Trains and Boats and Planes, will bring Bird-Flu…directly to you

Trains and boats and planes are passing by …

The trains and the boats and planes will bring Bird-Flu….

Will bring Bird-Flu… Bring it directly to you….

Let me take you back in time. Back to the year 1918.Life moved at a much more leisurely pace back then.

The fastest way to travel across the Atlantic was with an airship travelling at a bone shaking tens of miles an hour.

Using an ocean liner, It could take weeks to travel from China to Europe or to the US.

The world was really separated by the oceans then and the Americas, Australia, New Zealand etc were in reality cut off from the main mass of humanity on the great Eurasian Continent.

1918 Spanish Flu

The total human population on the planet at the time was a fraction of what it is today and the big Cities were not as congested as they are now.

It was very difficult for an infectious disease to spread across the globe in such conditions.

Never the less, the Pandemic Flu of 1918, DID manage to spread all over the world in an amazingly short period of time.

In doing so, it killed over 40 Million people from all parts of the world.

Yes, the returning soldiers from the Great War did help carry the deadly virus back to their homes.

Even so, it could not have been easy for the killer virus to reach every nook and corner of the globe as it did at that time.

Things are a lot different now!

The world is a much, much smaller place and you can travel across the Continents in a matter of hours.

The concentration of vast number of people in overpopulated cities is the modern witches brew for all kinds of deadly viruses.

The increasingly fast modes of travel, the trains and boats and planes, are the ideal distribution network for these messengers of death.

It is estimated that a highly infectious, airborne virus such as a Pandemic Super Flu, could spread all over the world withing 48 hours of an outbreak in any one country!

That is NOT to say that a Pandemic will happen soon,  or even in our life time.

 IF IT DOES though, the above provides us with a realistic if frightening scenario that could well follow.

Here is what WHO says about the above:

With an estimated 2.1 billion airline passengers roaming the planet last year alone, infectious diseases are spreading faster than ever before, the U.N. health agency said Thursday. The World Health Organization called on governments to follow its revised regulations for fighting dangerous health crises.

“New diseases are emerging at the historically unprecedented rate of one per year,” WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in an introduction to the annual World Health Report.



India Bird-Flu Outbreak – Is it Over or Is It Not?

It was with a big sigh of relief that all of us heard that the bird flu epidemic had officially been declared over in India.

That was back on the 14th of August.

The official notification was celebrated with almost ritual chicken parties and the local media had a great time publicizing the people enjoying their chicken meals.

Free chicken meals were provided by some local poultry farmers in celebration of the end of the Bird-Flu outbreak in the Imphal area.

There were some minor stipulations regarding the five-kilometre secure zone with epicentre at Thangmeiband, the sight of the outbreak but it was announced that poultry meat brought in from outside the Thangmeiband security zone, would be allowed to be sold.

There was also another clause forbidding sale of eggs unless they are from outside of the culling zones.

Just how it was to be determined eggs from outside Imphal and those from Imphal, was however not explained.

All in all though, every one rejoiced in the fact that the virus had gone away.

So it was with mounting concern, that we heard about the arrests of some poultry meat vendors from the poultry meat centres in and around imphal.

This area was NOT within the Thangmeiband security zone and if the Bird-Flu virus is really over, then it was perfectly legal to sell the poultry meat and eggs in that area.

So, is the Bird-Flu outbreak NOT over as yet?

Even though we were impressed by the speed with which the Federal Government and the State Government had acted to try and root out the virus, there have been many questions regarding the origins of the outbreak that have not been answered.

A news item from the IMPHAL FREE PRESS has the following vital questions that must be addressed by the Indian Authorities immediately:

1. We still do not know where and how the virus entered the state.

2. The farm where the virus was first detected, (which is now clear of the virus), got its hatchings from the government farm at Mantripukhri. But then most other farms in the state must also have got their hatchlings from the same source.

3. How did only a single farmer come to acquire the diseased birds from an apparently shared source of the hatchlings?

4. How come even other birds belonging to the same farmer which shared the same coop as the diseased ones did not have the virus?

