Bird Flu Panic In India

The Bird Flu virus is creating a growing sense of panic in India.
For the first time, there is a real sense of fear of the killer virus, not only in the effected states of Bengal and Bihar but all over India.
 The Times Of India Editorial put it this way- An Excerpt:
More than 6,00,000 eggs are piling up in Namakkal, the poultry capital of Tamil Nadu, even as egg prices slide with the fall in demand.
Thousands of broiler chickens are waiting in the wings as poultry entrepreneurs pray for importers to resume buying. The avian flu outbreak in West Bengal has simply devastated the poultry farmer in Tamil Nadu — setting the industry back by over Rs 500 crore — though the distance between the two states is thousands of kilometres and there is absolutely no sign of the virus in the south. Meanwhile, the government of West Bengal — where the H5N1 flu virus has now infected poultry in half the state — is unable to contain the outbreak.

It is wasting precious time sparring with the Centre, which has accused the state government of not doing enough on time.
The West Bengal government must act quickly to contain the outbreak, before it spreads to neighbouring states. Five persons have been quarantined in West Bengal as they have shown symptoms of avian flu, but as yet there are no confirmed cases.

Right now the impact on the poultry industry is much more disconcerting. It is losing out on huge export orders to countries in the Gulf among others. Fear of a possible pandemic is turning consumers away from chicken and eggs.
This is a pity since they are a relatively affordable source of protein. Poultry exporters say that they want the central government to divide the country zone-wise so that there is a clear understanding of which parts are affected and which are not. Zoning would help producers label their products.

This proposal should be implemented. Zoning and labelling would help revive exports somewhat. The World Health Organisation says this is the worst outbreak of H5N1 virus in India till date.
But the infrastructure and laboratory facilities to enable documentation, testing, detection and research in both animal/bird and human samples are inadequate.

Flu Pandemic in Slow Motion

It is as if we are watching a pandemic in slow motion.

What we have right now is not the “normal viral Pandemic mode”, resulting in a large number of human fatalities, during a limited period of time.

Instead, there has been a regular drip drip of people dying of the virus almost every week, over the last 4 years or so.

Every now and then, one Government Agency or the other issues a warning, that there is a “real risk of a global pandemic breaking out”.

In response, the global media creates huge bold headlines of the warning, each media source often adding a bit of spice to the said announcement.

This is followed by a few “anti-panic-journalists” who (and I kid you not) offer bets to any one who will take the bet, that there will be no such pandemic!

After a few days the headlines are focused on the next political or commercial crises, or may be a juicy kidnap story and the threat of a viral outbreak is forgotten by all, accept a few bloggers -such as this blog:)- who are apparently obsessed by the Bird-Flu virus.

Every now and then, there is a bold declaration from the Health Minster or a Prime Minister of a country, stating that their country is now “bird-Flu-Free”.

A few weeks later there is yet another outbreak of the virus in that very country.

In the mean time people keep on dying.

Little children seem to be a favourite of this killer virus.

After each of these deaths, there is a flurry of activity from the media, trying to get as much detailed information about the victim as possible.

It seems that the Bird-Flu Blogs vie with each other, to try and get the name of the victim out in public domain before any one else does.

This, even though the authorities and presumably the parents of the child do not wish for the name of their child be made public and provide only the initials of the name of the child.

But then I suppose the Bird-Flu Blogs need to have some kind of a scoop.

Another death of a child fron the Bird-Flu virus is hardly a new story now a days.

So now I have to report another such story.

There is yet another child victim of this Bird-Flu virus as reported by Reuters.

According to an official of the Health Ministry of Indonesia, a toddler from Tangerang, west of the capital Jakarta, has died of bird flu.

The four-year-old girl died on Monday after being admitted to hospital two days earlier, health ministry spokeswoman Lili Sulistyowati said by telephone.

The little girl, who had been suffering from fever, died after being transferred to Persahabatan hospital in Jakarta.

Apparently the officials were still investigating the case, but four chickens had previously died in the girl’s neighbourhood, another official at the ministry’s bird flu centre said.

