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Bird Flu Virus One Gene Away From Human-To-Human Transmission

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I received an e-mail today from a friend who keeps a sharp eye on the bird flu and how it is progressing. This article at PR Web was worth reporting on Blogcritics. Its essential point is that:

Six months ago scientists estimated that the H5N1 virus needed to make about five changes to its gene structure for it to be deadly for humans. Now it requires only one last change.

The avian bird flu has been plaguing us for about 9 years, showing up in China as a disease that killed fowl and people who came in contact with fowl. It returned about 3 years ago, and has been getting stronger and more widespread with each passing season, seeding the entire planet with influenza that has caused millions of euros in damage in Europe and millions of dollars of damage elsewhere, mostly through the loss of poultry.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the last 30 months 190 persons have been infected with 55 percent of them dying from avian bird flu. In addition, the disease has begun to take a toll in causing nations to attempt to prevent the spread of the disease by banning imports from certain countries, notably France.

In the last several months, phrases like “gene mutation” and “recombination sequences” have been turning up more and more frequently in news reports.

Not too long ago, Recombinomics reported that the WHO was withholding data on recombination sequences of the H5N1 cluster of viruses.

In the PR Web report from 8 March it reports that:

It appears that it is inevitable that a bird flu pandemic will eventually occur. Some scientists expect that the last genetic change needed for efficient human to human transmission by the H5N1 virus may occur when migrating birds carrying the H5N1 virus begin their return journey in Spring. (Northern hemisphere). This means that there is a possibility that a pandemic could occur within two months.

If there is indeed a pandemic, it is very likely to kill tourism and make transport from one place to another an adventure filled with fear and terror. We are likely to see travel bans in some instances. If the pandemic is severe enough, it could break down societal structures altogether. There is no known cure for the avian bird flu. There is no vaccination to prevent it occurring. The only things one can do is to avoid direct contact with fowl, build up one’s immunity generally, and pray.

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About Ruvy

Hi!! Thanks for coming to my article! I was raised in Brooklyn, was graduated from the City University of New York in 1978 with a BA in political science and public administration there. I lived in Minnesota for a number of years. There I managed restaurants and wrote stories. We moved with our children family to Israel where we now reside. My work can be found at Ruvy's Roost, Jewish Indy,, and on Facebook under my full name, Reuven Kossover
  • troll

    using the 1918-20 pandemic as a model – when this H5N1 human pandemic sweeps the planet:

    deaths from influenza will be primarily in the 15 to 50 age range – paradoxically among those with the most healthy immune systems

    deaths among the old and young will be primarily from pneumonia secondary to an otherwise non-lethal influenza infection

    effective pneumococcal vaccines do exist to prevent viral pneumonia – get yours now

    bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Thanks Troll,

    I’ll keep this advice in mind and pass it on to the fellow who sent me this article for him to publish in the Root and Branch News & Information Service. It’s the first piece of intelligent advice I’ve seen in a long time. Thank G-d somebody is reading this article…

    If you look on Google now, they are blanketing it with articles on the bird flu reaching the States within six months to a year. To get this article on Google, you now have to type in “gene mutation” along with “bird flu.”

    Still trying to suppress the news. Sigh…

  • Nancy

    It also helps to WASH YOUR HANDS – frequently; cover your mouth when you cough as a courtesy to others, and if possible, avoid small children. Should the pandemic ever materialize, wear a mask in public, especially in places frequented by thoughtless people who insist on dragging along their coughing, sneezing kids. Don’t touch your face until you’ve washed your hands after being in public. Don’t eat without washing your hands. And a recent study shows that the germiest surfaces are not toilets, but shopping cart handles & door handles or doorknobs, so either wear latex gloves, or carry antibacterial wipes before engaging with either. Ironically, hospitals are among the most virulent spreaders of infections, and one of the most loaded sites in a hospital is the handrail of a hospital bed! If you must be in or visit a hospital during a pandemic, don’t touch the hospital bed rail, or see it’s disinfected before you take up residence therein or handle it while visiting.

    If you’re a kisser or toucher by nature…don’t. Restrain yourself, and don’t shake hands with anyone, either. If they’re offended, tough. If there’s a pandemic on, anyone still wanting to shake hands must be lacking brain cells.

    Antiviral effectiveness is indeed hit or miss with this one, however we can all depend that whatever vaccine is available will only be available to the rich & powerful, & the troops required to safeguard them from the rest of us. So don’t count on the government coming to your aid, ’cause it won’t happen. DO get that anti-pneumonial shot NOW, if you haven’t got one already, or make sure your booster is current if you have. They’re usually good for 7-10 years, and I can personally vouch that they’re VERY effective: after I got one, the incidence of episodes of colds, bronchitis, & even flu that I got dropped to almost nil.

    Ultimately, tho, it would seem to boil down to if your number is up, your number is up. Panic, fear, and prayer aren’t going to do much good.

  • troll

    Nancy – while I appreciate your points on hygiene your last paragraph is the truth of it – let’s go back to the model:

    in later years it was impossible to find people who lived through the pandemic who didn’t have antibodies to the virus – even people who had never been symptomatic

    this suggests that rate of infection approached 100%

    there is no reason to believe that things will be different this time

    what we have to ‘pray’ for is that this virus will follow ‘the rule’ – that is that as its ‘infectivity’ increases its lethality will decrease significantly


  • Nancy

    Well, maybe not, after all, Ebola Zaire presents a 90% kill rate, and the only reason it didn’t kill more people is because it’s SO virulent & kills SO fast it kills off its potential victim pool before they have the chance to spread it around.

  • troll

    (my understanding is that even Ebola is following the rule – survival rate in each successive outbreak is increasing

    the optimistic theory here is that if a hemorrhagic fever virus got loose in the world population then it would ‘quickly’ mutate toward a less lethal form

    smart viruses change their strategies so as not to decimate their host


  • Richard Brodie

    Here’s some interesting information from Dr. Rima Laibow

    “How does the Avian Flu do its damage? Birds (or humans if the virus mutates) die because the H5N1 virus depletes Vitamin C stores so quickly that the cause of death is fulminate scurvy. Scurvy is the same disease that killed seamen on long voyages because unless we get enough Vitamin C from our diet or our supplements, we get sick or die. Humans cannot make Vitamin C but we need it for a great many vital processes including immune function and vascular integrity. This particular type of virus uses up Vitamin C stores so quickly that the immune system is overwhelmed and the blood vessels loose their structural integrity: they leak so badly that infected animals literally bleed to death through those damaged vessels.

    Prevention? Vitamin C: lots and lots and lots of Vitamin C. Treatment? Lots and lots and lots of vitamin C. Vitamin C is not toxic. Under stress (like a viral infection), your need for Vitamin C is increased. When your body has had enough, your body will tell you by soft stools or diarrhea. This is not a sign of toxicity: it is a sign that you have reached “Bowel Tolerance” (BT). Once you get there (and it can be at 1 gram or 20 grams: your body will tell you), cut back to 75% of the dose that represents BT for you and keep taking that dose EVERY DAY …

    Do not take Tamiflu (oseltamivir). The widely touted antiviral drug (like its cousin Relenza or zanamivir) produced drug resistant viruses in 18% of children treated with the drug and a drug resistant strain has been found in a Vietnamese girl treated with the drug. A drug resistant strain would be a far more dangerous virus than one which had not learned how to evade the drug’s effect. Viruses can not become resistant to Vitamin C …

    Flu Vaccines for a pandemic version of the Avian Flu do not exist. The only way to make a vaccine against a particular virus is to have the virus available and then make a toxic brew filled with poisons (mercury, aluminum, squalene), foreign particles (egg, chick, and other proteins) and contaminants (stealth viruses, etc.) That flu virus does not yet exist … it would be 6 months before an Avian Flu vaccine could be ready. Vaccination with anything else would not help a bit with the Avian Flu strain which we are supposedly facing disaster from.

    It is neither efficacious nor safe. And to ask the American people to submit to vaccinations which are infective (because they spread live vaccines), ineffective (because they are not vaccines against the real danger which does not exist yet and vaccines take 6 months to make) and dangerous (disease rises sharply with vaccination) and for which manufacturer liability is being removed is not good medicine, good policy or good sense.”

    Personally, I’m not waiting for the pandemic to strike before getting and keeping sufficiently healthy to survive it. Using a high potency Vitamin C powder, I supply myself with 4000 mg every day, along with other recommended nutrients (multivitamins, minerals, amino acids).

  • troll

    Richard – one must be careful when dealing with the supplement industry ($6 billion annually)…it has a tendency to mix science and pseudo-science in its sales pitch

    in this instance I suggest you take a look at the studies showing a causal link between Vit C deficiency and vascular collapse and cell disintegration in H5N1 influenza before inducing a Vit C based case of chronic diarrhea


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I’m very grateful folks are reading this piece and vetting ideas for survival.

    I will make one note though. Fear and panic will more likely kill you than do anything else.

    But prayer concentrates the mind, and can help direct thought.

    Reading “Stranger in a Strange Land” might be of some help to those looking for a solution. Even though the book is a satire, it does have some ideas about directing thought that might be worthwhile. Directed thought results in directed effort, which results in efficient (rather than panicky) action.

  • Richard Brodie

    troll: one must be careful when dealing with the supplement industry ($6 billion annually)

    I fully agree with your implication that the size of an industry is directly proportional to the extent to which its own financial self-interest and well-being motivates that industry to bend the truth without concern for the health and well-being of those who consume its products. The larger an industry, the more able it will be to:

    1) produce and distribute distorted and biased information using the mass media; and

    2) influence legislators through that fourth, unconstitutional branch of governnment known as lobbying.

    This being the case I presume you would agree with me that the pharmaceutical industry, with revenues of $6 HUNDRED billion, is probably about a hundred times more unreliable than the tiny little $6 billion nutritional supplement industry.

    I suggest you take a look at the studies showing a causal link between Vit C deficiency and vascular collapse and cell disintegration in H5N1 influenza

    Could you kindly provide a reference? I googled for “flu vascular collapse vitamin C” and could only find sites agreeing with my previous post. Here’s a typical excerpt:

    “Why is it a government, whose only money is the money they can borrow, so anxious to invest billions in Tamiflu and flu vaccines laced with mercury? The Boston Globe reported this month that alarmed infectious disease specialists have indicated that excessive use of Tamiflu and other antiviral drugs could lead to the emergence of flu strains that do not respond to antivirals, making both avian and regular flu strains even more of a health threat. Yet another reason for using a natural protocol is raised and as usual ignored by medical authorities. Dr. Klenner is right though, medical authorities would stand by and watch millions die rather than entertain the thought that it all could be stopped by using Vitamin C and magnesium chloride.

    There should be no doubt that key government officials are in bed with the pharmaceutical companies. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for example, seems likely to profit from government purchase of Tamiflu, the drug developed by Gilead Sciences when Rumsfeld was president of the company. He is reported to hold major portions of stock in Gilead. Tamiflu was actually developed by Gilead which then gave Roche the exclusive rights to market and sell Tamiflu. Trust in our government’s medical officials is in short supply.

    And if that were not enough “The Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005″ is in real danger of getting passed by Congress. If it does pass, American citizens will be forced to submit to being drugged whether they want it or not. The bill would not only permit the American government to drug its people with untested and experimental vaccines, but drug companies would have complete freedom from liability. The sponsors of this bill also want to prevent us from using the Freedom of Information Act to learn what’s in these vaccines.”

    before inducing a Vit C based case of chronic diarrhea

    Why would you characterize the diarrhea induced by an overdose of Vitamin C as being “chronic”? It would only be chronic if one were stupid enough to continue overdosing! Apparently you read the article, but you must have missed the fact that diarrhea is a useful indicator telling you that you’ve reached your own BT (bowel tolerance) limit, which varies from one person to the next, and can only be determined experimentally in this way. That’s why you are advised to increase your dosage gradually until reaching that limit, thereafter backing off to 75% of that amount.

