Archive for the ‘Pandemics’ Category

FLU VIRUS SHOWS TWIST IN TAIL

Monday, December 11th, 2006

– One of the potential elements of the Perfect Storm is a pandemic like the one that swept the world in 1917. The current Avian Flu Virus, H5N1, could, with just another mutation, learn to jump from human to human instead of from bird to bird and ignite such a calamity. In the face of this possibility, the news in this article is good, indeed. They may have found a way to defang flu viruses in general.

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PARIS (AFP)—Biochemists in the United States believe they may have found the Achilles heel of the H5N1 virus—and not just of the bird flu pathogen but of a wide range of other influenza strains.

The potential target is a long, flexible protein tail which is essential for virus replication, they report on Thursday in Nature, the weekly British science journal.

The so-called nucleoprotein (NP) plays its role after a virus has hijacked a host cell and subverted it into a virus-making factory.

The NPs come together in small rings, stacking up one atop the other to form a column. The virus’ RNA genome twists around this column before being shipped out of the cell in copies that go on to infect other cells.

The team, led by Yizhi Jane Tao of Rice University in Houston, Texas, believe the weak point is the tail’s loop.

Just a single mutation in the amino acids comprising the loop is enough to prevent the NPs from forming the building blocks.

More…

Lloyd’s Releases Second ‘360 Report’ on Climate Change

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

– Well, people can argue back and forth and believe that each other’s opinions are just politically or ideologically motivated but when people like Lloyds of London, the world famous insurance folks, weigh in on the questions, it is worth sitting up and taking notice.

– These folks make their living by predicting the future and you can be sure that the last thing they want to do is to have the accuracy of their predictions (and thus the profitability of their predictions) marred by ideological biases of any kind. So, when they say there’s a coming problem with the climate, you can be pretty sure you are getting the ‘straight stuff’.

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Lloyd’s has released the second installment of its “360 Climate Change” series, entitled “What next for climate change?” Last June it published the first installment, entitled “Climate Change, Adapt or Bust,” which warned insurers to face up to the growing threats involved or risk being “swept away.”

Lloyd’s is providing both technical knowledge and insights to help understand and contain the effects of global warming. In this installment its market experts “highlight the key projects insured in the market that will contribute towards a sustainable future, said the announcement. “This includes ‘waste to energy’ plants, which burn household and industrial waste to give off gas and generate electricity, and wind farms, which are proving a major source of renewable energy.”

The report notes that the Lloyd’s market provides about a third of the insurance for waste to energy plants, and covers about a quarter of the world’s wind farms. Lloyd’s is also setting up a new team of experts to help its insurers prepare for and manage the growing risk of climate change.

Trevor Maynard, Lloyd’s manager of emerging risks who will lead that team, commented: “Climate change is a very real threat. It would be unthinkable for us to ignore one of the biggest dangers we face in the coming decades. Among other things, this market recognizes the importance of developing new technology to create renewable energy.”

More…

Lloyd’s full ‘360 Climate Change’ report is here.

Warning over global bird flu plan

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

Bird Flu or something like it such as Ebola, are very unpredictable cards in humanitiy’s deck. Certain elements of the Perfect storm Hypothesis, like Peak Oil and Falling Water Tables, are developing slowly and we’ll have some warning on them. But, something like a pandemic will come out of left field and rip through the world’s countries like a wildfire.

– It is typical of people and their attention spans that interest in the potential problems with Bird Flu have migrated to the back burner because nothing, so far, has happened. Perhaps it never will, or perhaps nature is still ambling her way towards that final fatal genetic mutation that will change H5N1Bird Flu from a desease primarily of birds to one that jumps from person to person by airborne means.

