Have the monkeys blown it?

The anticipation and chronicle of the woes soon to befall humankind. If you don't wish to know about bad things about to happen to you then you probably don't want to be here. Otherwise, I recommend you read any numbered topics, like Peak Oil, in sequence. If you comment I suggest you use a nickname, I'd appreciate you being consistent in what you call yourself.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bird Flu 1: Indonesian cluster concern; intro

There has been a cluster of 7 cases of H5N1 in a family in Indonesia with no obvious close contact with poultry for 6 of them. Current transmission method is unknown but human to human transmission is a possibility. The WHO site is probably the best site to check for news:
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/
The 23rd May 2006 update is a good summary of current knowledge:
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_05_23/en/index.html

The key aspects are:
1. There is no (yet) identified poultry to human infection path for 6 of the cases
2. No significant mutation of the H5N1 strain seems to have occured
3. No one outside the immediate family group has been infected in this cluster
4. 6 of the 7 infected have died

So, the feared mutation into an efficient human to human transmissible variant has probably not occured. However, it seems that very close contact with an infective human may result in infection. This is not particularly worrying and would not, of itself, lead to a pandemic.

Here's a BBC news story covering this and leading to some other good BBC resources on bird flu:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5011210.stm
One worth noting is this:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4829858.stm
which may help explain how only very close contact with an infective human might cause infection.

The extremely high mortality rate (6 of 7) in this cluster compared with the very high 50% human mortality rate from H5N1 so far is worrying if human to human transmission has occured. One might expect a lower mortality should mutation leading to human to human transmission occur. It is plausible that this cluster, being all from same family, were more susceptible to infection and mortality than most other humans would be.

Apart from the WHO and BBC sites which are both well worth reading, here are some more about flu, avian and human:
http://www.fluwikie2.com/pmwiki.php?n=Main.HomePage
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20050701faessay84402/michael-t-osterholm/preparing-for-the-next-pandemic.html
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AvianFlu/
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AvianFlu/story?id=1706048&page=1
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/influenza/ (about the 1918 US epidemic)http://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/Story.aspx?guid=%7B80E760E2%2D9CF1%2D437F%2D93BF%2D7F0DF3EE2E30%7D&siteid=mktw&dist=
http://www.eswi.org/ (European, more tech than other sites, does anyone have a similar USA link?)

This site is more a 'marketing opportunity' than truly informative site about bird flu. Note the lack of recent news, out of date statistics, emphasis on scare stories, products for sale at first, second or third click on any item. Don't be taken in by the marketing but such sites (no doubt there are others as well as this one, lol) do sometimes have useful info:
http://www.birdfludefense.com/
Do take care with info from such sites. For example: the 1918 flu killed a relatively high number of young and healthy people, possibly because they had good immune system function - they effectively drowned due to immune response in their lungs. Would you think it wise to take medications to boost your immune system if you were infected?

4 Comments:

Blogger Sara's Stuff! said...

You know that bird flu is WORSE than west nile virus and is destined to kill us all, don't you?

~Sara<3

25/5/06 07:10  
Blogger Agric said...

I do agree that H5N1 bird flu is worse (as in: more lethal, more likely to become a pandemic, etc) than WNV but thereafter we will differ, lol.

WNV is close to mostly harmless: "Most infections with WNV are clinically inapparent and go undetected. A serosurvey in 1999 in New York showed that only approximately 20% of infected persons developed fever caused by WNV, and of these, only about half visited a physician for their illness (52). Approximately 1 in 150 patients progress to severe neurologic illnesses (encephalitis, meningitis, acute flaccid paralysis)...". If you want to know more about WNV in USA:
http://www.jci.org/cgi/content/full/113/8/1102

Bird flu kill us all? Nah, GW Bush or Dick Cheney have a much, much higher probability of killing us all. Firstly, the current mortality rate from H5N1 is only about 50%. Usually when a new flu variant mutates for more efficient H2H (human to human) transmission its kill rate reduces significantly, a factor of 10 would be reasonable / typical. Even if it gets real good at spreading we won't all catch it. let's do some sums...

Kill rate: 50% worst case, 5% reasonable case
Infection rate: 60% high, 20% low
So...

Worst plausible case: 30% humans dead; a more probable 'bad' result based on 50% infection, 10% kill is 5% humans dead.

Now, 30% die off leaves over 4 billion of us. Since I expect global human population to decline to between 2 and 3 billion just based on carrying capacity and fossil hydrocarbon availability I'm not troubled by even an extreme worst case flu pandemic. It would probably be a relatively painless cull (a few days of delerium is better than weeks or longer of starvation etc).

However, you may be right to be more worried than me, since you are about 20 yo and I'm about 50 yo. Both the 1918 flu:
http://www.fluwikie.com/uploads/Main/age%20distribution.jpg
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol12no01/05-0979-G3.htm
and H5N1:
http://www.fluwikie.com/pmwiki.php?n=Science.H5N1fatalityTableAgeCountry
kill more young uns than old uns :(

Sadly, if a flu pandemic did manage to kill off half or more of us humans we would probably just breed ourselves back into another die off soon enough. What is needed, if developed human society is to remain viable, is some growing up first, lol. Until that happens any die off of less than about 80% is unlikely to make much difference.

As a worry an H5N1 pandemic is barely on my radar. THAT should very seriously worry you!

27/5/06 01:31  
Blogger goritsas said...

Agric, will you stop it pu-leeze!

Humour is not allowed! As for H5N1 not being on your radar... Without the recent reports of the AIDS precursor being found in wild primates, I might have agreed. Sadly, the rumour mill has been so active about HIV/AIDS being the result of some form of "experiment" (gone "good" or "bad"), such experiments involving primates, I have to begin to wonder if H5N1 is just the first in a much greater attempt using biological WMDs. By the nasty and ill-defined, but real in any case, Powers That Be.

29/5/06 10:35  
Blogger Agric said...

Hey Goritsas, you distort my words, I said:
"As a worry an H5N1 pandemic is barely on my radar."

It is on my radar (else I wouldn't have posted here about it, lol) but not as a (serious) worry. Ultimately an H5N1 pandemic that kills less than 30% of humans (even up to 70%) will do almost nothing, of itself, to change the lemming-like course of human history (aka self destruction). Praise be to Head Lem:
http://lemmonledge.blogspot.com/

Let's face it: a 70% die-off from current population levels would only put us back to about 1950, population-wise.

Even my wryly warped sense of humour found little humourous in my above posts, but in case you need further explanation: I expect between 50% and 80% of humans which one might currently expect to be alive in about 2020 will not be. The path from here to there will be painful, probably interesting, scarcely amusing.

Deliberate or accidental germ warfare as a cause? Very unlikely of H5N1 or any flu variant - the risks of mutation / hybridisation are too great and vaccine the only likely antidote = slow to develop / produce. Of HIV/AIDS - about the daftest disease and transmission profile that could be imagined, could only be deliberate if some genetic 'ethnic cleansing' profile existed, no evidence of that I'm aware of.

Being practical, if some deliberate biological die off was to be instigated to the benefit of TPTB, it would probably have the following attributes:
- extreme infectiveness
- long infective period before symptoms
- high fatality (>90%)
- reliable vaccine or antidote / specific antibiotic

Both H5N1 and HIV/AIDS fail on almost all these. So, if TPTB do have some (effective) nasty germ up their sleeves you won't see it coming and are unlikely to survive it unless you have regular contact (over, say, a month) with less than maybe 10 people.

I may have rambled and said more than I should there.

31/5/06 02:23  

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