5. There were also suggestions that the virus could have entered the state from neighbouring Myanmar which saw an outbreak of the flu a few months earlier. How did the virus manage not to leave a trail along the way and land as if delivered by helicopter at Thangmeiband?

6. If it was migratory birds that brought the virus in, why would they leave the virus only at a chicken farm, that too in the heart of Imphal city which is not exactly a roosting place for wild birds?

It is of course good to remain vigilant against the H5N1 virus and we commend the Indian Government’s efforts in this respect as you can see from the following.

Ms. Upama Chaudury, the Joint Secretary of the Federal Agriculture Ministry of India, has reportedly asked the State Govt to heighten vigil against bird flu in and around Loktak lake as many migratory birds are expected to arrive in the lake soon.

Informing that the Forest and Wild Life Department has no active surveillance plan of its own, the Joint Secretary asked the State Government to formulate a surveillance plan.

Citing the complexities encountered during the containment drive against bird flu in Imphal town recently, she further suggested regulation on rearing poultry birds in urban area.

That is fine, however, full transparency in the efforts in the fight against the killer virus is also very important, as this fight involves not only the Government, but also the poultry farmer, the vendor of poultry meat as well as other citizens.


Bird-Flu threat to Moon Festival celebrations.

The Chinese Moon Festival, (also known as the Mid-autumn Festival) which is normally celebrated on the 15th of the 8th lunar month, is is one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese.

It is as important for the Chinese, as Christmas and Thanksgiving is for the people in the West

The Moon festival is famous for, among other things, its “Moon Cakes”.


Traditionally, Lovers are supposed to spend the romantic night of the Moon Festival together, tasting the delicious moon cake with some wine, while watching the full moon.

Even for two lovers who can not be together at that time, they can still enjoy the night by watching the full moon at the same time, so that they are emotionally together at that hour.

A lot of Chinese poetry has been devoted to this romantic festival which is said to bring happiness.

This year however, there could be a problem with the bringing of happiness via the Moon Cakes.

This culprit is the Bird-Flu virus, which is a real pain in the  er.. neck.

Bird flu

Not only is the Bird-Flu killing millions of birds and an increasing (though still limited) number of humans, but also, it is now causing all kind of life style problems for us all.

The Chinese Government has told its people not to take moon cakes containing egg yolk or meat abroad, because of the threat of bird flu and other such diseases.

The Foreign Ministry reminded people heading to Australia for the September 25 Mid-Autumn Festival of strict quarantine laws, which prohibit the import of a wide range of food for fear of diseases such as bird flu, Newcastle disease and foot and mouth.

The strict Ausi quarantine laws carry fines of up to $49 000 and 10 years’ jail for failure to declare banned foods.

Other countries could well have similar penalties for unauthorised import of egg based products such as Moon Cakes.


Steep rise in the Bird-Flu Infection and Fatality Rate curve.

The World Health Organisation graph below, with the steep growth curve showing the slow but steady growth, in the Bird-Flu Infection and Fatality Rate since 2004, presents an alarming picture.


Bali to Censor News about the current Bird-Flu outbreak.

It seems that the powers-that-be in Bali, are heading towards media censorship as far as any news related to the Bird-Flu outbreak is concerned.

Anak Agung Bagus Netra, the spokesman for the Bali Administration said on Tuesday that Governor Dewa Beratha had ordered all information regarding bird flu be delivered only by the public relations department.

He said that the Bali Government Authorities were annoyed by recent media reports of the bird flu virus on the island, which it said were creating excessive public anxiety that could damage the image of the resort island as it recovers from two deadly terrorist attacks.

“We are talking about a new outbreak here. We can’t have (ill-informed) people speaking about it on behalf of the administration. This is about Bali’s image. These days any information can fly overseas in a second,” Netra told The Jakarta Post.

Meanwhile, Udayana University virologist Ngurah Mahardika suggested that tourist destinations such as Kuta, Sanur and Nusa Dua be free from fowl, following the rapid spread of bird flu virus on the island.

