(News & Editorial/ H7N9 bird flu part 3-now airborne)
[Spread of H7Np Bird Flu as of 8 May 2013]
A. Pandemic Fatigue
3 May 2013, LRB blog, by Hugh Pennington
Pasted from: http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/05/03/hugh-pennington/pandemic-fatigue/
The virus in eastern China that since late February has killed 26 out of 128 confirmed cases has been officially named ‘avian influenza A (H7N9)’. Analysis of its genes shows a mixture derived from several bird flu viruses, and that the virus has been evolving for some time.
A century ago avian influenza viruses were called ‘fowl plague’, because they caused lethal infections in chickens. Their true nature was discovered in 1955 by Werner Schäfer, a German virologist and veterinarian who had spent the Second World War attending to the welfare of horses on the Eastern Front.
But H7N9 doesn’t cause fowl plague. If it infects chickens it does so without killing them or even making them sick.
How the victims became infected is still a mystery. The only substantial evidence linking them to chickens is that closing the Shanghai wet market (selling live birds) seemed to have a beneficial effect. Pigs don’t seem to carry the virus. But other animals might. A big hunt is on.
The failure of H5N1 to take off, or of swine flu to kill vast numbers in 2009-10, has caused pandemic fatigue. H7N9 is as nasty as H5N1 in that it is much more lethal for humans than ordinary flu. But it is much harder to monitor because it doesn’t cause disease in farm animals. Human cases in China have been diagnosed in eight provinces, Beijing and Shanghai, a vast area. They have popped up sporadically, and factors common to them have not been found. It is clear that the virus is very good at getting about quietly in its natural host, whichever species that is.
Pandemic potential? I am not fool enough to venture a quantitative prediction.
B. A more transparent battle with bird flu
8 May 3013, The Washington Post, By Editorial Board
Pasted from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-more-transparent-battle-with-bird-flu/2013/05/08/5ed18bee-b6c4-11e2-b94c-b684dda07add_story.html
IN A STRANGE TWIST of evolution, the influenza virus seems to have endless capability to reinvent itself, infecting waterfowl, swine and humans over and over again with great power and destructive force. A periodic reassortment of its genes gives rise to new variants that have not been seen before. Each time, the new variant poses a potential threat to both man and animal. Another shuffle of the deck has just occurred, leading to a new outbreak of bird flu in China, where people and fowl are often in close contact.
This variant, known as H7N9, has not reached U.S. shores, but it is a reminder of the unpredictable nature of influenza. It might cause a pandemic, or settle into a slow burn for years, or simply die out. At this stage, no one knows. The uncertainty ought to remind us of past lessons about infectious disease and globalization, which remain as urgent as ever.
One of those lessons is the vital role of rapid communication about an emerging outbreak. A decade ago, a virus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, took hold in China. The Communist government, which keeps a tight grip on information, responded poorly to the threat and failed to report early cases as the virus spread. It was a vivid example of the dangers of a closed society. As Mikhail Gorbachev found out after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, there are some events — spreading radiation or a virus — that just can’t be hidden from the rest of the world.
This time, China has reacted differently. The authorities announced the early cases, reported details to the World Health Organization, deposited genetic sequences of the virus in an open database and shared isolates of the live virus with scientists. While China’s rulers still impose a dark curtain of censorship over much other news, the authorities deserve credit for recognizing the global demand for openness about the new bird flu virus. So far, infections have been confirmed in 129 people, of whom 31 have died.
The critical tripwire that could lead to a pandemic would be sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus. Until now, there have been small clusters of people infected but not sustained transmission. Still, China is not out of the woods. Early indications suggest that this variant of influenza can infect birds without them showing obvious signs and symptoms, meaning it could spread in flocks and not be visible, endangering humans who come into contact with the birds. China may need to cull millions of birds, a challenge it has not yet faced.
It is natural for people to grow fatigued about warnings of pandemic. If it hasn’t happened, why worry? Here’s why: Germs do not stop at passport control. What happens in China today could happen here tomorrow. Bird flu is everyone’s problem, and we can only hope that China continues to fight it effectively and with transparency.
C. IT’S AIRBORNE: Human Transmission of Deadly H7N9 Virus Now Confirmed
23 May 2013, SHTFplan.com, by MacSlavo
Pasted from: http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/its-airborne-human-transmission-of-deadly-h7n9-virus-now-confirmed_05232013
In April of this year researches studying the H7N9 bird flu virus in China advised global governments to get prepared for the worst case scenario. According to the World Health Organization, H7N9 is one the most lethal influenza strains ever identified because it mutates eight times faster than a normal flu virus, and according to official records, has a death-to-infection ratio of about 25%.
It was initially believed that the virus could only be transmitted to humans who have had direct contact with poultry. After 36 H7N9 deaths and 131 of infections officially reported since the virus was first identified, the worst case scenario that many feared may now be on the horizon.
The Sun China Morning Post is reporting that researches have confirmed that, not only can the virus be transmitted from one human to another, but it has gone airborne. See the following website: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1244536/h7n9-bird-flu-found-spread-through-air?utm_source=edm&utm_medium=edm&utm_content=20130524&utm_campaign=scmp_today
The H7N9 bird flu virus can be transmitted not only through close contact but by airborne exposure, a team at the University of Hong Kong found after extensive laboratory experiments.
