Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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The good news about avian flu

There have been a series of avian flu cases reported in Turkey over the past week, and oddly enough there's been some good news from this development.

First, World Health Organization officials are convnced that this isn't a sign of human-to-human transmission:

World Health Organisation (WHO) officials said that the 14 cases of avian flu recently discovered in Turkey were contracted through contact with infected animals and that there is absolutely no evidence that human-to-human transmission is occurring.

The officials said there are different locations where the outbreaks have been confirmed, showing that it is poultry that is infected and that the deadly disease continued to be spread by infected birds and not through contamination between humans.

Link via Glenn Reynolds, who has more here about US preparedness. I remain convinced that calling for the US to engage in crash preparedness can lead to more harm than good.

Second, Elizabeth Rosenthal of the International Herald-Tribune reports on a very interesting development among some of the avian flu diagnoses -- they're not getting sick:

Two young brothers, aged 4 and 5, are being closely watched at the gleaming new Kecioren Hospital here, a police car at the entrance guarding a potential scientific treasure. Though both boys have tested positive for the H5N1 virus after contact with sick birds, neither has any symptoms of the frequently deadly disease.

Doctors are unsure if - for the first time - they are seeing human bird flu in its earliest stages, or if they are discovering that infection with the H5N1 virus does not necessarily lead to illness.

In any case, the unusual cluster of five cases detected in this capital city over the last three days is challenging some doctors' assumptions about bird flu and giving them new insights into how the virus spreads and causes disease.

These cases have raised the possibility that human bird flu is not as deadly as has been thought, and that there may be many mild cases that have gone unreported....

A study released Tuesday in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggested that the H5N1 virus might cause a wide spectrum of disease, but that doctors in Asia might only detect the severest cases, the ones that went to the hospital. The four children in Ankara bolster that theory

Here's a link to the medical study abstract cited in the article. Their conclusion is a touch more neutral: "Our epidemiological data are consistent with transmission of mild, highly pathogenic avian influenza to humans and suggest that transmission could be more common than anticipated, though close contact seems required. Further microbiological studies are needed to validate these findings."


posted by Dan on 01.11.06 at 11:39 AM


This is completely to be expected, just statistically. All the estimates of mortality near 50 percent are based on a self-selected population --- they're the people who show up gravely ill. Anyone who gets the sniffle, says "I've got the flu" and thinks nothing more of it.

posted by: Charlie (Colorado) on 01.11.06 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

The Wall Street Journal is probably the best place to follow this. They had this information a few days ago.

posted by: chuck on 01.11.06 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

So, I am pretty behind on the news...what exactly ARE the symptoms of this flu?

posted by: curious george on 01.11.06 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

Like the symptoms of any 'flu: myalgia, muscle pain, fever, upper respiratory symptoms, headache, chills.

Followed, in some number of sufferers, by pneumonia, organ failure, and death.

Wikipedia has a decent article.

posted by: Charlie (Colorado) on 01.11.06 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

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