“This is a better move than simply taking chicken off menus,” Ngurah told the Post over the weekend.

Some hotels and restaurants in Bali had decided to drop chicken dishes from their menus.

The public have been told to abandon backyard farming, while traditional markets have been asked to sell chicken meat only, not live poultry, he said.

Ngurah said the human-fowl population density in Bali, especially in Denpasar, made the region prone to a bird flu outbreak.

Lagging precautionary measures, Ngurah said, could help the virus spread and develop more quickly, thereby increasing the threat of a pandemic on the island.


“STAGE 4” Alert in the WHO Pandemic flu preparedness plan?

We are supposed to be at “STAGE 3” of Current phase of alert in the WHO global influenza preparedness plan!

However, we could even be at “Stage 4” alert, if the news about the confirmation of the human to human infection of the H5N1 from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is true.

Experts at WHO and elsewhere believe that the world is now closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, when the last of the previous century’s three pandemics occurred.

WHO uses a series of six phases of pandemic alert as a system for informing the world of the seriousness of the threat and of the need to launch progressively more intense preparedness activities.

Each phase of alert coincides with a series of recommended activities to be undertaken by WHO, the international community, governments, and industry.

Changes from one phase to another are triggered by several factors, which include the epidemiological behaviour of the disease and the characteristics of circulating viruses.

The world is presently supposed to be in phase 3: a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainably among humans.

The problem is, that the news today, of the confirmation of the Human to Human transmission of the H5N1 virus, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, could well push us to a Stage 4 Alert!


We are a Step Closer to a Human Pandemic Flu….

We are a Step Closer to a Human Pandemic Flu…. now that Avian flu can spread between humans

The mutation of the current Bird-Flu virus in to a virus that can cause Human to human infection has been the greatest fear for all who have been following this potentially killer virus.

There have been reports of several “clusters” of humans over the last few years, who have apparently been infected with H5N1, without any contact with infected birds or poultry.

However, in all of these cases, there has always been a doubt, a possibility that the infection had in fact directly or indirectly, passed on to the victims from infected birds.

If the H5N1 can be shown to pass from human to human, then it means that it has already mutated to a step closer to the dreaded Pandemic Flu.

It seems that our worse fears may have come true.

In the first systematic, statistical analysis of its kind, using a computerized disease-transmission model, infectious-disease-modeling experts at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center confirm that the avian influenza A (H5N1) virus in 2006 spread between a small number of people within a family in Indonesia.

The cluster contained a chain of infection that involved a 10-year-old boy who probably caught the virus from his 37-year-old aunt, who had been exposed to dead poultry and chicken feces, the presumed source of infection.

The boy then probably passed the virus to his father. The possibility that the boy infected his father was supported by genetic sequencing data.

Other person-to-person transmissions in the cluster are backed up with statistical data.

All but one of the flu victims died, and all had had sustained close contact with other ill family members prior to getting sick — a factor considered crucial for transmission of this particular flu strain.

In an attempt to contain the spread of the virus, the local health authorities eventually placed more than 50 surviving relatives and close contacts under voluntary quarantine and all, except for pregnant women and infants, received antiviral medication as a precaution.

The findings, by biostatistician Ira M. Longini Jr., Ph.D., and colleagues, appear online and will be published in the Sept. 1 print edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The containment strategy was implemented late in the game, so it could have been just luck that the virus burned out,” Longini said.

“It went two generations and then just stopped, but it could have gotten out of control.

The world really may have dodged a bullet with that one, and the next time we might not be so lucky,” he said.

Should a strain of avian flu acquire the ability to cause sustained human-to-human transmission, the results could be catastrophic, Longini said.

“If not contained, the outbreak could spread worldwide through the global transportation network faster than the appropriate vaccine supply could be made available. That’s why it’s so important to ascertain whether human-to-human transmission is happening as well as the virulence of the strain.”

Sources & Credits:,166813.shtml