Skip to comments.Officials Stockpile Vaccine, Drugs Against Avian Flu
Posted on 10/07/2005 3:39:56 AM PDT by fifthvirginia
Health officials estimate the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 killed 50 million people worldwide -- more than died in World War I. Now President Bush is concerned that a strain of avian flu that has killed millions of birds in Asia could mutate and cross over to humans. "I am concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world," Bush said during an Oct. 4 news conference. "I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean."
The Department of Defense is preparing in case the worst happens. DoD is stockpiling vaccine to combat the so-called avian flu and amassing antiviral drugs.
(d) all of the above
As a rule, I normally defer to the brilliant Dr. Niman, but the new work by Dr. Taubenberg seems to be definitive.
Scientist Jeffery Taubenberger says studies of the virus behind a deadly 1918 epidemic boost concerns about the danger of today's avian strains
In 1918, a devastating flu epidemic swept the world, killing more than 50 million people, including an estimated 675,000 in the U.S. The disease was deadlier than previous flu outbreaks, killing more than 2% of those infected. Some people died within hours, and many families lost at least one member.
Why was the virus so dangerous? Could such a pandemic happen again? Could the strains of avian flu now destroying poultry in Asia and spreading from Russia toward Europe turn into deadly human viruses?
CUTTING-EDGE METHODS. The urgency of those questions inspired scientists to embark on a several-year quest to unearth lung tissue from victims of the 1918 flu and to analyze the viruses' genes. The task has been challenging. Some samples came from tissue saved from long-ago autopsies. Others came from people buried in Alaska and frozen by the permafrost.
In both types of samples, however, the amounts of virus were tiny -- usually just a single copy of DNA fragments. As a result, researchers had to use cutting-edge molecular biology methods to read the genetic codes.
Now they have succeeded. In an Oct. 6 paper in Nature, scientists, led by Jeffery K. Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, report that they have read the full genetic sequence of the 1918 virus, along with the codes of scores of other influenza strains, including the avian flu.
DEADLY QUALITIES. Simultaneously, a team at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention wrote in a paper in the Oct. 7 issue of Science that they used the genetic information to recreate the deadly 1918 strain. They proved how virulent the virus was by giving it to mice. The mice quickly died.
The work of these two teams is more than just a scientific tour-de-force. It also opens the door to understanding why some flu strains are deadlier than others -- and to figuring out how a virus that originally infects only birds is able to evolve to target humans.
Soon it should be possible to use this information to learn if today's flu strains are mutating in ways that could bring another pandemic.
That seems to raise a key point, since one huge question is whether epidemics are likely to be caused by a bird flu virus that suddenly mutates so that it can infect humans, or whether a bird virus and a human flu virus get together and mix genes, creating an even more dangerous strain. What is the story for the 1918 virus?
This is the biggest surprise, we think. The data support the conclusion that this was an entirely avian virus that adapted for humans. It was not an assortment or mix of bird and human virus, as in the last two pandemics [in 1957 and 1968].
The research also indicates that the Spanish flu jumped species directly from birds to humans. The less serious pandemics of 1957 and 1968 began when an avian virus first mingled its genes with those of a flu strain that could already infect people, either in a human or in animals such as pigs that can harbour both varieties.
If a direct jump has occurred once, it could occur again, providing a fresh route by which modern avian flu could evolve. For H5N1, it could go either way, Dr Taubenberger said. There is still a risk that H5N1 could become pandemic through reassortment with a contemporary human flu strain, but its also possible that it could completely adapt to humans like the virus did in 1918.
What vaccine is that?
From the CDC web site:
Antiviral Agents for Influenza
Four different influenza antiviral drugs (amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir, and zanamivir) are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment and/or prophylaxis of influenza. All four have activity against influenza A viruses. However, sometimes influenza strains can become resistant to these drugs, and therefore the drugs may not always be effective. For example, analyses of some of the 2004 H5N1 viruses isolated from poultry and humans in Asia have shown that the viruses are resistant to two of the medications (amantadine and rimantadine). Monitoring of avian viruses for resistance to influenza antiviral medications is ongoing.
According to this Tamiflu and Relenzea both seem to work against this strain.
thanks for the ping - might as well ping everyone.....
I found the article that says it's resistant to Tamiflu.
Here's the link, dated Sept. 30, 2005.
My question is why the HHS is only willing to stockpile 100,000 doses of anti-radiation countermeasures? This just came out on Friday and nobody is worried about this? I for one am. If a nuke gets detonated in any major city, there won't be enough to protect anyone.
Would you mind adding my ping list to yours?
From time to time I am out of the electronic loop, and these good people are wonderful posters.
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Yeah this is somewhat disturbing. He goes on about an injectable form of Relenza, but it doesn't exist at this point, and I don't see it as a possbility in time for this flu season. Could be very interesting times.
An avian flu outbreak on a Delaware farm disrupted industry operations in 2004, triggering a regional quarantine, bird restrictions and the forced slaughter of hundreds of thousands of birds. Investigators detected the disease on an independent farm that was producing and ferrying birds to live-sale markets in New York.
Delaware officials said the 2004 virus was stamped out by quick government action and a decision to compost dead birds inside sealed-up poultry houses, limiting opportunities for exposure beyond individual farms.
Scuse said he was scheduled to be interviewed Thursday by a BBC film crew preparing a report on avian flu that included 2004 government actions.
Since the 2004 outbreak, Delmarva Poultry Industry and health agencies developed a plan including education for poultry workers, protective clothing and decontamination equipment, monitoring worker health and using human flu vaccines to minimize risks that human and avian viruses will combine in dangerous ways.
State Division of Public Health officials meanwhile reported making "extensive" preparations for combating a human epidemic in the event the most-dangerous strain of bird flu jumps from birds to humans.
Health managers were taking some cues from a little-noticed avian influenza control plan developed earlier this year by a joint poultry industry and government task force.
The task force plan focuses heavily on prevention and treatment of flu among workers in the Delmarva Peninsula's $1.7 billion-a-year broiler industry. Farms on the peninsula produced more than 561 million broilers, roasters and cornish hens last year, making chicken the region's largest and most important agricultural industry.
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary John A. Hughes said he worked closely with Scuse during the 2004 outbreak, and said that environmental restrictions on dead bird disposal might have to be relaxed in the event of another virus episode.
"As long as it's in a state where it's transmissible from poultry to human beings, then you have a huge problem in containing it and keeping it from spreading," Hughes said. "It will probably necessitate extermination of the entire population, which is a substantial environmental problem."
this stuff is taken very seriously in this region.....
It is guess work every year. No it probably will not work. They have said on the news thaat there is no vaccine for the avian flue. Which is why there is such a panic.
If the DoD
sent, say, the National Guard
to your door and said
their medic must give
you a shot, would you take it?!
Which would worry you
more, threat of the "flu,"
or threat of what somebody
might put in the shot?
I was just admiring a large flock of geese out in the field. None look sick.
Thank you for the ping bitt, would have missed it otherwise.
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