Sunday, October 16, 2005

At The Gate...

Mr. Atos

Bird Flu has been confirmed in Romania, bringing this dangerous threat to the gates of Europe and the West.
AP is reporting that the deadly strain H5N1, has been detected in wild birds found dead in the Danube delta.

"Tests confirmed that the virus in Romania was an H5N1 strain, but further tests were required to confirm the link with the strain found in Asia and Turkey," the European Union's executive body said in a statement. "This link has now been confirmed."
Romania has imposed a quarantine on residents in the area where the infected fowl was found and thousands of birds have been slaughtered as a precaution.
Commentary at
Recombinomics, suggests that H5N1 may also have been detected in Bulgaria as well.

Bulgaria has stepped up border controls and increased surveillance over poultry farms along the Danube and Black Sea, chief veterinarian Zheko Baichev told Reuters.

"We have made 500 blood tests on farm birds and checked on 154 domestic and 100 wild birds found dead throughout the country. We have not isolated the bird flu virus," he said.
As one can see on the map below, Bulgaria is located between Romania and Turkey, both of which have reported confirmed H5N1. So, the news of its discovery there could be expected.

The World Health Organization has additional information on the current spread of the virus, as well as information about the H5N1 at its current stage.

In his October article for National Geographic, "The Next Killer Flu," Tim Appenzeller compares the potential of Avian Bird Flu with the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. He conveys the observations of researcher, Jeffrey Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Maryland:

Reassortment explains the two lesser flu pandemics of the 20th century, in 1957 and 1968. In each year a new flu subtype appeared, combining genes from the human virus that had been causing mild outbreaks in prior years with new genes from a bird virus. The new pandemic viruses raced around the world, together killing about two million people.

But in 1918, Taubenburger now believes something different happened. "We think it's pretty likely that the virus was not derived from a previously circulating human virus," he says. All of its genes mark it as an animal virus, pure and simple, that somehow crossed to people without the help of genes from a previous human strain.

Now H5N1 is doing the same thing. So far, its steps across the species barrier are tentative, which is why it has caused tens of deaths, not millions. But as in 1918, doctors who have seen its effects close up are shaken.
In the Washington Post on Friday, Charles Krauthammer discussed the laboratory resurrection of the so-called "Spanish Flu" virus that killed upwards of 100 million in 1918. His concerns are valid to be certain. On the one hand, it is curious to wonder at the frankensteinian arrogance of scientists; recreating an old demon for the freezer when another is poised at the gate. But, with the danger of a global pandemic looming on the frontier, knowledge continues to be Man's best defense. What can be learned about this former killer, might well provide critical information about the next.

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