Health Discussion Forum troubling now. One wonders where these poultry producers are located. It doesn't sound like SE Asia.
posted by spock at 8:48 AM on February 17, 2005


OK. I regret that last post.
posted by spock at 8:59 AM on February 17, 2005



This is the avian flu and the deadly flu pandemic of the last two years. They were just waiting for it to infect a pig at the same time as human flu and guess what?

Best part: president dipshit has messed up our vaccination supply lines so badly that there is little hope that we will be able to stockpile vaccines -- something that could actually same millions of lives, but won't.


Will you give you me $100 when this doesn't become a pandemic? If millions of people in America die from this, I will do the same for you.
posted by Hildago at 9:15 AM on February 17, 2005


That is, give you $100. I won't die for you, regardless of syntax.
posted by Hildago at 9:16 AM on February 17, 2005


It goes without saying - but here, I gotta say it - that I absolutely don't want to see a pandemic.

But it also needs to be said that the one chance we have to avoid massive breakouts of zoonotic diseases like this one (even if not this very one) is to radically rethink animal agriculture as a cultural priority. Most of the deadly diseases we now have to fear (or, depending on who you are, breezily dismiss) have come from humans' unnaturally close contact with animals, and most of those from the practice of using them for food. That includes AIDS, SARS, BSE, tuberculosis, E.Coli, listeria, salmonella, and campylobacter, among others - and many people are still unaware that the conveniently-named "Spanish Flu," the most devastating pandemic in recorded history, is now traced to hog farming in the US (probably Iowa), where pigs picked up avian flu and it became "Swine Flu."

Feeding animals to more and more of the human population will require keeping increasing numbers of them in close confinement - from factory farms to inner-city live-animal markets - and that will continue to encourage the spread and mutation of deadly diseases. And on the other side, the West's overuse of antibiotics in food animals is helping bacterial strains develop ever-greater resistance to our medical treatments. These are simple scientific facts, even if unwelcome.

For the "can't happen here" crowd, you'll enjoy The Onion's take on the situation from a couple weeks ago. I found this really curious for The Onion - the humor here, if there is any, depends on this turning out to be nothing. If so, what - is the Onion going to do a follow-up saying "see? Told you so"? Meanwhile, if as it appears this continues to get more certainly worse, this "humor article" remains available as a testament to them being the most idiotic assholes on the planet. Just seems like a strange choice for them...
posted by soyjoy at 9:49 AM on February 17, 2005


"Alarmist" is one of those terms used to marginalize.

In this case we are talking about the WHO and the doctors "on the ground" investigating these cases. Their job is to alarm the world when they spot trouble in the world of health. If a fire alarm goes off and you smell smoke and see people being carried burning from the building you would have to be a moron to call the fire alarm "alarmist" and ignore the warnings.

The latest information is causing a worried eye to be cast on past deaths that were not then considered H5N1 related such as these in the Phillippines.

Will you give you me $100 when this doesn't become a pandemic? If millions of people in America die from this, I will do the same for you.

See? It is beginning to have an economic impact already!

Best part: president dipshit has messed up our vaccination supply lines so badly...

Comments like this only give partisans another reason to downplay the potential seriousness of the problem. Spare us. We don't need any extra barriers to people listening to the clear-eyed scientific facts of the problem before us.
posted by spock at 10:06 AM on February 17, 2005


Hildago: Will you give you me $100 when this doesn't become a pandemic? If millions of people in America die from this, I will do the same for you.

You should probably be paying out at a 100:1 or so Hildago to make it a fair bet. One of these pandemics appears every century or so. Though the coming pandemic, whether this year or 10-15 years from now will be the first helped out by wide spread rapid transportation in the form of airplanes and interstates.

Glad I live in Canada where the my evil, socialist, health care providing, government guarantees the vaccine suppliers a market.

I wonder if we'll start seeing X-Prize style prises offered by goverments and charities for cures rather than treatments. Might address the disincentive for health care companies to search for treatments over cures.
posted by Mitheral at 1:31 PM on February 17, 2005


Glad I live in Canada where the my evil, socialist, health care providing, government guarantees the vaccine suppliers a market.

