Sunday, July 30, 2006

bird flu and bioterror, too

Haven't heard as much about bird flu lately. Don't worry, it hasn't gone away, it's just that, like other influenzas, it tends to strike more in the winter months. There was encouraging news recently about a more effective H5N1 vaccine being under development. But today, a piece about the difficulty of containing bird flu. Vietnam is struggling to stamp out H5N1 outbreaks in birds, but chickens smuggled in from China are another conduit for the virus. Especially since the smugglers are apparently bringing in chickens from H5N1-affected regions and selling them for a song in Vietnam, and then telling the Chinese government that they have culled their flocks as ordered.

The movement of birds by humans is thought to be responsible for most of the spread into distant places like Nigeria and Iraq. Prediction -- if H5N1 makes the leap to human-human transmission, human quarantines are likely to be ineffective at keeping the virus from spreading from one region to another.

In another story, a long piece about the government's defenses against bioterrorism. It might surprise you to learn the de facto Bush administration is keeping this secret. Actually, some level of secrecy is appropriate for security reasons, but it leads to further suspicions of whether they are breaking any laws. A bad bird flu outbreak among people would stretch our bio defenses, too.