Why were we not told of the fact that a toddler had indeed been admitted to the hospital in Indonesia with the dangerous viral infection?

We do not know.

I await with baited breath, for the Big Bird-Flu Blogs to tell me the little child’s name however.


627- The number of the Flu Pandemic Devil

An influential study has identified the key mutation of the H5N1 influenza virus, needed for it’s efficient replication in the upper respiratory tracts of mice as a mammalian model.

A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison report the identification of a key trigger for the virus to facilitate its easy transmission from person to person.

Mutation of PB2 amino acid 627 could be the trigger for the Flu Pandemic.


As in the case of most of the flu and other viruses, H5N1 originated in China.

The first outbreak in humans caused by the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza A virus was reported in Hong Kong in 1997, and resulted in the deaths of six of 18 infected people.

This event demonstrated for the first time the direct transmission of a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus from birds to humans with a fatal outcome.

At the end of the year 2003, this virus began to spread widely in poultry in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand and has since spread to over 60 countries around the world.

This has raised serious worldwide concern about their pandemic potential, in the minds of most people who use logic in their thinking.

Of course, not all use logic in their thinking and there are still a few people, who think that the H5N1 is an illusion at best and some kind of a global conspiracy at worst.

The name of “What-Bird-Flu-Fumento” comes to mind here.

But I digress.

Even though efficient human-to-human transmission of this virus has not yet occurred, (other than a few “family clusters” of infection reported over the years) the potential of these viruses to acquire the ability is evident to thinking minds.

However, it was discovered that certain H5N1 viruses isolated from humans that possess human receptor specificity, have still failed to spread efficiently among humans.

Therefore it was thought that an additional amino acid substitutions in viral proteins, other than the receptor-binding the haemmaglutinin HA protein, (which is considered to be a main factor affecting efficient transmission of H5N1 viruses) must be necessary for efficient growth and person-to-person transmission of avian H5N1 influenza virus.,

Now a study has confirmed the above and has identfied defined the contribution of a single Amino acid to the efficient replication of H5N1 influenza viruses in the upper respiratory tracts of mice as a mammalian model.

Writing in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens, a team of researchers led by virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine has identified a single mutation of the Amino Acid at position 627 of the PB2 , which could greatly enhance the virus’ ability to infect the cells of the upper respiratory system in mammals.

Because efficient viral growth in the upper respiratory tract of humans can facilitate virus excretion by coughing and sneezing, a mutation of PB2 amino acid 627, which contributes to efficient growth at this site in a mammal, may be prerequisite for efficient human-to-human transmission. 

As a result of the mutation of the PB2 amino acid 627 the virus could adapt to the upper respiratory system, and be capable of spreading widely, potentially setting the stage for the dreaded global flu pandemic.

Here is the original Research Article, “Growth of H5N1 Influenza A Viruses in the Upper Respiratory Tracts of Mice”  which is available under Open Access:


Global Super Computer Grid to Fight Bird-Flu

The H5N1 virus transmission to humans has been observed since 1997, but the subtype N1 has been known since at least since 1918.

The N1 and N2 subtypes can evolve into variants under certain conditions as we have seen over the last few years.

The Bird-Flu virus has shown itself to be much more dangerous than we all thought it was.

It seems that the virus attacks multiple human organs and can even pass through the hitherto hard to breach barrier of the Placenta.

New data released last week by Peking University in Beijing, China, shows that the H5N1 bird flu virus can pass through the placenta of pregnant women to the unborn foetus, and can infect organs other than the lungs in adults

Amazingly there are still some people such as the journalist “What-Bird-Flu-Fumento”, who believe that no one should be doing any thing at all to prepare against the H5N1 virus!

However most of the serious scientific community is increasingly taking the threat from the H5N1 virus more seriously now.

There is now news of a combined effort from 45 countries to try and create an effective defence against the killer virus.


Last month a collaboration of European and Asian researchers launched a new attack against the deadly bird flu virus, harnessing the combined power of more than 40,000 computers across 45 countries to boost the pace of anti-viral drug discovery.

