Avian and Swine Flu News StoriesExcerpts of Key Avian and Swine Flu News Stories in Major Media
Note: This comprehensive list of avian and swine flu news stories is usually updated once a week. Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.
Pharmaceutical stocks are skyrocketing on fears that a swine flu outbreak could go global. Manufacturers of antiviral drugs [and] companies gearing up to produce a vaccine ... are turning profits in an otherwise skittish and down market. Companies gearing up for swine flu, including Roche, Gilead Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturers of the leading antiviral flu medications, are best positioned to see a boost in profits if the disease escalates to epidemic proportions, analysts said. Tamiflu ... was developed by Gilead and manufactured by Roche. Both companies' share prices spiked soon after the U.S. government allowed for its stockpiles of the drug to be made publicly available. Gilead stock surged to $47.53 at the end of the day Monday, up 3.78 percent. Roche rose to $31.72, up 4.34 percent. The other major flu drug currently on the market is Relenza, also stockpiled and released by the government, and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Shares of Glaxo closed surged Monday to $31.56, up 7.57 percent. Both Tamiflu and Relenza are stockpiled by governments and in the case of an outbreak the companies are often required to sell the drugs directly to the government at a discount. "Government stockpiling is viewed as boon for profits. Though the government gets a discount and the margins sold to the government are lower than those if they sold to Walgreens, from a stock perspective it's an unexpected positive surprise," he said.
Note: Pharmaceutical companies make big bucks from scares like the avian flu and swine flu. Yet are the recommended drugs really effective? Many studies say they are not. For analysis of profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry during a previous flu scare, click here. See this link for lots more.
The company that released contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria confirmed Friday that the experimental product contained live H5N1 avian flu viruses. And an official of the World Health Organization's European operation said the body is closely monitoring the investigation into the events that took place at Baxter International's research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria. The contaminated product, a mix of H3N2 seasonal flu viruses and unlabelled H5N1 viruses, was supplied to an Austrian research company. The Austrian firm, Avir Green Hills Biotechnology, then sent portions of it to sub-contractors in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany. The contamination incident, which is being investigated by the four European countries, came to light when the subcontractor in the Czech Republic inoculated ferrets with the product and they died. Ferrets shouldn't die from exposure to human H3N2 flu viruses. Public health authorities concerned about what has been described as a "serious error" on Baxter's part have assumed the death of the ferrets meant the H5N1 virus in the product was live. But the company, Baxter International Inc., has been parsimonious about the amount of information it has released about the event. On Friday, the company's director of global bioscience communications confirmed what scientists have suspected. "It was live," Christopher Bona said in an email. Accidental release of a mixture of live H5N1 and H3N2 viruses could have resulted in dire consequences.
Note: How on earth did the avian flu virus ever get into vaccines? Could it be that this was planned? For a powerful book by a Harvard-trained dentist suggesting there may be a hidden force behind the spread of deadly infectious diseases, click here. For more revealing reports on bird flu, click here.
Virtually all the dominant strain of flu in the United States this season is resistant to the leading antiviral drug Tamiflu, and scientists and health officials are trying to figure out why. The problem is not yet a public health crisis because this has been a below-average flu season so far, and because the Tamiflu-resistant strain, one of three circulating, is still susceptible to other drugs. But infectious disease specialists are worried nonetheless. Last winter, about 11 percent of the throat swabs from patients with the most common type of flu that were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for genetic typing showed a Tamiflu-resistant strain. This season, 99 percent do. “It’s quite shocking,” said Dr. Kent A. Sepkowitz, director of infection control at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “We’ve never lost an antimicrobial this fast. It blew me away.” The single mutation that creates Tamiflu resistance appears to be spontaneous, and not a reaction to overuse of the drug. Complicating the problem, antiviral drugs work only if taken within the first 48 hours of infection.
