Year of the Rat will soon be upon us

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2008 is a Year of the Rat, which begins on February 7, 2008 and ends on January 25, 2009.

First in the cycle of 12 Animal signs, Rat Year begins the sequence and recurs every twelfth year.
Year of the Rat  February 7, 2008 – January 25, 2009

With the current year leaving us with a legacy of an increasing number of bird flu victims from a growing list of Nations.
Let us hope that there will be no plagues of any kind in the soon to be upon us year of the Rat!          

A Happy new years to every one 🙂


Portugese Hunters lose out to Bird-Flu.

Thousands of partridges which were being stocked in preparation for shooting by Portuguese hunters, will now be killed due to an out break of H5de, a subtype of the bird flu virus.
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According to Carlos Agrela Pinheiro, the director general of Veterinary affairs, the H5de strain of the virus was found in the towns of Lourinha and Mafra.
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In a statement, the the Portugese Ministry of Agriculture said that the two locations where the H5de virus had been found are used for breeding of partridges for the purpose of hunting.
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The H5de virus is not usually dangerous for humans.
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The poor partridges on the other hand, lose out either way.
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If they are healthy, they get shot by the hunters.
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If they get the bird flu, then they get killed any way.
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Ah well….
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free Tamiflu for all visitors to Indonesia?

You have to hand it to the Indonesians for their chutzpah, in launching the new Visit Indonesia 2008 tourism campaign, at the same time as we hear about at least five Indonesians apparently infected with the deadly bird flu virus.
The campaign slogan, inaugurated by Indonesian Tourism Minister Jero Wacik last week, is also plastered on Indonesia’s flag carrier Garuda planes, Website and on its promotional TV ads, with a tag line: “Celebrating 100 years of a nation’s awakening”.
Some have suggested that the new slogan should be “free Tamiflu for all visitors to Indonesia” instead!
The country is embarking on the campaign to revive its flagging tourism industry which recorded a drop of about four million foreign tourist arrivals, in 2006.
Some of the reasons for the drop in tourism are:
Indonesia’s has not been in the good books of its Gods and the country has had to go through multiple disasters one after the other.
There was the devastating 2004 year-end tsunami, followed by severe flooding and there have been several volcanic eruptions since then.
Also, due to numerous air crashes, some involves its national carrier Garuda, air travel, which is a necessity for residents of the country’s far-flung islands, saftey has also become an issue.
To top it all, the European Union has banned Indonesian air carriers flying over the EU airspace!.
Then there have been a series of bombings by Islamic-based extremist group which operates under the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) organization in the Southeast Asian region has kept tourists further at bay.

A Jakarta court has just opened the trial of Abu Dujana, who is being charged with plotting terrorist activities, including in possession of explosives.

He is being blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings, which resulted in the death of 202 people, mostly Australian tourists.

However, the most worrying problem for the potential visitors to Indonesia is of course the Bird Flu virus, which has killed more people in Indonesia to date, than any where else in the world.

Siti Supari, the controversial Indonesian Health Minister has not made things easy for her country, by taking on the WHO and other global agencies by refusing to let the world scientific community have the tssue samples, from the Indonesian victims of theBird Flu virus.

The government’s apparent poor handling of the on-going bird flu health scare which undoubtedly will be on the mind of tourists visiting the country.

May be they should offer free Tamiflu to all tourists to Indonesia, just in case.


Bird-Flu Mutates to Mix with Swine-Flu

Researchers have identified a new strain of swine influenza—H2N3—which is a mutated virus gene, composed of avian and swine influenza genes.
H2N3 which belongs to the group of H2 influenza viruses that last infected humans during the 1957 pandemic.
Department of Agriculture Seal

The research team at Agricultural Research Service, studied an unknown pathogen that in 2006 infected two groups of pigs at separate production facilities.

Both groups of pigs used water obtained from ponds frequented by migrating waterfowl.

Molecular studies indicated the unknown pathogen was an H2N3 influenza virus that is closely related to an H2N3 strain found in mallard ducks. But this was the first time it had been observed in mammals.

