This hit the wires before the South Korean outbreak did and as such got a wee bit buried (much like the birds culled in South Korea), as well as confusion since its lately been a string of 30-something females dying in Jakarta and reports get mistaken for others... Indonesia is still the worst offender and weakest link in the fight against H5N1, as illustrated by this CIDRAP report:
"Nov 28, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A 35-year-old Indonesian woman died of H5N1 avian influenza today, marking the country's 57th death from the virus, according to news services.
The Associated Press (AP) said the woman died after almost 3 weeks of treatment in a Jakarta hospital and that her case had been confirmed on Nov 13. But it was not entirely clear whether the woman was the same 35-year-old who the World Health Organization (WHO) described as a confirmed case-patient in a Nov 13 statement.
Several news reports said the woman was from Tangerang, on the western outskirts of Jakarta, where the patient described by the WHO was from. A Bloomberg News report identified the deceased woman as the same person, but several other news reports stopped short of that.
While the AP quoted an official as saying the dead woman had been treated in a Jakarta hospital for 3 weeks, an Agence France-Presse report quoted Indonesia's avian flu information center as saying she had first been hospitalized for more than a week in Karawang, east of Jakarta.
Joko Suyono, an official with the avian flu information center, said diseased poultry was the likely source of the woman’s infection, according to the Bloomberg report.
By the WHO's tally, last updated Nov 13, Indonesia has had 74 H5N1 cases with 56 deaths. The global count is 258 cases with 153 deaths. Indonesia has the most deaths, though Vietnam has had the most cases with 93."
There's that Indonesian Avian Flu Information Center again!! Its almost like they are deliberately sending out conflicting information about patients to news sources. I hope the WHO isn't reliant on them for their intelligence.
Anyway, its clear that the H5N1 present in Jakarta is non-responsive to antivirals and standard hospital care.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
So sayeth the Reuters:
"SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea on Tuesday confirmed a second outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu at a poultry farm, after confirming over the weekend it had its first outbreak in three years of the strain that can kill people.
The agriculture ministry said about 600 chickens died in the latest outbreak at a farm 3 km from where the first case had been confirmed in poultry in North Cholla province in the country's southwest.
There were no reports to suggest residents or quarantine officials had been infected in or around both infected farms, an agriculture official said by telephone.
"The test results have shown that we had a second case of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu," the ministry said in a statement.
Quarantine authorities would cull all poultry within a 500 metre radius of the latest infected farm.
The farms lie on a path for migratory birds that are heading south from Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan and sparked concern that other parts of South Korea might have also been hit.
Was there really anyone thinking it would be anything but the bird flu? Confirmation is necessary though, I suppose.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/28/2006
So that answers the question of "was it contained," what about it's specific type? I suppose we'll have to wait on that. Amidst the news of S.K.'s suspiciously odd culling of dogs and cats comes a news flash to you, straight from all that is pure and untainted, Reuters AlertNet:
"SEOUL, Nov 28 (Reuters) - South Korea's farm ministry said on Tuesday it had found a suspected case of highly pathogenic bird flu at a second poultry farm, after confirming on Saturday it had its first outbreak in three years of the H5N1 strain.
The ministry said about 200 chickens at a farm near where the first case had been found in North Cholla province had died this week. The farms in the southwest of the country lie on a path for migratory birds.
"The results of our testing should be known late this afternoon," said an official at the ministry.
The ministry is also checking to see if the H5N1 virus, which is potentially deadly to human beings, has spread through the country.
South Korea had by Monday completed culling 75,500 poultry within a 500 metre (1,640-ft) radius of the farm in North Cholla province about 170 km (100 miles) south from Seoul. It plans to destroy a remaining 160,500 birds in the same area by Thursday."
Why aren't they burning the bird carcasses? Shallow burials after killing them??? Are they nuts? BURN THE BIRDS you idiots!!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/28/2006
Monday, November 27, 2006
I wish I had one of those siren .gifs like Drudge... This is breaking news, using FOX News for copy, it had the most sensational write-up I could find (World News Daily hasn't hit it yet):
"WASHINGTON — The FBI is helping the U.S. Park Police and Washington, D.C. police investigate what is described as the discovery of an "anthrax threat letter" and a suspicious package at the Lincoln Memorial.