I wouldn't want to overly count on getting a vaccination. If they're available to us, we'll probably get them for free or a very, very reduced price (and freebies for the truly poor)... but the problem is twofold: (a) is there a vaccine? (b) do we have thirty million doses?

When the pandemic strikes, it's going to be a bugger to counter. 'tis the nature of pandemics: if a virus is easily controlled, it ain't pandemic...
posted by five fresh fish at 3:20 PM on February 17, 2005


(everyone that wants to be really scared needs to get ahold of Regenesis, the 13-episode biotech drama that ran on Canada's Showtime network. it has pandemics. eeek!)
posted by five fresh fish at 3:21 PM on February 17, 2005


Does anyone have access to
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/307/5712/1027a??? (requires log-in - free access log-in doesn't get you there)
posted by spock at 5:10 PM on February 17, 2005


well you know what they say about statistics and probability. they are sciences that tell you what will happen, unless it doesn't. these things are tough because the more you know the more justified you are in being afraid. i am a computer scientist and i was more scared of y2k than anyone i knew, but look what happened. it takes courage to be happy even under the best of circumstances. all it takes courage to bolster the courage of those around you even under the worst of circumstances. all we've ever been able to do is hope that there is something more to the nature of mass events and world dynamics than what we perceive.

(i do wish i could jump off a cliff into a volcano and make problems like this go away for everyone else. i yearn for there to be such an easy sacrifice, but here in reality all there is are a sequence of potentially uneasy days to get through.)
posted by n9 at 7:27 PM on February 17, 2005


Don't Worry, Be Happy ?
(sound warning)
posted by spock at 8:30 AM on February 18, 2005








Indianapolis Star editorial: 'Prepare as if we were going to war' "Our position is: The nation needs to begin preparing for the potential threat of a flu pandemic."

Today, another human victim was reported.
posted by spock at 10:04 PM on February 27, 2005


This morning, reports of a new victim in Vietnam: A 14 year old girl whose 21 year old brother preceded her in diagnosis. The brother is in critical condition. Cases like this raise fears of human-to-human transmission, which is feared for a pandemic scenario - though the actual method of their infection is not yet established.
posted by spock at 10:41 AM on February 28, 2005


CBC Radio has been giving extensive coverage re: the upcoming pandemic.

Today's report states that Canada is well-prepared for it: vaccines are stockpiled, research into new vaccines continues, and containment plans are in place.

My gut-level suspicion is that when the pandemic occurs, the federal government may issue a transportation lock-down. It would not surprise me were the war measures act invoked in order to enforce the lock-down.

We are in for some very, very interesting times.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:16 PM on March 1, 2005


Vietnamese Health Worker May Be First With Bird Flu: "infections among health-care workers or patients' family members would raise suspicion that human-to-human virus transmission has taken place. . . . Vietnamese health officials said the cause of the man's infection isn't known, and indicated that he may have also had potential exposure to infected poultry. The nurse carried a 21- year-old bird flu patient on a stretcher and provided direct treatment at the Thai Thuy District Health-Care Center, said Dao Trong Bich, deputy director of the center. The patient was later transferred to a hospital in Hanoi and is in critical condition."
posted by spock at 5:18 AM on March 7, 2005


"indicated that he may have also had potential exposure to infected poultry"

Fingers crossed. Guess we'll see within the week; he'd have been a carrier in close contact with a lot of people.

The guy he was treating got the bird flu by drinking raw duck's blood. Ick!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:00 AM on March 7, 2005




Or does it mean they get to be carriers for a month before they suddenly take ill and die.

'cause that's about as bad as it could get: symptom-free while it incubates and spreads for a good long time, then a 75% mortality rate.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2005


Reuters is now apparently confirming the suspicion of human to human transmission.

New Scientist goes into more depth.
posted by spock at 11:48 AM on March 9, 2005


Military Bioweapon?