Influenza viruses have eight gene segments, all of which can be swapped between different virus strains.

Two of these gene segments code for virus surface proteins that help determine whether an influenza virus is able to infect a specific host and start replicating—the first step in the onset of influenza infection.

In the newly isolated swine H2N3, the avian H2 and N3 gene segments mixed with gene segments from common swine influenza viruses.

This exchange—and additional mutations—gave the H2N3 viruses the ability to infect swine. Lab tests confirmed that this strain of H2N3 could also infect mice and ferrets.

These findings provide further evidence that swine have the potential to serve as a “mixing vessel” for influenza viruses carried by birds, pigs and humans. It also supports the need to continue monitoring swine—and livestock workers—for H2-subtype viruses and other influenza strains that might someday threaten swine and human health.

Results of this study were published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s chief scientific research agency.

The research Scientists:

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) veterinarians Juergen Richt, Amy Vincent, Kelly Lager and Phillip Gauger conducted this research with Iowa State University (ISU) visiting scientist Wenjun Ma, ISU veterinarian Bruce Janke and other colleagues at the University of Minnesota and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The ARS veterinarians work at the agency’s National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.


Bird Flu may be “Hushed Up” in Pakistan – Health Minister!

Here is an amazing statement by the current “caretaker Health Minister” of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, as reported in the news item below, via Daily times: 

NWFP caretaker Health Minister Syed Kamal Shah told Daily Times that so far around six to seven cases of the disease had been reported in the province.

He added two of the patients had died in November and that officials were awaiting results of the samples that they had dispatched to the NIH.

“If the results come out to be positive then the samples would be sent to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for further confirmation,” he said.

“I am trying to get the results but poultry is a big industry with many stakeholders, some of whom may want to hush up the issue.”

“The strain detected in the Bird Flu-infected people is called H5N1, which is the most dangerous of all other strains,” he added.

Shah also said that currently there were three people in the hospitals of Peshawar and Abbottabad. However, he declined to say something about the infected doctor.

He said over 70 percent of the poultry industry was based in NWFP and added that “closure of the industry is under-consideration, as human lives are more precious and important than any industry.”


“Crack” Bird Flu expert Team in Pakistan!

I hear that a “Crack team of Bird Flu experts” has left for Pakistan to investigate the Bird-Flu outbreak over there.

Not sure if that was a real story or a spoof.

If true, then where is this team going?

Will they be checking in to the North West Frontier Hilton?

Or may be they are going to talk to the local politicians, bureaucrats in Pakistan to find out as to what is going on in that part of the world?

Well, I am afraid that the politicians and the bureaucrats in Pakistan are totally clueless about all of this.

The news about a possible bird flu outbreak in that area is not new.

There have been reports of lots of chickens mysteriously dying in the Afghan/Pakistan border area since the last winter.

It is not easy to understand here in the West, as to how cheap human life really is in that region and therefore, news of many people dying (let alone chickens dying) does not result in big headlines.

This is the North west Frontier of Pakistan, a region where the writ of Pakistani law has never fully extended, and which is thought to be a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden.

I suppose the “crack team of experts” will immediately meet up with the other crack team, already investigating the disappearance of Osama in that same area.

Senator John McCain of the Bird-flu reporters?

Peter Cordingley the WHO Asia-Pacific spokesman has said that prompt notification was helping keep the virus in check after Pakistan announced its first human death and Burma (Myanmar) revealed its first human case.

      Peter Cordingley

“People have learned that hiding cases just makes things worse,” Cordingley told AFP.

Peter Cordingley also included China in his praise.

So Burma, China and Pakistan have been praised as being transparent with all the information regarding the H5N1 virus outbreaks by the WHO.

I find my self getting to be more and more like Senator John McCain  of the flu web reporters!


Is no one else upset at the above?

Surely the excuse of “having to deal diplomatically” with these “transparent nations”, can not be accepted forever by those of us who see the results of such folly on almost a daily bases!

Hiding a potential pandemic is no better and can be far worse than hiding a rogue nuclear weapons program