I don't have to be a scaremonger, the progression of bird flu from Asian nations to Europe and its eventual future migration to every corner of our world is beginning to rattle nerve of many, including mine. No real antidote, anti-virus medicine exists, only "Tamiflu" that according to World Health Organization "could minimize the potency of the illness but was not an effective vaccine against it" Europe started to move in stockpiling Tamiflu, but what about the poor Asian nations? What is the plan in saving millions and millions of citizens of Asian, African and South American nations? Is there really a viable plan to combat a potentially man annihilating virus in place? Would we be caught, again, in our pants down to our ankle, bare naked, like the Katrina romped Louisiana's backyard, front yard, or the devastating earthquake leveling Balakot in Pakistan, destroying all those poorly made homes, buildings that were no match for a 7.6 earthquake? Or would it be like last year's Tsunami when lack of early warning coordination among nations contributed to majority of deaths in South East Asia that could have been avoided if only we had a reliable warning mechanism in place?
We spend billions, trillions in making futuristic weaponry to kill fellow human beings, whereas our total failure in confronting nature, like earthquake, hurricane or now the bird flu, perhaps point to an unstoppable demise of our infantile civilization.
I just hope that I am wrong. Wrong. I am wrong!
Europeans declare bird flu 'a global threat'
| By Dan Bilefsky and Tom Wright International Herald Tribune |
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2005
"We have not yet reached the level of preparedness that we should have," he told reporters at an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. "This is a global threat and there is need for international action." On Tuesday, the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, whose country holds the EU's rotating six-month presidency, appealed for vigilance and calm, but warned that Europe must prepare for the worst.
"Above all that, there are the most adequate contingency plans across Europe to deal with any transfer of the avian virus to human beings," he told reporters. "So far within wider Europe that has not happened but we have to be prepared." Straw added that EU health ministers meeting near London on Thursday and Friday would discuss coordinating their efforts to ensure that the disease did not spread across the Continent. He said the EU would shortly stage a simulated pandemic response to test the bloc's preparedness.
The deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, which has infiltrated poultry populations in Asia and killed 60 farmers since 2003, has been detected in Romania and Turkey, where thousands of birds have been slaughtered. Meanwhile, the Greek authorities are awaiting test results for a strain of the disease discovered Monday that could show the most virulent form of the virus had migrated across the EU's borders for the first time.
Across Europe on Tuesday, countries stepped up their efforts to defend against the virus. In France, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said 50 million masks to protect against bird flu were being delivered to French hospitals. The Spanish government said it planned to order 6 million to 11 million doses of anti-viral medicines to prepare for the possibility of a flu epidemic. Meanwhile, British customs agents intensified searches for birds, feathers and eggs on flights from Turkey and Romania in hopes of keeping the disease out of the country.
The EU has already intensified its measures against the disease by quarantining poultry populations and setting up early detection systems along the paths of migratory birds, which are carrying the disease from Asia. It also has called on Europeans to avoid recreational activities like hunting that risk bringing humans into contact with contaminated birds. There is no human vaccine for the virulent strain of bird flu. But Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, said Tuesday that it had received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to open a new American manufacturing site for the production of its anti-viral drug Tamiflu, which health experts say may help defend humans against contracting the disease. Roche said it was willing to issue licenses to other companies and governments to develop the drug.
It also said it would donate packs of the anti-influenza medicine to Turkey and Romania. But drug companies warned that their production capacity was not sufficiently developed to handle a widespread bird flu outbreak.
Tamiflu, for instance, takes 12 to 18 months to produce and supply after an initial order. Reports that consumers across Europe were stocking up on Tamiflu prompted the World Health Organization to warn against scare-mongering and the panicked stock-piling of vaccines. The WHO stressed that Tamiflu could minimize the potency of the illness but was not an effective vaccine against it.
The potential continentwide outbreak of avian flu has fanned fears that the virus could mutate into a form easily transmitted to humans. If that were to happen, health experts fear a global pandemic could result in millions of deaths.