Note: Isn't Tamiflu the same drug that was, according the the U.K.'s respected Independent, "bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease [avian flu]," and from which Donald Rumsfeld "made more than $5m in capital gains from selling shares"? What ever happened to all the panic about the avian flu? Could it be that it was only fear mongering? For reliable information on this key topic, click here.
Behind the county hospital's tall cinderblock walls, a 27-year-old tuberculosis patient ... sits in a jail cell equipped with a ventilation system that keeps germs from escaping. Robert Daniels has been locked up indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of his life, since last July. But he has not been charged with a crime. Instead, he suffers from an extensively drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. It is considered virtually untreatable. County health authorities obtained a court order to lock him up as a danger to the public because ... he did not heed doctors' instructions to wear a mask in public. "I'm being treated worse than an inmate," Daniels said. "I'm all alone. Four walls. Even the door to my room has been locked. I haven't seen my reflection in months." He said sheriff's deputies will not let him take a shower -- he cleans himself with wet wipes -- and have taken away his television, radio, personal phone and computer. His only visitors are masked medical staff members who come in to give him his medication. Though Daniels' confinement is extremely rare, health experts say it is a situation that U.S. public health officials may have to confront more and more because of the spread of drug-resistant TB and the emergence of diseases such as SARS and avian flu.
Note: If the above link fails, click here. What possible reason is there for taking away this man's TV, radio, cell phone, and computer? Are we being prepared for mass quarantines and imprisonment due to disease? For more, click here.
Japanese health authorities are investigating a flu medicine that is also available in Australia after a teenager jumped 11 storeys to his death after taking the drug. It was the 18th juvenile fatality linked to Tamiflu in 17 months. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has asked the Japanese importer of Tamiflu, an anti-viral drug regarded as the most important shield against bird flu in humans, to collect information about the conditions of patients who take the drug. The 14-year-old boy's death follows a similar case two weeks ago, when a girl also 14, died after jumping from an apartment building at Gamagori, in central Japan. It also comes after a warning by the US Food and Drug Administration late last year about the dangers of giving children Tamiflu. The drug is being stockpiled in Australia as the first line of defence against bird flu. In Australia, as in Japan, it is only available by prescription. Drug companies reported that 54 people using Tamiflu died in Japan before November, the ministry said.
Note: Tamiflu is the vaccine on which Donald Rumsfeld profited $5 million and on which the U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars stockpiling, even though it might not work. For more, click here.
A federal advisory committee on Tuesday recommended approval of the first bird flu vaccine for humans, despite concerns about its safety and evidence that the shots won't protect most people. The panel said although the vaccine had significant shortcomings, it was safe and effective for use during a pandemic or in high-risk situations, such as military deployment to regions facing an outbreak. The government plans to buy and stockpile enough doses for 20 million people. [The] director of the FDA's vaccine office told the panel that the vaccine was a stopgap measure. "There are numerous vaccines under development that are potentially better than this one," he said. The bird flu strain known as H5N1 originated in Asia. Although it rarely infects people, experts fear a mutation could make it easily transmissible, triggering a pandemic. From the start of 2003, 167 people, mostly in Asia, have died of the virus, according to the World Health Organization. In clinical trials, a two-shot series of the Sanofi vaccine provided protection in 45% of adults who received the highest dose, according to an FDA analysis this week. No serious side effects were detected among the 450 healthy adults who participated in a clinical test. However, some panel members were concerned that the trial was too small to reveal rare side effects. Some experts also worried about possible allergic reactions to the vaccine because it requires a massive dose — 12 times that of the seasonal inoculation.
Note: Who pays for and who profits from the purchase of these 20 million vaccine doses? It's pretty clear that the taxpayer covers the costs and the big drug companies make huge profits. Fear is quite useful for driving up profits. For lots more on profiteering from the avian flu, click here.