– If you think that governments have got the situation well in hand, consider their different approaches to the Antiviral Medications vs. Flu Vaccines question with regard to Bird Flu. It is chilling that the authors of this study say that, “We cannot expect to vaccinate more than 14% of the world’s population within a year of pandemic” and that 62% of the nations examined have plans to protect their populations by makeing Flu Vaccines their first line of defense

– If you believe in insurance policies, it would make very good sense to get a round of the anti-viral medicines; Tamiflu and Relenza and store them in a cool dry place in case you and your family need them in the future. Unless you are a medical professional or highly placed in the government or military, I don’t think any of us should be depending on their government to supply these to us when the storm breaks. Indeed, 62% of the governments surveyed will tell you to wait until vaccines are developed. Nope, the $100 to $200 USD it will cost you to put aside Flu Antiviral medicnes could be the best insurance you ever bought.

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A third of countries which have drawn up flu pandemic plans have failed to set out how they would distribute medical treatment, a report has found.

Researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Ben Gurion University Israel studied 45 national pandemic plans.

They warned resources would be scarce, so decisions on who should get drugs or vaccines should be made in advance.

They said prioritising treatment could help reduce death and disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged every country to develop and maintain a national plan on bird-flu.

It also recommends nations prioritise the allocation of pharmaceutical resources among the population.

Rationing

Researchers looked at 19 plans from developed nations and 26 from developing countries. In total, these represented around two-thirds of the world’s population – 3.8bn people.

The countries included the US, Norway, Australia, India, China, Serbia, Bahrain, Israel, South Africa, UK, Mexico, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore.

The report, Priority Setting for Pandemic Influenza: An Analysis of National Preparedness Plans, found almost half of the plans they examined favoured antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, while 62% prioritised giving citizens a flu vaccine.

This was an unexpected finding, researchers said, as antiviral treatment may be the only pharmaceutical intervention available in some countries.

“We cannot expect to vaccinate more than 14% of the world’s population within a year of pandemic.”

More…

…New Bird Flu Vaccine More Effective

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Contrast this with an earlier article that said it would be years before we had a vaccine.

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A new vaccine against bird flu developed by GlaxoSmithKline is more effective than any previous version and works at a far smaller dose, the company reported yesterday on its Web site.

The ability to immunize people with small doses greatly increases the possibility of making enough vaccine to protect much of the population in the event of a pandemic.

Until now, high dosage requirements have been a major obstacle to making a vaccine for avian flu. An earlier vaccine, made a year ago by Sanofi Pasteur and stockpiled by the government, required such large doses that it would be difficult or impossible to keep up with a pandemic.

More…

Bird flu vaccine ’10 years away’

Friday, June 30th, 2006

I haven’t talked a lot on this blog yet about Avian Bird Flu (ABF) but it has certainly been a topic of conversation and concern among myself and my friends.

Many countries and medical authorities have been playing down the threat of ABF and saying that if a pandemic breaks out, we can simply crank up our vaccine production facilities and manufacturer sufficient doses to protect our populations though they need to wait until an actual outbreak occurs because only then will they have a genetic handle on the specific target organism to manufacturer the vaccine against. I never belived this in the past because I had read elsewhere that historically with all the vaccine production facilities in the world running full bore, we have never produced vaccine quanities sufficient for more than a minor fraction of the world’s population.

Now we find out in the BBC article referenced here that the ability to produce a viable vaccine against ABF could be 10 years away. There is a lot more to say on this subject and I hope to write more on it but for now, here’s the link to a story that appeared on BBC News today:

Also worth reading: and: and:

Human Flu Transfers May Exceed Reports

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

One piece in the ‘Perfect Storm’ puzzle currently assembling itself is the Pandemic Piece. As human populations become denser, the probability that an extremely virulent bug will decimate us grows. Normally, bugs with such virulence kill their hosts before they can propagate to their next host and, in effect, their own virulence limits their ability to spread. But, as our populations grow denser, the probability also grows that such bugs will be able to spread from host to host quickly enough to survive.

In the wake of a cluster of avian flu cases that killed seven members of a rural Indonesian family, it appears likely that there have been many more human-to-human infections than the authorities have previously acknowledged.

The numbers are still relatively small, and they do not mean that the virus has mutated to pass easily between people a change that could touch off a worldwide epidemic. All the clusters of cases have been among relatives or in nurses who were in long, close contact with patients.

Full article: