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    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Birds Know no Boundaries: The bird flu has made its way toFrance, Iran, and India - in birds only, it should be noted. This whole thing is much like the West Nile virus story of a couple of years ago, when every dead bird with the virus made headlines.

    Meanwhile, England waits for the bug to come to them, and critics are skeptical of the country's plans for protection in event of mutation and pandemic:

    [T]he Department of Health had placed too much emphasis on stockpiling Tamiflu, which faces problems with virus resistance and distribution, and not enough emphasis on making enough vaccine to protect the population from the H5N1 strain. The DoH has also wildly overestimated the amount of bird flu vaccine that could be made to protect the public, according to the director of the Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering at University College London.

    The Government has given assurances that it will obtain vaccine for the entire British population but this number of doses is likely to account for a quarter of the potential global supply of bird flu vaccine, because of the limitations of the current archaic vaccine production methods.

    "The Department of Health is not being honest with us," Prof Dunnill said. "These estimates of how much vaccine will be available have no foundation in fact."

    As well as focusing on bird flu vaccine production, he said the Government should advise people to stockpile food, medicines, water and other supplies. Although the Government's primary ex-penditure has been on Tamiflu, Prof Dunnill said "there is now a good deal of doubt about how valuable this drug will be". He said it was "very worrying" that resistance had already been noted.

    Well, that criticism could be leveled at every country with pandemic flu plans. But as faulty as the plans are - vaccine supply , manufacturing and distribution limitations, and the poor effectiveness of Tamiflu (it isn't a cure, even when the virus is sensitive to it) - there are no better alternatives. Washing your hands and staying away from people will probably be the best weapons we have against it, if a pandemic occurs before technology catches up.

    posted by Sydney on 2/19/2006 10:00:00 AM 0 comments


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