A strange liquid was found in the women's restroom on the property Monday afternoon. Authorities would not confirm what the note said or what the substance may have been.
There are no reports of anyone being sick, nor have any ambulances been called.
One citizen reported seeing a suspicious bottle, which police never found. There was a letter in a clear plastic sleeve with threatening language found in the restroom, along with a thermos found on the memorial steps.
After testing, the fire department later determined that the substance in the thermos was not harmful."
"We don't have this anthrax... uh, BOO!"
More to be released shortly, I'm sure.
That's right, apparently over 1000 infections were caused by one employee of one restaurant. Makes so much sense, doesn't it? From the Des Moines Register:
"State inspectors suspect an infected employee accidentally caused scores of people to become ill after they ate at a Johnston restaurant.
The unidentified food-preparation worker reportedly was at Trostel's Greenbriar Restaurant Friday and Saturday, when the affected patrons ate there.
The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals learned Tuesday that the man had been ill, and told him to leave the Greenbriar and not return until a doctor gave him medical clearance, department Director Steven Young said.
An inspector learned later Tuesday that the man was working at a second job at the West End Diner in West Des Moines, Young said. The man then was ordered out of that restaurant. No illnesses had been reported from the West End Diner by Wednesday afternoon.
The list of sick people continued to grow Wednesday. Public-health officials had said Tuesday afternoon that they knew of 71 Greenbriar patrons who had become ill. They said they continued to receive new reports Wednesday, but they did not have an updated tally. Most ill patrons suffered vomiting or diarrhea. At least two were hospitalized, officials said.
Authorities suspect the cause was a norovirus, a highly contagious germ that has caused nearly 1,000 illnesses in the state in recent weeks. The virus often is spread when an infected person handles food. Experts are urging Iowans to wash their hands carefully and to avoid preparing food for others for three days after they have had bouts of vomiting or diarrhea.
Young said a close inspection of the Greenbriar kitchen found no cleanliness problems."
One employee, acting alone and oblivious, spreads norovirus far and wide, via a clean kitchen where he had no interaction with patrons...
Uh huh. Sure, I buy it. Are the health inspectors huffing gas? Possibly corn-grown ethanol?
From the Jerusalem Post:
"South Korea has killed nearly 100,000 chickens and ducks to try to prevent the spread of bird flu after an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain at a chicken farm last week, officials said Monday.
Quarantine officials have killed 96,000 poultry within a 500-meter (1,650-foot) radius of the outbreak site in Iksan, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Seoul, the Agriculture Ministry said.
South Korea plans to cull a total of 236,000 birds and an unspecified number of other animals like pigs, dogs and cats in the area by Thursday, the ministry said. It also plans to destroy some 6 million eggs.
Officials determined Saturday that the outbreak was caused by the H5N1 virus and began culling birds Sunday."
Either South Korea is hyper-sensitive about this, or the outbreak wasn't contained at the farm. Interesting that the won't specify the numbers of other animals they are going to put to slaughter.
Has there been signs of infection in other animals? If there is, South Korea should be letting the world know. How quickly does it spread? Its 500-meters now, how big is the radius going to be a week from now?
From the CBC:
"A hospital ward in Joliette, Que., has been closed to visitors as health-care workers fight an outbreak of Colstridium difficile bacteria, which has infected 17 people in the last 12 days.
The Lanaudière regional hospital put strict new measures into place on Friday to help prevent the spread of infection.
Seventeen patients with C. difficile infections at the Lanaudière regional hospital were placed in isolation and were said to be in stable condition on Saturday.
All 17 patients with the infection were placed in isolation in the ward now closed to visitors and were said to be in stable condition on Saturday.
In addition, security guards at the entrances were asking those entering and leaving the hospital to wash their hands, according to a hospital news release."
Air-borne, hospital-bred. These reports seem to be getting more common.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
From the glorious and democratic People's Daily:
"The South Korean government confirmed Saturday that an outbreak of bird flu in Iksan, 230 km south of Seoul, was caused by a highly virulent strain of H5N1 virus. Tests conducted by the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service showed that the outbreak has been caused by the H5N1 virus, said Lee Yang-ho, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced Thursday that suspected bird flu cases were found at a poultry farm in Iksan city, Jeollabukdo, where 6,000 out of a total of 13,000 chickens had died suddenly since Sunday.
