October 06, 2005

Watch The Birdie


From CNN: U.S.: Billions to fight avian flu -- Government is stepping up spending as fears about new pandemic grow.

The U.S. government is getting set to add billions of dollars to its budget to build a stockpile of drugs to fight the threat of a deadly avian flu virus, and European drugmakers are considered the top candidates for federal funds.

But White House officials will meet with representatives from the U.S. pharmaceutical industry Friday to encourage them to get involved in making flu vaccine amid fears of an avian flu pandemic, CNN has learned.

Most U.S. drugmakers have stopped making flu vaccines for a variety of reasons, but many public health advocates believe having a reliable supply of the vaccine may be the best way to contain a "bird flu" pandemic in humans.

The avian flu, also known as H5N1, has killed more than 60 people in Asia. Some public health experts are concerned that it could surface here, particularly after scientists announced Wednesday they had reconstructed the influenza virus that killed up to 50 million people in 1918 -- and discovered that it was a bird flu that had jumped to humans. ...

"People are really starting to get nervous," said [analyst for German bank WestLB Andreas] Theisen, who has seen colleagues in Germany buy avian flu vaccines for their families. "If [avian flu] really materializes, it will be hard to get anything.

UPDATE I: From The New York Times: Fear of Flu Outbreak Rattles Washington (via InstaPundit).

UPDATE II -- Oct. 10: From CNN: MD: Avian flu must mutate for it to sicken humans.

A physician monitoring the threat of avian influenza says a key question is whether the strain of bird flu in Asia has mutated into a flu that could result in a human pandemic.

Dr. Marc Siegel, author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear," said it's likely that such a pandemic could occur "over the next 50 years and maybe even over the next 10 or 20," but he said "it may very well not be this bug."

Posted by Forkum at October 6, 2005 04:19 PM