Hyperbolic what-if, afaict. But a couple of interesting points, including military concern of a natural pandemic, economic effect of same,
posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 PM on March 9, 2005




Second Nurse Suspected to Have Bird Flu in Vietnam: "not clear yet if the 41-year-old female nurse caught the sickness from the patient or in another way".
posted by spock at 6:39 AM on March 12, 2005


n9, you named your daughter Asshat? Do you call her Assie?
;^>
posted by squirrel at 8:09 PM on March 12, 2005


Good article on the difficulties of determining the fatality rates of a developing sickness. Also on the challenges for testing labs in SE Asia. This last point makes me suspect the report that the 2nd nurse that got sick tested negative for h5n1. Earlier negatives have been found positive with retesting and his symptoms sound identical. In other news, bird flu kills thousands of chickens in North Korea's capital (unknown if it is h5n1).

Finally, not sure when this thread will be closed, but after a metatalk complaint about it, I'd just like to say (As to why I have continued to post in the open thread ("link dump"):

1) I believe that this could be one of the most significant news stories of 2005. It isn't going away. The only question is how it is going to develop.
2) If others were considering posting on the subject, I'm hoping that they will do a search and find the previous threads (including this one). I intend to keep it updated until it is closed.
3) For a story such as this, I think that authoritative sources (links) are more educational than uneducated opinion. I've simply been posting to stories that shed more light on the developing subject (including those that might ease concerns - such as that non-symptomatic cases are probably not a danger to spread the disease.
posted by spock at 7:10 AM on March 15, 2005




What MetaTalk complaint? Link, please. Seems bloody stupid to me that there could be any complaint.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:53 AM on March 15, 2005


Here you go, fff:
http://metatalk.metafilter.com/mefi/9222

The following link is passed along without comment: Get healthy now to prepare your immune system for bird flu outbreak.
Alright. One comment: Is this just the first of many attempting to capitalize financially on the public's concern?
(Dumb question)

posted by spock at 5:32 PM on March 15, 2005


My god. What an ass.

I thought I posted the links that started this thread off, but now I see I'm quite incorrect! I coulda sworn I did an avian flu one. D-oh!

Anyway, thanks for the continued links. I, too, think that H5N1 is a Very Big Deal.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on March 15, 2005


Huh. Just did a search, and found out I didn't contribute nearly as many links to all this as I'd thought, too.

Perhaps I'm being affected by BSE...
posted by five fresh fish at 7:48 PM on March 15, 2005


I'm more worried about a purposely released Oryx and Crake-type thing personally, something i can bet for sure i'll see in my lifetime. I can't worry about an epidemic, having buried so so many to AIDS already.
posted by amberglow at 7:56 PM on March 15, 2005


fff: Hopefully not BSE. I believe you are thinking of your March 4th ASK thread (which I'm guessing was precipitated by this one).
posted by spock at 8:47 PM on March 15, 2005


This may be the final day that this thread is open. A few comments: We have a tendency to grow "fatigued" with a news story after repeated exposure. By its very nature, this is a slow moving story, but it is moving nonetheless. Scientists have been watching this virus with concern since 1997. One source says that it may be another year before the virus mutates into a form that is easily transmittable human-to-human (and it may never do so - we can only hope). Clues in the news seem to indicate that it may already be happening. If a human being (already infected with a human virus) also become sick with H5N1 the final ingredients for a pandemic would be in the mixing bowl.

While there is no "cure" for a virus, vaccines can mitigate the symptoms and help prevent virus fatalities.

Especially troubling is the news that bird flu is now in North Korea - a country that is not open about problems it is experiencing. While the report is not verified and based on a visitor's report, this is how virtually all news coming out of NK is obtained. Bird flu would be nightmare in North Korea, experts say. "According to one Yonhap report, starving North Koreans had dug up and consumed the infected chickens that had been buried at the Pyongyang farm."

I have not referred much to Recombinomics, as I consider them to be a secondary source. However, the writer of the commentary is apparently a specialist in the field and gives a more knowledgeable view on what the news reports may indicating. For example: 78 Percent of South Vietnam Bird Flu Patients False Negatives?
posted by spock at 7:16 AM on March 16, 2005


IMO, bird flu would be a blessing for most North Koreans. They're starving to death. H5N1 is, at least, a relatively quick way to go.

It's only a matter of time before a pandemic strikes. The more informed we all are, the more likely we can contain it and prevent it from becoming a global disaster.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:52 AM on March 16, 2005


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