Category Archives: pandemic

Rules for our house for flu prevention

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(Our household consists of two adults and two teen-age girls in Jr. High and High School. We have recently enacted some rules for preventing the spread of influenza.)

1) Everyone washes their hands in the downstairs bathroom immediately upon returning from anywhere (bus, train, running, school, grocery store, church, etc.)

2) No washing at the kitchen sink. This is where we prepare food.

3) Each bathroom should have sanitizing wipes and they should be used daily or every other day to wipe down, in this order:

– door knobs
– surfaces
– light switches
– faucet handles
– toilet handles

4) No sharing of drinking glasses, water bottles, etc. Also, no using of our personal eating utensils for serving ourselves additional helpings of food. Use of a serving spoon is required so no more dipping into the main dishes with our own fork, no using our own utensils in the jam, peanut butter, etc.

5) Each person shall have their own hand towel for the upstairs bathrooms. The downstairs bathroom will be stocked with paper towels instead of a community hand towel.

U.S. Govt, Red Cross appeal for pandemic preparation

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links to stories, resources at the end of this blog entry

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials asked business, health and religious groups on Wednesday to urge Americans to prepare for a possible flu pandemic with steps like storing food and supplies and staying home if ill.

Health and Human Services Department officials met with about 100 representatives of various organizations as part of an effort to convince Americans that the threat from pandemic flu is real and advance preparations can save lives.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus, which has killed 190 people among more than 300 known cases since 2003, is considered the most likely candidate to cause a pandemic if it acquires the ability to infect people easily.

Business groups, insurers, school administrators, civic clubs, the American Red Cross, medical groups, and Roman Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, Lutheran, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim representatives were among those taking part.

Link to full story:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070613/hl_nm/birdflu_usa_dc_1

Editorial: this is a difficult story to keep in front of people. Government and health officials are obviously concerned about “crying wolf“, urging preparation when no apparent disaster occurs. But not giving a warning can also result in a lack of preparation. Certainly there are endless debates on whether the message should be stronger, or is too strong already.

It is certain that there will be another pandemic. It is not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN. To believe that we are able to stop a pandemic would be the height of arrogance and foolishness. Pandemics have occurred every few decades throughout written history, and they are going to continue, despite any amount of effort that we expend to prevent them.

So why prepare for a pandemic? Here are some reasons:

  • Slow the spread of disease, to give health authorities time to develop vaccines
  • Equip families and businesses with the means to survive periods of reduced services
  • Equip families and businesses with supplies that will be in short supply

So while we are not able to prevent a pandemic, we can prepare ourselves by having adequate supplies to weather the coming storm.

Other stories:

H5N1 going into stealth mode

Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching

Uptick in Avian Flu Expected

Resources:

PandemicFlu.gov

Bird Flu Book

WHO (World Health Organization) Pandemic

H5N1 going into stealth mode

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JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia has found traces of H5N1 bird flu in apparently healthy-looking poultry, making it tougher to detect the disease in the country hardest hit by the virus, officials said on Monday.

Sick or dead chickens are used as a sign of H5N1 infection, but the appearance of “asymptomatic” chickens means humans could become more easily infected with bird flu. Indonesia has the world’s highest death toll from the disease, killing 79 people.

“The poultry death rate is not so high, but there is a trend that chicken or poultry are infected by the virus but they don’t die. So, the H5N1 virus is not fatal to poultry,” Musny Suatmodjo, director of animal health at the agriculture ministry, told a news conference.

Editorial: I believe that this is a natural development in viruses. They mutate in various ways, some of which lead to their demise, and others give them greater success. That a virus would ‘go underground’ and travel around without leaving as many signs is especially worrisome, as this will give the virus far more opportunities to jump to humans. The world is learning to avoid sick poultry, but we are less likely to avoid all poultry. As a result, there will be countless more opportunities for H5N1 to invade the human species.

Entire article:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070611/wl_nm/indonesia_dc;_ylt=AsqrYfqkX1giCffQ.qy6kgkE1vAI

Editorial: U.S. must lead fight against tuberculosis

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The prospect of a national or global tuberculosis epidemic is frightening – particularly one in which the culprit is a drug-resistant strain, such as the one in the highly publicized recent case of an infected airline traveler.

In part, that is because TB is a once-dreaded disease we have largely forgotten about in this country, since immunizations virtually eradicated it. The emphasis is appropriate, because the recent case of Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker, who traveled to Europe and Canada and then crossed the border into the United States, shows that neither nature nor mankind goes away quietly.

The United States is vulnerable, both from inside and certainly from outside, where TB continues to ravage millions of people every year, notably in Africa and Asia.

Entire article:

http://www.abqtrib.com/news/2007/jun/11/editorial-us-must-lead-fight-against-tuberculosis/

Uptick in H5N1 avian influenza expected

H5N1 Avian Influenza is spreading even more quickly than before. It’s all over Asia, and advancing in Europe. H5N1 is now in England and Japan. How much longer will it be before it is found in the U.S.? Or, is it already here?

Article here:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2005565,00.html?=rss

Has avian influenza entered the food chain?