Called Enabling Grids for E-sciencE, the computing grid connects ordinary PCs to form a super-sized supercomputer that is being used during this challenge to analyse the potential of more than 500,000 drug-like molecules over the next few weeks.The EGEE Grid

Dr Ying-Ta Wu, biologist at the Genomics Research Center of the Academia Sinica, says computing grids like EGEE are the fastest and cheapest way to discover new drug leads.“We are using EGEE to find new molecules that can inhibit the activities of the influenza virus,” Dr Ying-Ta Wu explains “During previous challenges using the EGEE grid we discovered about 200 molecules with the potential to become drugs against bird flu.”

At the EGEE’07 conference in Budapest, Ulf Dahlsten, Director of “Emerging Technologies and Infrastructures” in the Information Society and Media Directorate-General of the European Commission, used the example of EGEE’s success with bird flu to illustrate the potential contributions of e-Infrastructures to science.

“Computer Grids have achieved a productivity increase of more than 6000% in the identification of potential new drugs” he said. “300,000 molecules have already been screened using the EGEE grid. Of these, 123 potential inhibitors were identified, of which seven have now been shown to act as inhibitors in in-vitro laboratory tests.”


Interactive Map of Global Bird-Flu Spread since 2003

Here is another Global Bird-Flu map, this time an Interactive Map from MSNBC.

I had posted this map here a while back.

Worth another look:

More Indonesian Bird-Flu Censorship revelations?

A story via the Jakarta post, seems to casually reveal another, as yet unannounced Indonesian death, resulting from the H5N1 virus, way back in April of this year.

The story mentions the latest bird-flu victim from Jakarta, the 22 year old named as AR, who had apparently died last week, after suffering from high fever, headaches and respiratory problems.

It took the Indonesian Health Ministry till Monday of this week to announce that the cause of AR’s deaths was Avian Influenza.

The story then casually drops in the fact that the victims 19 years old sister had also died of similar symptoms, back in April of this year and now the Indonesian Health Ministry has confirmed that the cause of both deaths was avian influenza!

This amazing series of events can only be due to one of the following two reasons:

A. The Indonesian authorities are not able to identify (let alone treat) the people suffering from the H5N1 virus in that country.

If that is the case, then there can be hundreds of victims of the Bird-Flu in Indonesia, who were never officially unidentified as infected with the killer virus.

B. The Indonesian authorities are actively censoring the vast majority of the H5N1 cases and the leak of the information mentioned above, is the result of the carelessness of an official, who could well be in a lot of hot water by now.

If that is the case, then there can be hundreds of victims of the Bird-Flu in Indonesia, who were never officially unidentified as infected with the killer virus.

Come on Madam Supari, which of the two options mentioned above, is the truth?

Siti Fadilah Supari, the Indonesian Health Minister

On top of all the above, Siti Fadilah Supari, the Indonesian Health Minister had informed the world many months ago that Jakarta has been “cleared of all backyard poultry”, thus removing the possibility of the accepted mode of infection of the bird-flu virus (via contact with infected poultry).

We are now told that there still are a large number of poultry kept in the back streets of the slums of Jakarta.

The head of West Jakarta’s animal husbandry and fisheries office, Chaidir Taufik, said the agency carried out bird flu prevention activities in the area following the February floods.

“We thought there were no more birds in the area and we were quite surprised with the deaths and with our findings in the raid yesterday. We found over 100 chickens,” he said.

Chaidir said the administration was yet to do anything to prevent the spread of bird flu in the Kemiri market, saying that West Jakarta had too many markets for the administration’s staff.

“The area has a total of 68 large and neighborhood markets and I only have around 40 people,” he said.


Global Bird-Flu Outbreak Map since 2003

Via ReliefWeb,

from the WHO, a very interesting visual diary of the global spread of the H5N1 virus, since the year 2003.

Map of 'World: Areas Reporting Confirmed Occurrence of H5N1 Avian Influenza in Poultry and Wild Birds Since 2003 (Status as of 27 Sep 2007)'

Click here:


Areas Reporting Confirmed Occurrence of H5N1 Avian Influenza in Poultry and Wild Birds Since 2003 (Status as of 27 Sep 2007)