Tuesday, 13 November 2007

H5N1: who gives a shit?

The deadly bird 'flu strain has killed 200 people over the past five or ten years.

So, out of a world population of 6,600 million, your chances of dying of it are like, slightly less than the number of decimal places after the full stop on your calculator.

Dude, WTF?


lady thinker said...

All the turkey/chicken farmers that's who!!
Not to mention the staff and volunteers at the Wetlands and WildFowl Trusts nationwide and the RSPB and the BTO.

Mark Wadsworth said...


In order to save precisely 0.00 human lives, they are ruining hundreds of farmers and making life a misery for the other groups you mention. And wasting thousands of perfectly edible chickens.

Anonymous said...

With “flu” in the name it sounds like no big deal, and unfortunately the media and government on all levels have done an extremely poor job of explaining why a virus that has killed only 206 people is so important to everyone.

But it is very important.

This virus has many similarities to the virus that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic – that killed about 50 million people. During that pandemic most of the people killed were healthy young children, teens and adults. This is happening with the H5N1 virus too.

For a very long time the current virus passed from birds to people.

The virus is now able to cause human-to-human transmission – although it doesn’t appear to be happening widely. There has been human-to-human transmission in Indonesia in several clusters of patients. There is one cluster we’re watching now that is having human-to-human transmission.

Scientists are watching the virus mutate, and it is acquiring all of the changes it needs to be able to pass easily from person to person. Most scientists think it needs only one mutation for this to happen.

It is a new virus that no one has immunity to so virtually everyone who is exposed will be infected. (Think about what used to happen when kids got chicken pox. Anyone around him who had never had the disease got it.)

Once it has the ability to be easily transmitted from person-to-person it will start a pandemic. With modern air travel, it will not be long before it is spread from where this starts around the world.

335 people have been infected (or at least lab confirmed) and 206 died.

The currently fatality rate worldwide with medical care and antiviral drugs is over 60%, and the fatality rate in Indonesia where the virus is most active the fatality rate is over 80%.

There is no vaccine for a new virus, and it will take at least 6 to 9 months to have the first doses. At first they will give it to medical people, first responders, etc.

There are antiviral drugs which sometimes help if given if the first 24 hours of the illness, but they will be in very short supply.

Governments are saying that they will close schools since kids spread the infection most, and most governments are saying that people will need to stay in their homes in order to try to keep the number of infections as low as possible.

It’s a very serious issue.


Mark Wadsworth said...

OK, so some scientists are worried about it too, it could, in theory, get as bad as the post WWI 'flu outbreak.

But is there any point in culling thousands of chickens and turkeys? You can't do anything about million of 'wild' birds that cheerfully fly around the globe twice a year, infecting all and sundry, can you?

There might well be a point to trying to develop a vaccine against it, sure, that's a different topic.

Simon Clark - Formerly The Cynical Libertarian said...

Now you know how I feel about terrorism.

lady thinker said...

So we should stock up our larders and water supplies and get ready to stay at home and barricade ourselves in ... Just what I plan to do for Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, the birds.

H5N1 is extremely contagious. If one bird in a flock had it, they all would have it. Since it is the high path H5N1 the fatality rate is high. It’s probably a mercy to put them out of their misery.

I’ve read that this farm is free range – so all of the birds would have been in contact with each other and in contact with the wild bird poop that brought the infection in.

On a farm that has more than one shed, it usually spreads from shed to shed. Even though it starts in one shed, often many sheds or all of them end up needing to be culled.

Many times workers carry the infection on their boots from shed to shed although they do have trays of disinfecting solution to step in when they go from one shed to another.

Sometimes though there are other sources of infection. One farm had holes in the sheds large enough that small wild birds were flying in and out – and they discovered that some of the wild birds were infected.

One farm had scraps from H5N1 infected birds in a very large container (we’d call it a dumpster in the states.) The top wasn’t closed and gulls were flying down and picking up pieces of diseased meat, and they were flying all over the farm spreading it around.

It’s a messy business once avian flu strikes a farm.


Anonymous said...

There is a vaccine for birds, but it doesn’t work very well. And it can actually make the situation worse if it’s not done exactly right.

Several Asian countries have used it, but they still have it spreading in a massive way.

Bird vaccines aren't my thing, but my scientist friends say it’s not the solution.


wildgoose said...

It's seriously dangerous. Look at what happened in Canada - first class health service and more than half of the victims still died. And in a real pandemic there simply wouldn't be the Intensive Care Units available. If anything, the government aren't taking it seriously enough.