    Sorry, troll, but I’ll endure one little episode of diarhea induced by ingesting a natural human nutrient, in preference to risking death from those poisons which Big Pharma, Big Chema, and Big Medica are now trying to get the government to FORCE on me.

  • troll

    Richard: *the pharmaceutical industry, with revenues of $6 HUNDRED billion, is probably about a hundred times more unreliable than the tiny little $6 billion nutritional supplement industry.*

    I don’t know about the proportionality but agree with you concerning the strength of the pharm industry’s propaganda arm

    *I suggest you take a look at the studies showing a causal link between Vit C deficiency and vascular collapse and cell disintegration in H5N1 influenza

    Could you kindly provide a reference?*

    that’s what I was asking for…I question whether such definitive studies exist


    I agree with your assessment of the politics of this drug

    *Why would you characterize the diarrhea induced by an overdose of Vitamin C as being “chronic”?*

    from my own experience I can tell you that it is not always as simple to achieve an ideal maximum dose as you imply – the resulting upset can feel ‘chronic’ even though that might not be an entirely accurate description


  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    This story from the BCC was in my inbox this morning…

    Fifth of firms risk bird flu cash loss and possible insolvency

    Mar 9 2006

    One in five firms would be unable to pay their bills in the wake of an outbreak of avian flu in this country, a study has shown.

    Research from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) reveals that more than a fifth of capital businesses lack enough working capital to survive a 12-week outbreak of bird flu. Research has shown this is the average length of a pandemic.

    The number of nervous company directors rises from nearly a quarter when the 17% who said they are unsure if they would survive are included.

    A three-month pandemic would severely disrupt a business’ customer base, experts have said, and more than a now fifth worry they would no longer be able to operate their business model if up to half of their staff becomes unavailable to work.

    “This is not scaremongering by the LCCI,” said its president, Michael Cassidy.

    “Thinking ahead is the best way of tackling this type of threat. Running out of cash through lack of fore-thought is the swiftest way to insolvency, particularly with smaller businesses.”

    Cassidy said the survey should be treated as a wake-up call for business, and the results suggest that it is being taken seriously by some.

    Nearly a third of firms surveyed said they have updated their contingency plans to include such a threat, according to the poll.

    However, only 17% have actually tested their new contingency plan.

    Source – BCC

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    More Updates: This story from Bloomberg deals with how the disease is now jumping to mammals and weaseling its way into the population of wild animals in Europe.

    Bird Flu Spreading to New Animal Species Raises Risk to Humans

    March 10 (Bloomberg) — Bird flu’s spread in Germany to a second animal species heightens concern the lethal virus may be adapting to mammals, including people, scientists said. In Azerbaijan, 11 possible human cases are being investigated.

    German officials confirmed H5N1 infection in a stone marten, a type of weasel, which showed severe illness when found on the Baltic island of Ruegen on March 2, the World Health Organization said yesterday. As with three dead domestic cats found on the island, the marten is presumed to have contracted the virus from feeding on an infected bird, WHO said.

    “It’s a property of this virus that it can go into these animals,” Hugh Pennington, who has studied viruses for more than 40 years, said yesterday by telephone from Aberdeen, Scotland. “One just has to watch and see what happens because the virus has the property to evolve.”

    The rate of H5N1 infections in humans is increasing as the virus spreads to more parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Georgia yesterday became the 23rd country to report an initial outbreak in birds since February.

    The virus has killed at least 96 of 175 people infected since late 2003, mainly in Asia, and may have claimed its first victims in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

    Eleven suspected cases, three of them fatal, are under investigation, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday, citing World Health Organization spokeswoman Maria Cheng.

    Azerbaijan Patients

    The patients in Azerbaijan, who include eight members of a single family, all came from the same village near the capital Baku, AFP reported. The virus infected poultry in neighboring areas and flocks belonging to the patients were sickened, the cause of which hasn’t yet been confirmed, the report said.

