Tuesday, February 01, 2005

An LA Times bird flu article

There are some signs of life in the American media regarding bird flu. Not a lot, but some. The Los Angeles Times (Charles Piller) just ran a story about the bird flu witches' brew in southeast asia. :
After smoldering through the summer and fall, avian flu has erupted again in Southeast Asia with 12 confirmed deaths since late December, the latest a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl who died Sunday.
Good start. After discussing the (so far unsuccessful) efforts to contain the poultry epidemic in Thailand and Vietnam, it goes on:
"The situation in Southeast Asia right now is the most significant setup for a very serious public health crisis that I've seen in my 30 years in this business," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "We're sitting on a time bomb."
We may not be worried about it in this country, but they are in Asia, even where there are no cases:
Fear of avian flu has become pervasive in the region. People in China, including Hong Kong, as well as in Japan and Thailand have begun to snap up supplies of Tamiflu, the one drug that is effective in suppressing the virus.

If Switzerland's Hoffman-La Roche, Tamiflu's only supplier, tripled production, it would still take it six months to make enough to supply 1 million people for five weeks, said Dr. Klaus Stohr, head of the World Health Organization's global influenza program.
It closes by noting that in the view of some experts (Henry Niman of Recombinomics is quoted), the lack of documented outbreaks in Cambodia and Laos does not mean the disease is absent there. In Niman's view, all the reported numbers, including the human confirmed cases in Vietnam and Thailand, are artificially low.

This is a decent article. Why aren't there more?