(From the diaries -- Plutonium Page.)
crossposted to The Next Hurrah
The hysteria has abated at bit (a good thing), and we're back to intermittant but sobering stories that appear in the news. here's a trio of good reads to stay current.
Vaccine Funding Tied To Liability
Legislation that would pour billions of dollars into the production of vaccines against avian flu and other pandemic diseases is threatened by the trial lawyers' lobby, which objects to proposed limits onlawsuits against drug manufacturers.
Republican congressional leaders, acting at the urging of President Bush, hope to approve a measure soon that would appropriate about $7 billion to pay for vaccines that would combat a flu epidemic and biological attacks by terrorists. The bill could begin moving on Capitol Hill this week.
But the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and some of its Democratic allies in Congress are working to scuttle or drastically transform the effort, asserting that anti-lawsuit language in the bill would so broadly indemnify pharmaceutical companies against suits that consumers' rights would be denied.
For more background on vaccines, see Avian Flu - What We Need To Know and DNA Could Speed Flu Vaccines. Tyler Cowan, flu blogger and an economics chair at George Mason, has written:
Institute prizes for effective vaccines and relax liability laws for vaccine makers. Our government has been discouraging what it should be encouraging.
Here's a case where Americans are going to look for results, not ideology. There's got to be some compromises made to get legislation passed, and this is prime territory. As it is, we have vaccine shortages every year and short of a rewriting of the entire health care system (a political non-starter in the short term but a real option long term) some version of liability protection is likely to pass.
AIDS may help spread of bird flu
Dr Robert Webster said it was possible people with Aids, who have depressed immune systems, could harbour the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.
This would potentially give it the opportunity to become better adapted - and more dangerous - to humans.
Dr Webster was speaking at a conference organised by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
At present, H5N1 cannot pass easily from human to human. It has so far infected around 125 people in South East Asia, but most of these have had close contact with infected birds.
Experts fear that the widespread infection of birds in this region, coupled with the close mixing of birds and people, could lead to the virus evolving to pose a more deadly threat.
But Dr Webster, of St Jude Children's Research Hospital im Memphis, said the key could be when H5N1 reaches East Africa, where HIV/Aids is rife.
Think Africa. Whereas cytokine storm may be less likely in the immonocompromised (cytokine storm is an overactive immune system causing immunologically-induced complications, like respiratory failure), secondary infections would be a huge problem. Africa is next on the migratory bird map, and can ill-afford to cull poultry. For more on Dr. Webster, see aetiology.
Finally, China is getting involved in bird flu in a big way.
China's top veterinary official said Tuesday that the government plans to vaccinate all of the country's 14 billion poultry against bird flu as two new outbreaks of the disease in the far west were announced.
"China is in the process of vaccinating all the poultry in the country," said Jia Youling, the Agriculture Ministry's chief veterinary officer.
Forget hysteria and panic. Bird flu is a panzootic, meaning that it's spreasding thoughout the world's avian population. Even without H2H transmission, that's a problem. Culling poultry is going to cost billions.
Stay tuned for more. There'll be plenty to write about over the coming months.