Cities should close schools for up to three months in the event of a severe flu outbreak, ball games and movies should be canceled ... the federal government advised today in issuing new pandemic flu guidelines to states and cities. Health officials acknowledged that such measures would hugely disrupt public life, but they argued that these measure would buy the time needed to produce vaccines and would save lives. “We have to be prepared for a Category 5 pandemic,” said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of global migration and quarantine for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s not easy. The only thing that’s harder is facing the consequences.” The new guidelines also advocate having sick people and all their families' even apparently healthy members stay home for 7 to 10 days. Any pandemic is expected to move faster than a new vaccine can be produced. Current experimental vaccines against H5N1 avian flu are in short supply and based on strains isolated in 2004 or 2005. Although the government is creating a $4 billion stockpile of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, it is only useful when taken within the first 48 hours, and Tamiflu-resistant flu strains have already been found. The historian John Barry, author of “The Great Influenza,” a history of the 1918 flu, questioned an idea underpinning the study’s conclusions. There is evidence, he said, that some cities with low sickness and death rates in 1918 ... were hit by a milder spring wave of the virus. That would have, in effect, inoculated their citizens against the more severe fall wave and might have been more important than their public health measures.
Note: Why is it that government officials seem to want us to be afraid? Could it be that when we live in fear, we are more willing to give up our freedoms and money and allow them to be in control? For more, click here. And why would the government spend billions on stockpiling drugs of questionable use? For an answer, click here.
Federal health authorities have signed a two-year deal to help states buy more than half a billion dollars worth of the antiviral drug Tamiflu as a hedge against a pandemic of deadly avian influenza, but there is a catch: States will have to pay for three-quarters of it. Under terms of the deal negotiated with Roche by the Department of Health and Human Services, the states can order up to 31 million packets of Tamiflu -- each containing a 10-pill course of treatment -- for a total cost of $596 million over the next two years. The Bush administration announced late Friday that it had contracted with Swiss drugmaker Roche Laboratories Inc. to supply Tamiflu for stockpiles in all 50 states. The federal government, meanwhile, plans to build its own centralized stockpile. The plan is to have enough antiviral drug in state and federal warehouses by December 2008 to treat 81 million people. Tamiflu is considered by scientists to be the first line of defense against the H5N1 strain of bird flu. The disease is currently confined primarily to chickens, ducks and some wild waterfowl, but researchers fear it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans.
Note: No mention is made here that Donald Rumsfeld has already made millions from sales of Tamiflu, and that he was on the board of the company that developed the drug. Many top researchers also believe there is little chance of avian flu mutating. Why are we spending hundreds of millions of dollars to combat a virus which has not even mutated yet? To verify these and other vital facts, see http://www.WantToKnow.info/avianflu
A human pandemic caused by A(H5N1) is by no means inevitable. Many researchers doubt it will ever happen. The virus does not infect people easily, and those who do contract it almost never spread it to other humans. Bird flu is what the name implies: mostly an avian disease. It has infected tens of millions of birds but fewer than 200 people, and nearly all of them have caught it from birds. But when A(H5N1) does get into people, it can be deadly. It has killed more than half of its known human victims -- an extraordinarily high rate. The virus lacks just one trait that could turn it into a pandemic: transmissibility. Everything hangs on transmissibility. But it is impossible to predict whether A(H5N1) will become contagious among people. Most bird flu viruses do not jump species to people. Some experts say that since A(H5N1) has been around for at least 10 years and the shift has not occurred, it is unlikely to happen. Others refuse to take that bet. The best protection in any flu pandemic will come from a vaccine, but scientists cannot tell ahead of time what strain the vaccine should protect against. There is no assurance that the next pandemic will even involve A(H5N1). It may involve a different strain of bird flu, and an A(H5N1) vaccine would not work for it.