According to the ministry, all of the chickens and other animals on the farm have been culled and buried, while a tight quarantine has been established around the affected area. All eggs produced in the poultry farm have were destroyed and the transportation of all chickens, birds and eggs within 10 km of the farm had been banned."
Next questions: Is it contained, and is it the Fujian-type (that China continues to deny exists)?
Hopefully these answers will come in due time. Also notice how all of the animals on the farm were culled, suggestion a pan-zoonotic outbreak. And why did they bury the animals when incineration is the standard post-cull procedure?
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/26/2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
China's got one too - it's called saline! But seriously, Vietnam has seemingly "pulled a Salk" on this one, and I don't doubt it. They are deadly serious about the bird flu and have the honorable title of being "the least affected Southeast Asian country." If the UN gave out "nice job" stickers, Vietnam's trapper-keeper would be covered in them. Here's the glowing report from the Thanh Nien Daily:
"The Nha Trang Institute of Vaccines and Biological Products in central Khanh Hoa province has announced that it has successfully produced 5,000 doses of a H5N1 vaccine for humans from chicken embryos.
"The vaccine gave similar results after being tested on white mice, guinea-pig and cockerels. The quality was tested against the World Health Organization (WHO)'s standards.
In the lab, the group of scientists injected two doses of vaccine into white mice, guinea-pig and cockerels with the second dose being given 20 days after the first dose.
Samples taken from the vaccinated animals 10 days after the second dose, showed that the vaccine produced the highest haemagglutinin (HA) antibody levels.
The tested animals had levels of between 40-320 hemagglutination inhibition units (HIU), accounting for an average level of 76.6-100 percent.
These vaccines have been sent to the National Institute of Verification of Vaccines and Biological Products.
Nguyen Thi Minh Hien, who is directly involved in the research, said the institute will produce another 5,000 doses of the vaccine in early 2007 for tests at international verification centers.
If successful, the institute will propose to test on human beings."
The only question is, by the time this is ready for launch, will it be effective against a human-to-human transmissible strain of H5N1?
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/24/2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Remember the college mumps outbreak late last spring? Well it started out in Iowa. It was also complemented by a similar British outbreak. Flash forward to Mid-Fall '06 and Iowa is at it again, with a massive outbreak of norovirus. From Des Moines WHO TV:
"Des Moines, November 21, 2006 - Nearly 1,000 Iowans have gotten ill in the last several weeks due to a variety of viruses called norovirus, that from the Iowa Department of Public Health. At least seven outbreaks have occurred in a wide variety of settings such as social receptions, long-term care facilities, a gaming facility, business functions, restaurants and schools. The outbreaks have no common links, but are spread by people failing to wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before preparing food, as well as working in food preparation while ill with vomiting and diarrhea. While norovirus outbreaks can occur throughout the year, it is unusual to see this number of them in a short period of time, prompting concerns that more disease will spread as we go into the holiday season."
Here's a report from Iowa newspaper, The Gazette:
"State health officials today said norovirus caused the outbreak last week that sickened more than a third of students at Lambert Elementary in Manchester. A fast-spreading virus, norovirus is what many people refer to as "stomach flu," with symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Kevin Teale, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said lab specimens tested positive for norovirus, but the illness was not traced to a single person or source. Four teachers and about 170 of 450 students were sick Friday, according to the department."
(For clarification, noroviruses are not the only cause of viral gastroenteritis. Rotaviruses are the most common infectious agent in children, and adenoviruses, sapoviruses, and astroviruses can also cause what is commonly called "the stomach flu".)
So this is a mystery outbreak with no known originating source, due to a virus that is not usually this widespread and fast.
Another interesting fact is that the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases is located in Iowa (as part of the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City), which has connections to the Naval Medical Research Center, and regularly has projects funded by Department of Defense grants.
But I'm sure none of that has anything to do with Iowa's propensity to be the epicenter of mysterious infectious outbreaks in America's heartland.