    In almost all human cases, infection was caused by close contact with sick or dead birds, such as children playing with them, or adults butchering them or taking off the feathers, Lee Jong Wook, director general of the WHO, said in a speech yesterday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

    The virus is reported to have infected an average of three people a week this year, killing an average of two a week. Last year, 23 cases, including 14 fatalities, were reported in the first 10 weeks. Indonesia, with nine confirmed fatalities, and China, with five, reported the highest number of deaths this year.

    Laboratory tests on the generic drug amantadine showed it is effective in stopping the replication of strains of H5N1 isolated in Indonesia and China, indicating the older class of antiviral medicine may be a cheaper option to Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu in fighting the virus in humans, the WHO’s Cheng said yesterday.

    China Ban

    Some poultry vendors at markets in China’s southern province of Guangdong have continued to slaughter chickens on site even after a government ban on the practice, the South China Morning Post reported today.

    Some residents of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, moved their pet birds to a nearby resort area to avoid house checks for diseased fowl, Koran Tempo reported. The checks are part of the Indonesian government’s program to slow the virus’s spread.

    Nine swans found dead on a lake in the former Soviet republic of Georgia tested positive for an H5 subtype of avian flu, a government official said in a statement yesterday to the World Organization for Animal Health. About 1,700 domestic fowl were culled in five nearby villages to contain the spread.

    Since Feb. 16, German authorities have confirmed H5N1 infection in 125 wild swans, ducks, geese, and birds of prey on Ruegen Island, pointing to considerable opportunities for exposure to occur in small mammals that feed on birds, the WHO said yesterday in a statement on its Web site.

    Human Risk

    “Further investigation is needed to determine whether evidence of H5N1 infection in new mammalian species has any significance for the risk of human infection or the potential of this virus to adapt to mammals, including humans,” the WHO said.

    In July, tests on three rare Owston’s palm civets that died in captivity in Vietnam found H5N1 infection, marking the first known infection in this mammalian species. Large cats, including tigers and leopards, kept in capacity and fed on infected poultry carcasses, have also been infected and developed severe disease.

    “It is noteworthy that the spectrum of the H5N1 infected mammals has spread,” Germany’s Federal Research Institute for Animal Health said yesterday in a statement.

  • Richard Brodie

    Ruvy: One in five firms would be unable to pay their bills in the wake of an outbreak of avian flu in this country, a study has shown.

    Well, then at least one fifth of their CREDITORS would be out of business too! And will the rest of their surviving creditors really want to put 20% of their debtors out of business by insistence on timely payment under the circumstances, instead of being willing to have some patience until things get back to normal? I mean, if a goose that is laying golden eggs for you gets ill, you can kill it out of anger because it can’t produce temporarily, or you can decide not to stupidly shoot yourself in your own foot, and instead wait until it recovers so that your supply of golden eggs can resume.

    Perhaps if the scenario gets as bad as all the doomsayers are predicting, then the government will need to step in and declare a debt moratorium in order to keep potential vultures in check – which of course would also have to include a moratorium on all related lawsuit activity in order to keep in check the very worst vultures of all!

  • troll

    end of bold…I hope

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Yep, Richard, you are talking about a real mess in terms of financing. – good that you’re thinking through the possible consequences. Add to the mix a strong likelihood of a shortage of employees…

    And now it is time to leave this conumundrum and others for 25¼ hours to contemplate the world to come…

    Shabbat Shalom

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Another update on the Bird flu story…

    The human-to-human transmission warned about in the original article in March HAS been confirmed.

    The agencies reporting on the bird flu, particularly the WHO, have been doing everything they can NOT to admit what this story from has just reported.

    The wording in this article is careful to imply that human-to-human transmission is a matter of some difficulty, continuing the pattern of downplaying the truth warned of a while ago. But at last, the truth is out, even in this downplayed form.

    I continue to suggest going to Recombinomics for reliable reporting…

    Again, the human-to-human transmission of avian bird flu warned about in the original article in March HAS been confirmed.