Excellent article by The Independent. I have placed additional links and definitions in italics.
The Independent

Link to article here:

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2255680.ece

Fears grow that bird flu virus has entered food chain
By Jeremy Laurance and Colin Brown
Published: 10 February 2007

The avian flu virus that led to the culling of 160,000 birds on a Bernard Matthews turkey farm may have entered the human food supply, Government food safety experts admitted yesterday.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) (additional article here) said it was investigating the possibility as part of a wider inquiry into the outbreak on the farm at Holton in Suffolk. There was no threat to human health, the FSA said.

The most likely cause of the outbreak is now believed to be frozen poultry pieces imported from Hungary, which may have been contaminated with the virus, to a processing plant next to the Suffolk farm.

Professor Sir David King, the Government’s chief scientist said packaged turkey meat could be removed from supermarket shelves following the disclosure. “I think that is exactly what the Food Standards Agency will be looking at now,” he told Channel 4 News.

The FSA confirmed it was investigating but said it had no plans at present to recall turkey products. A spokesman said: “Even if infected poultry had entered the food chain, and we don’t know that yet, it is not a human health risk. There is not one case round the world in which humans have contracted the disease from eating infected meat.”

As the scare threatened to engulf Bernard Matthews’ £400m business in the UK, he postponed an appointment at Buckingham Palace where he was due to receive a CVO (Commander of the Victorian Order) from the Queen yesterday for his charity work.

Earlier Professor King said the H5N1 virus identified in the outbreak was identical to the strain in the Hungarian outbreak on a goose farm in Szentes last month. Thousands of geese were destroyed. The “most likely scenario” was that the virus was brought into the UK by dead poultry rather than wild birds as had originally been thought, he said.

Both the Environment Secretary David Miliband and a Bernard Matthews spokesman had previously ruled out any link with the Hungarian outbreak.

Bernard Matthews has a processing plant at Sarvar in southern Hungary from where tonnes of poultry pieces – plucked, cut and frozen – are imported to the Suffolk plant each week.

One consignment arrived a few days before 27 January, when the first signs of illness were seen among turkey chicks on the Suffolk farm. The outbreak on the goose farm in Szentes, Hungary, started on 19 January. Vets said the virus could survive for “several days” in a carcass and for longer if it was frozen.

Speaking following a meeting of Cobra, the Government’s emergency committee,the Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said: “Bernard Matthews have been open with us about that but we need to investigate that further. We are investigating reports that there may have been some bio-security breaches at the plant.”

He said legal action could follow.

The Government’s deputy chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg warned that the investigation into the outbreak could take weeks. “It is like a jigsaw – we may not get all the pieces and we may have to come to some conclusion on the balance of probabilities.”

However, the former Agriculture Ministry, which was renamed to restore public confidence after the debacles over foot-and-mouth disease and “mad cow” disease, was facing criticism after it emerged it had made 70 wildlife officers redundant. The officers would be on the frontline if the bird flu outbreak spreads outside to smallholders with other fowl.

A spokesman for Defra said many of the officers were made redundant after their contracts ended with the conclusion of the pilot study into the culling of badgers.

The questions raised by the outbreak

Is turkey, and other forms of poultry, safe to eat?

The Food Standards Agency insists that it is. We do not know for sure that infected meat is on the supermarket shelves. Even if it is, infected poultry “is not a human health risk” when consumed, the agency says.

The virus is transmitted from bird to bird through infected faeces and the gut. That cannot happen in humans – we lack the necessary receptors for the virus in our gut. Humans have only been infected – 271 of them worldwide of whom 165 have died – through the respiratory system, when an airborne version of the virus was breathed in while plucking or gutting a bird. That requires prolonged close contact.

Are there echoes here of BSE? (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or “mad cow disease”)

A decade ago, ministers assured the public that beef was safe to eat – and then had to eat their words when, in March 1986, it was announced that a BSE-like disease, called variant CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), had been discovered in humans. Experts say that avian flu is different. BSE and variant CJD were new diseases, caused by a previously unknown agent, the prion, whose mechanism of transmission was not understood. Avian flu has been closely studied, there are tests available to detect it and it is known that cooking to a temperature of 70C destroys it. But the virus remains unpredictable.

What is the inquiry focusing on?

Bernard Matthews, the company, has some very serious questions to answer about its bio-security – both in the UK and Hungary. If the virus was imported in infected poultry meat, as suspected, how did the poultry get infected in Hungary?

One suggestion is that a slaughterhouse close to the outbreak of avian flu on a goose farm in Hungary, may provide a link. Once the frozen poultry pieces arrived at the Suffolk processing plant in the UK, how did the virus get from the plant to the sheds where the turkey chicks were being reared? Traces of the virus have been found in three of the 22 sheds. One theory is wild birds or rats could have eaten the infected meat and transmitted the virus to the sheds.

Did the Government or Bernard Matthews withold information from the public about the outbreak?

Both deny it. The company said that no live birds had been imported from Hungary but did not mention that poultry meat was imported. Ministers say they had been told that the imported poultry was from outside the exclusion zone imposed in Hungary around the outbreak on the goose farm and that “the importation of poultry from an EU country is a legitimate business.”

Jeremy Laurance

* * *

Link to article here:

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2255680.ece

Short, informative bird flu video

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Dr. Michael Greger’s new book, Bird Flu, a Virus of our own Making, is a good read. They have released a short (4 mins) video that provides some good background on the seriousness of the Bird Flu situation in the world today.