Note: Many thanks to the Times for this rare article which largely dispels fears rather than increasing them. For more excellent information on the avian flu, see http://www.WantToKnow.info/avianflu
Two research teams have independently discovered explanations for the chief features of the H5N1 bird flu virus -- its difficulty infecting humans, and the deadly effects when it does. Unlike influenza viruses that are passed easily between people, H5N1 has a hard time attaching to cells in the nose, throat and upper airways. But it readily attaches to cells deep in the lungs. This suggests that people need close and heavy exposure to the H5N1 virus for it to get into the lungs.
Note: Yet governments have already spent many millions of dollars stockpiling Tamiflu believing that avian flu will mutate and cause a pandemic killing millions. And top government officials have already made many millions of dollars on stocks related to Tamiflu--the drug designed to combat a deadly virus which hasn't even mutated yet to know if the drug works! Remember that generating fear in the public is one of the best ways to make a profit. For lots more, click here.
Americans consider the United States to be a country where debate flourishes. Yet with regard to avian flu, hyped sound bites predominate. When President Bush asked Congress for $7.1 billion toward "pandemic flu preparedness," even his critics replied "not enough." What is lacking in the overall discussion about pandemic flu is disagreement, criticism, and skepticism - once the bedrock of science - from researchers willing to question and test the data. Some facts: According to the World Health Organization, the first "outbreak" of the H5N1 virus, also known as avian flu, killed six people in 1997. Since then, H5N1 has allegedly killed 97 more worldwide, the majority of whom lived in poor, rural areas and had direct contact with dead or sick birds often kept in unsanitary conditions. These numbers do not suggest the human population faces an insurmountable threat from this virus. Peter Palese, flu scientist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, told The New York Times in a Nov. 8, 2005 article that H5N1 is a false alarm. The virus has been "around for more than a dozen years, but it hasn't jumped into the human population." The reason? It probably can't. There are better ways to promote America's health than selling sickness through the language of fear. Before the government employs "all instruments of national power," including "quarantine authority," as the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza declares, we need to be told what "pandemic flu" really means.
Note: Not mentioned are the huge profits reaped by the drug companies and their political supporters thanks to the intense fear of bird flu generated by the media. For more: http://www.WantToKnow.info/healthcoverup
The US Defence Secretary has made more than $5m (Ł2.9m) in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu, the drug being bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease. More than 60 countries have so far ordered large stocks of the antiviral medication - the only oral medicine believed to be effective against the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease - to try to protect their people. The United Nations estimates that a pandemic could kill 150 million people worldwide. The drug was developed by a Californian biotech company, Gilead Sciences. Mr Rumsfeld was on the board of Gilead from 1988 to 2001, and was its chairman from 1997. He then left to join the Bush administration, but retained a huge shareholding. The 2005 report showed that, in all, he owned shares worth up to $95.9m, from which he got an income of up to $13m. The firm made a loss in 2003, the year before concern about bird flu started. Then revenues from Tamiflu almost quadrupled, to $44.6m, helping put the company well into the black. Sales almost quadrupled again, to $161.6m last year.
Note: If the above link fails, click here. With both the avian flu and swine flu, top drug companies raked in billions of dollars from sales of medications and vaccines, most of which went unused and have now expired. For many more strange coincidences and facts around the avian and swine flu scares, take a look at our summary of eye-opening news articles available here.
In a development health experts are calling alarming, two bird flu patients in Vietnam died after developing resistance to Tamiflu, the key drug that governments are stockpiling in case of a large-scale outbreak. The experts said the deaths were disturbing because the two girls had received early and aggressive treatment with Tamiflu and had gotten the recommended doses. Since 2003, avian flu has killed about 70 people, mostly in Vietnam and Thailand, and nearly all involved close contact with infected birds. Health experts fear the virus could morph into a form that spreads easily between people. The new report involved eight Vietnamese bird flu patients given Tamiflu upon being hospitalized in 2004 or 2005. Half of the patients died. Lab tests showed two of those who died...had developed resistance.
Note: If the above link fails, click here.
