Thursday, October 13, 2005

Evian Flu (thanks, Mudkitty!)

Referencing a story further down the blog, it appears this virus has reached Europe. Europe has quite a few pigs running around on farms. Pigs are the vehicle for the mutation of avian flu viruses into mammalian forms...
Deadly Asian bird flu reaches fringes of Europe
By Jeremy Smith

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A strain of bird flu that can be deadly for humans has spread from Asia to the fringes of Europe, the European Commission said on Thursday, warning countries to prepare for a potential pandemic.

EU Health and Consumer Protection chief Markos Kyprianou said a strain of bird flu found in Turkey had been identified as the same H5N1 virus that killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003 and forced the slaughter of millions of birds.

The European Union's executive was also assuming that bird flu found in Romania was the same virulent strain, he said, though further tests are needed to confirm this.

"The virus found in Turkey is avian flu H5N1 high pathogenic virus," he told a news conference. "It's true that scientists caution us and warn us that there will be a pandemic."

Experts fear H5N1 could mutate into a virus which spreads easily among humans, possibly killing millions of people.

Most frightening quote of this piece...
But scientists say the H5N1 strain is mutating toward a form that could pass between humans.

Now, the good news: it's possible that Tamiflu, while not a preventative, might alleviate and ameliorate the symptoms of this bug enough that people might not die.

See, this flu basically liquifies the tissues of the lungs, which obviously is what kills you, and while prevention and avoidance would be the key to remaining alive in a pandemic, stopping the effects of the bug once it's hit, while not as effective, should lower the death and lasting effects of the virus significantly.


Well, two fold: one, Tamiflu is in short supply, although not as desperately short as any vaccine would be at this point, and two, avian flus are quite chimeric, and able to adapt and mutate very quickly.

They already have adapted and become immune to Amantadine (which is not a liqueur) as Asian farmers had long used Amandatine to inject birds in order to maintain agricultural production.

So Tamiflu for that reason alone is available only by prescription in most countries and is in short supply everywhere. Naturally, as the lone line of defense against the avian flu, governments are reluctant to let it be freely distributed (since the Amantadine fiasco would just happen all over again. Have to love free market capitalism!).

But here's the really eerie statistic on the avian flu, that sort of shoot major holes in the free market system:
Confirmed human cases of avian influenza from the H5N1 virus totaled 117 as Oct. 10, including the 60 deaths from the disease, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization. Included were 91 cases and 41 deaths in Vietnam, the country hit hardest by avian flu. The remaining cases were in Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Lemme see...60 divided by 117...that's a mortality rate of 51.28%, in a reasonably small sample in a country where, although medical treatment is not nearly as advanced as most of the developed world, has been battling this disease now for two years, and the word has spread around quite a bit. We can presume that percentage is actually a bit down since the first deaths were reported.

So let's say a 40% mortality rate. The CDC reports that a typical flu outbreak infects anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of Americans (or 15 to 60 million Americans) each year. Of those, roughly 200,000 are sick enough to go to the hospital and 15% of them die.

But these are strains that have, or are mutations of strains that have been around for hundreds of years. Clearly, we're looking, on a conservative basis, at an infection rate of 40% (120,000,000), and at a 40% mortality rate, 48,000,000 deaths.


And this during an administration that couldn't stop a few levees from killing thousands AND couldn't produce enough flu vaccine last year and had to outsource to England and Canda. We may be looking at 75,000,000 Americans dead this flu season.