Archive for the ‘influenza’ Category

Must be expecting things to go wrong

Monday, February 5th, 2007

The Bush administration just put into effect a new law that frees manufacturers from product liability suits for damages caused by vaccines or drugs produced for use in avian flu.

The law, enacted in 2005, gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to grant immunity to companies based on an assessment of risk to public health.  HHS has just invoked that clause “based on a credible risk that an avian virus spreads and evolves into a strain capable of causing a pandemic of human influenza.”

Of course, if the government and manufacturers knew that these products were beneficial and unlikely to cause harm, these measures would be unnecessary.  And of course, if they knew that there was a likelihood of harm, they would make every effort to shield themselves and their profits far in advance of any real threat of a pandemic.  Draw your own conclusions about the benefits and detriments of the treatments they are proposing.

Cats and avian flu

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Cats used to be considered immune to influenza. Even crafty researchers could not infect them with the virus. Then zoo cats in Asia were fed birds that died of avian influenza. They contracted fatal cases of the flu and, moreover, were able to transmit the disease to other cats. In the laboratory, cats could be infected with avian flu either by inhaling or eating the virus and could then transmit it to other cats. It had a fairly high mortality rate.

Today, I learned that avian flu is wide spread among cats in Indonesia. In a survey of cats in areas of the country where humans had contracted the flu, about 20% of the 500 stray cats tested had antibodies to the virus. These were the cats that had contracted influenza and survived. It is likely that many more cats had caught the flu and died from it.

Other animals, pigs and dogs, have also gotten avian flu. Should we be concerned? I think yes. The 1918 flu was a bird virus that adapted to mammals through an intermediate host, probably the pig. One expert now suggests that “Maybe for H5N1, the intermediate host is cats.” The more opportunities cats and humans have to eat infected animals, the more opportunity the virus has to mutate to a transmissible form.

And to make matters worse, in Jakarta authorities are slaughtering large numbers of chickens that are then provided as free food to people in the area. It is possible for chickens to have mild cases of avian flu and not appear symptomatic. They could still infect the person or cat eating them, creating more opportunities for the virus to adapt and mutate. Obviously, the potential for avian flu to turn into a more transmissible form still looms on the horizon.

Mandatory Flu Vaccinations Planned

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

I was recently asked to write an article about why I choose not to get a flu shot. I had not given a great deal of thought to my decision so it was interesting to read the research on the effectiveness of flu vaccinations. I learned that the flu shot does not really provide much protection against influenza, even where there is a good match between the circulating flu strain and the strain used for the vaccine. A recent example on point: 49 residents in an Australian nursing home and 7 staff members just came down with the flu, 6 of them died. More than 90% of the residents and about 55% of the staff were vaccinated.

You can read my article on why I do not get a flu shot on page 12 of the Vashon Loop:

http://www.vashonloop.com/PDF/LoopV3_23.pdf

A few days later I read an article a friend sent me about a panel discussion on world affairs held at Stanford University and moderated by Ted Koppel. The panelists concluded that the threat of pandemic influenza was the most troubling crisis facing the world. I was immediately struck by a comment made by the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, Jean-Pierre Garnier:

“The solution is not to stockpile vaccines. The solution is to nip it in the bud. Our best shot is to draw a circle around the infected area and vaccinate everyone.”

(http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=c/a/2006/10/15/BAGB8LPPO1.DTL)

Is the government planning mandatory vaccination using a vaccine that may be entirely ineffective? Is that part of our preparedness plan? It indeed appears to be. Most state preparedness plans grant the government authority to make flu vaccination mandatory. Those who cannot (or will not) take the shot will be quarantined. I found little information on how the quarantine will be implemented. Will people be forced to stay home or will they be sent to “quarantine camps”? In any case, how many of us can survive being quarantined for an extended period of time? Our bills will continue to pile up even if we are not allowed to work and earn a living.

It would be easier to stomach the thought of mandatory vaccinations if the drug manufacturers had any faith in the safety of their products. Instead, they have convinced Congress to shield them from any and all liability for damage done by their drugs and vaccines during an “emergency.” I believe they know their vaccines will be ineffective — the better planned seasonal flu shots are — and they know they will cause damage to many.

I think it is time for the public to wake up and look at this issue. It is bad enough that tax dollars are being wasted on stockpiles of largely ineffective antiviral drugs and vaccines. There is no reason to guarantee vaccine manufacturers a market for their products as well as freedom from liability for injury caused by their negligence.