A Vietnamese doctor who has treated dozens of victims of avian flu claims the drug being stockpiled around the world to combat a pandemic is 'useless' against the virus. Dr Nguyen Tuong Van runs the intensive care unit at the Centre for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi and has treated 41 victims of H5N1. Van followed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and gave her patients Tamiflu, but concluded it had no effect. 'We place no importance on using this drug on our patients,' she said. 'Tamiflu is really only meant for treating ordinary type A flu. It was not designed to combat H5N1 . . . (Tamiflu) is useless.' Roche, the company that makes Tamiflu, has sold stockpiles of the drug to 40 countries and insists there is clear evidence it will protect against a future flu virus. However, it stresses the drug must be given within 48 hours to be effective. The WHO admitted Tamiflu had not been widely successful in humans. 'However, we believe in many Asian countries it hasn't been used until late in the illness,' a spokesman said.
Note: Yet hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to stockpile this drug. It's quite interesting that the former chairman of the board of directors of the company that made Tamiflu is current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld has had over $5 million in stock gains from the sales of this drug. To read about this and lots more: http://www.WantToKnow.info/avianflu
Researchers...scratch their heads over the weird genetic sequence of the 1918 flu virus. Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger, a molecular pathologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Technology [said that] the 1918 virus appears to be a bird flu virus. But if it is from a bird, it is not a bird anyone has studied before. It is not like the A(H5N1) strain of bird flus in Asia, which has sickened at least 116 people, and killed 60. It is not like the influenza viruses that infect fowl in North America. Yet many researchers believe that the 1918 virus, which caused the worst infectious disease epidemic in human history, is a bird flu virus. And if so, it is the only one that has ever been known to cause a human pandemic. That, Dr. Taubenberger said, gives rise to a question. Are scientists looking for the next pandemic flu virus in all the wrong places? Birds, Dr. Slemons said, do not have much of an immune response to influenza, and so there is no particular pressure for the virus to mutate. He said birds are chronically infected with lots of flu viruses at once, and all the viruses coexist peacefully. Some experts like Dr. Peter Palese of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York say the A(H5N1) flu viruses are a false alarm. He notes that studies of serum collected in 1992 from people in rural China indicated that millions of people there had antibodies to the A(H5N1) strain. That means they had been infected with an H5N1 bird virus and recovered. Despite that, and the fact that those viruses have been circulating in China more than a dozen years, almost no human-to-human spread has occurred. "The virus has been around for more than a dozen years, but it hasn't jumped into the human population," Dr. Palese said. "I don't think it has the capability of doing it."
Just as President George W. Bush is launching an ambitious plan to guard against an avian flu pandemic, an administration program to prepare for a potential anthrax attack is running into new and unexpected hurdles. VaxGen Inc., a California biotech firm that last year was awarded an $877.5 million contract to supply a newly invented, and so far unlicensed, anthrax vaccine, acknowledged this week that it won't begin to start deliveries to the federal government until the latter part of next year -- six months later than it originally intended. For months, investigators on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns that the administration may have invested too big a chunk of the nation's biodefenses in one obscure and relatively untested company. Last year's decision by HHS to award the contract to the little-known VaxGen is being scrutinized by at least two congressional committees. The company's product will have to pass more large-scale tests proving its safety and effectiveness on people before it is fully licensed by the Food and Drug Administration for use on humans, and company officials say they do not expect it to be fully licensed at least until 2007. A New York Times report last December noted that...the company had faced lawsuits filed by investors who claimed VaxGen misinformed them about an AIDS vaccine that the company had heavily promoted but which later failed to work.
Note: For more on how greed and corruption in the pharmaceutical industry affects your health and wallet, see our Health Information Center.