Though the virus appears to have been brought under control recently, the researchers urged the Hong Kong authorities to maintain strict surveillance, which should include not only poultry but humans and pigs.
In the study, to be published today in the journal Science, ferrets were used to evaluate the infectivity of H7N9. It was found the virus could spread through the air, from one cage to another, albeit less efficiently.
Inoculated ferrets were infected before the appearance of most clinical symptoms. This means there may be more cases than have been detected or reported.
“People may be transmitting the virus before they even know that they’ve got it,” Zhu said
SCMP via Zero Hedge.
It’s important to note that the Chinese government has never been very straight forward about statistics, especially if they involve negative perceptions of their country, so in all likelihood the H7N9 virus has infected countless others.
Though it’s been called one of the most lethal flu viruses in history by WHO, Chinese scientists have downplayed the threat by claiming the effects are “mild,” and the U.S. government has up until now made no decision on whether to move forward with a vaccine for this particular strain. Earlier reports indicate that the virus is resistant to Tamiflu, a drug commonly used to treat most flu symptoms.
H7N9 is reportedly now under control in China, but we know for a fact that the virus jumped to Taiwan in April, and it may have spread elsewhere. Given that research shows the virus can spread through the air before symptoms appear, it’s certainly possibly that an outbreak is in its preliminary phase right now.
Curiously, the United Nations reports that the virus has already cost the global economy some $6.5 billion in losses. Those are massive numbers given that only 131 official cases have been reported.
We’ll know soon enough if the Chinese government has controlled the outbreak among its one billion population, and if it’s taken hold in other countries. If it’s airborne, the contagion will spread like any common cold or flu.
Pandemics have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people throughout history, and once they start they are very hard to control. With H7N9 having a mutation rate that is eight times faster than other flu viruses, it could very well become even deadlier than it is now. Moreover, it could become even more contagious over time.
The only thing we can do at this point is to wait for news as it becomes available and take preemptive steps to prepare for the possibility of a widespread outbreak.
[The following article while not about the H7N9 var. bird flu, should be posted FYI; it is a new toy for research, a practical study with an eventual catastrophic outcome. Mr. Larry]
D. Chinese researchers criticized for creating new flu strains
Top scientists have slammed Chinese researchers for their “appalling irresponsibility” after they deliberately created new strains of influenza virus in a veterinary laboratory.
World Bulletin/New Desk
4 May 2013, World Bulletin.net, New Desk
Pasted from: http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=108148
Top scientists have slammed Chinese researchers for their “appalling irresponsibility” after they deliberately created new strains of influenza virus in a veterinary laboratory, British media reported this week.
Should the new viral strains, built through the mixing of bird flu virus with human influenza, escape from the lab, they could cause a global pandemic threatening the lives of millions of people, the scientists warned, according to The Independent.
Former government chief scientist and past president of the Royal Society Lord May of Oxford has dismissed the study published in the journal Science as useless in the prevention of flu pandemics.
“They claim they are doing this to help develop vaccines and such like,” Lord May told the newspaper. “In fact the real reason is that they are driven by blind ambition with no common sense whatsoever.”
“The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring,” he said. “They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses. It’s appallingly irresponsible.”
A team led by Professor Hualan Chen, director of China’s National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, mixed the H5N1 bird flu virus, a highly lethal virus that is not easily transmitted between humans, with a 2009 strain of H1N1 flu virus, which is highly infectious to people.
Chen said her team tried to emulate what happens in nature when animals are co-infected with two different virus strains.
Professor Simon Wain-Hobson, a prominent virologist at Paris’s Pasteur Institute, said it is possible that hybrids could easily be transmitted between humans and be lethal.
“It’s a fabulous piece of virology by the Chinese group and it’s very impressive, but they haven’t been thinking clearly about what they are doing,” he added. “It’s very worrying.”
“The virological basis of this work is not strong. It is of no use for vaccine development and the benefit in terms of surveillance for new flu viruses is oversold,” the professor was quoted as saying by The Independent.
E. Study: Engineered airborne hybrid flu contagious between mammals
5 May 2013, ARS Technica, by Liat Clark, wired.co.uk
Pasted from: http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/05/study-engineered-airborne-hybrid-flu-contagious-between-mammals/
Virologists in China have published a paper detailing how they created more than 100 hybrid viruses from H5N1 and the H1N1 strain that caused the deadly swine flu pandemic of 2009. The virologists wanted to see if any combinations would transmit between mammals—five did.
The study, published in the journal Science, comes exactly a year after the release of a controversial paper describing how the H5N1 bird flu could theoretically be modified to become human-contagious. At that time, the international community had called for a moratorium on similar research because of threats related to the virus escaping or the information being used for deadly purposes. Various outbreaks of H1N1 have, over the years, proven extremely dangerous.
[Read the rest of the article can be read at the web site given above.
Mr Larry: Creating life forms that more effectively kill Man and the garden in which we live is unconscionable. I’m not a religious person, but the new practice of recombinant biology with contagious and dangerous germs is the epitome of the term: Evil. How can any nation allow a small group of people to create and “play with” something so potentially fatal? The eventual escape of a human-contagious strain with high mortality, would be similar, – in terms of immediate human lives lost, to the same group detonating nuclear weapons in cities all over the world, and consider the suffering, anguish, and global economic effects. Once released, the germ would be “out there” sharing its genes with other varieties of virus.]