[Gary] Butcher has been an extension veterinarian at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine since 1988. He was trained as a veterinarian specializing in avian diseases, and has a Ph.D. in poultry virology. Butcher begins his presentation with a slide that shows a "news flash" from the British press agency Reuters reporting that avian flu "poses the single biggest threat to the world right now." So far, however...no one has yet been proven to have given avian influenza to someone else. "The emphasis of all my work has changed to dealing with this madness," Butcher said Friday. "Realistically, avian influenza is not a threat to people, but everywhere you go, it has turned into a circus." Millions of chickens and waterfowl have been slaughtered in Asia...but Butcher said that of the billions of people who have probably been exposed, only about 120 have been reported to have fallen ill with avian flu. They were people who worked closely with chickens and came into contact with the birds' blood and feces. Not all health officials are sounding a warning about avian influenza, either. Dr. Marc Siegel, a practicing internist and associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine...isn't buying into the scare scenario. "If anything is contagious right now, it's judgment clouded by fear," Siegel said. [Butcher] said that although there is a potential that the virus could mutate, as it exists, it could not become an important disease in humans. "For it to become dangerous to humans, it has to go through a pretty significant genetic change. If you put this in perspective, it's not going to happen.
Note: When major corruption threatens to be exposed, those threatened know that by creating massive fear (such as a global pandemic), they can divert attention and keep money flowing into corrupt coffers. For more on this, click here and here.
The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people around the globe, but it's proving to be very good news for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu. Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)'s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million. In the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47. That's made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer. Rumsfeld isn't the only political heavyweight benefiting from demand for Tamiflu. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead's board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.
A second manufacturer is beginning mass production of a vaccine to protect against bird flu, and the Senate moved Thursday to invest far more -- $8 billion -- on preparations in case the influenza strain ever sparks a worldwide epidemic. Before the Senate acted, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt awarded a $62.5 million contract to Emeryville, Calif.-based Chiron Corp. to manufacture bird flu vaccine. Sanofi-Aventis of Paris began manufacturing $100 million worth of a similar vaccine last month. The Bush administration is putting the final touches on its plan for how to fight the next super-flu...amid growing concern that the H5N1 influenza strain spreading among birds from Asia to Europe could trigger a pandemic if it mutates into a form easily spread from person to person. The massive out-of-budget expenditure...would increase stockpiles of the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, thought to be effective against current strains of bird flu. "The money that we spend now will not be wasted even if this particular strain of the virus, H5N1, ends up not becoming a pandemic flu," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. "We know that over the next two, three decades there will be a pandemic flu. That's almost certain."
Note: If the above link fails, click here. Isn't is interesting that over $60 million dollars (potentially $8 billion!) has been "awarded" for a vaccine against a bird flu that hasn't even mutated yet? How are these people so certain that it will mutate and kill millions of people? How do we know these vaccines will work when it hasn't even mutated? Note also that the pharmaceutical industry, which manufactures vaccines, has the largest lobby in all Washington and is raking in huge profits. For lots more on this, don't miss the vital information in our Health Information Center.
If the nightmare of an avian flu pandemic emerges from the dark chapters of doomsday scenarios, it will fall to the Department of the Homeland Security, not the medical establishment, to manage the crisis, according to federal documents and interviews with government officials. Under the National Response Plan, which also plans for actions in case of pandemics, DHS assumes top authority when an “incident of national significance” is declared. The first such “incident of national significance” was declared in August after Hurricane Katrina hit; however, federal coordination among agencies and state and local governments broke down on so many levels that even President Bush was forced to acknowledge that the plan was flawed. Federal officials have been role playing different flu outbreak scenarios for the past several months. Last year’s plan called for closing of schools, restricting travel and...lock-down quarantine measures. Those extreme measures jumped into the spotlight...when President Bush suggested that federal military troops -- not just the National Guard -- may have to be called in to enforce a quarantine.
Note: Isn't it interesting how the government seems to be predicting that the avian flu, which has killed less than 100 people worldwide, is going to mutate and cause massive deaths? How do they know this? Could this be another way of pushing us into fear and giving up our civil liberties?
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.