Oh Iowa, get well soon!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/22/2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
So, you may ask yourself, if high-path H5N1 enters the States' poultry supply, how are we going to kill all those birds?
Well like most answers to those types of questions, it involves a deadly foam. Thanks to ABC news for this one:
"WASHINGTON -- The government has approved the use of firefighting foam to kill chickens quickly if there is an outbreak of deadly bird flu in commercial poultry.
The Agriculture Department says water-based foam can be an alternative to carbon dioxide, which has traditionally been used to quickly kill large quantities of birds.
Gassing involves more workers and exposes them to potentially infected birds, and it can be difficult to maintain a high enough concentration of gas to kill the bird, according to the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Foam can be used to suffocate floor-reared flocks -- chickens and turkeys raised primarily for meat -- to contain deadly bird flu, said APHIS spokeswoman Karen Eggert. Foam also can be used in outbreaks of rapidly spreading disease such as Exotic Newcastle, a fatal respiratory virus in birds, when state or federal officials deem it necessary.
And it can be used when birds are in structurally unsound buildings, such as a building damaged by a hurricane or other natural disaster, she said.
Animal health officials in North Carolina and Delaware researched use of the foam to kill chickens quickly."
I hear it also makes a great packing material and fire-retardant.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/21/2006
Apparently what they think it needs to have is more power and responsibilities! Since when did the nanny-state become a bi-partisan agenda? Oh right, that's the "compassionate" part of the neo-con platform. Story from the WP:
"WASHINGTON - A bipartisan bill represents the best shot in years to improve the safety of drugs the Food and Drug Administration regulates, but needs bolstering to heal the ailing regulatory agency, witnesses told lawmakers Thursday.
The bill, introduced in August by Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., comes on the heels of a string of high-profile drug recalls and safety warnings. Among them was the 2004 withdrawal of the popular painkiller Vioxx after long-term use was linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
"Millions of Americans rely on the drugs that FDA approves. They take them for sickness. And now the FDA urgently needs treatment," Kennedy said.
Two panels of witnesses, including representatives from industry, consumer and patient groups, praised the bill's timeliness, saying it would improve safety - and the public's confidence.
"The initiative now before you represents the best opportunity in many years to fix these chronic problems," said Dr. Steve Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who served on an FDA advisory panel that in 2001 recommended new warnings on Vioxx.
Some of the bill's provisions, including a temporary ban on consumer advertising of newly approved drugs, echo proposals made in a September report on drug safety commissioned by the FDA. The report found that the FDA cannot track the safety of new drugs, nor respond quickly to problems, for want of money, people and power.
More likely, drug companies need to run more trials before releasing a drug and spend more money on R&D than advertising. Most of the failures stated in the paper (Vioxx) are the fault of the pharmaceutical industry. Merck knew about the issues with Vioxx before it ever got to market and pushed it through counting on the bumbling FDA to approve it (ps - the FDA knew too, and tried to cover it up).
Secondly, this reform is basically a fluffy cloud of whipped air. The FDA doesn't need little tweaks, it needs to be burned to the ground and replaced with something else. How about instead of letting a politically-controlled arm of the executive branch decide what drugs get approved we have some sort of body made up of medical authorities and pharmacologists that asses the risks and benefits of new drugs and make a scientifically sound decision and hold big pharma to task? Or would that just be too sane for this country to handle?
If its shiny, purple, new and has the potential to make billions the FDA slides it through like a fish oil suppository. If its a vaccine for an STD or a cheap OTC contraceptive it gets bound up like a dolphin in a tuna trap. The FDA's problems are the same problems as FEMA's: it's agenda is the agenda of whatever the current administration happens to be.
Politically-appointed bueurocrats are the ones pulling the switches, not the medical community -- thats the problem with the FDA. Increasing after-the-fact fines on drug companies does nothing to address the underlying, shall I say it, diseased state of our healthcare system?
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/21/2006
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Cross-posting a great write-up from Choice America's blog:
"1931 Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, under the auspices of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Investigations, infects human subjects with cancer cells. He later goes on to establish the U.S. Army Biological Warfare facilities in Maryland, Utah, and Panama, and is named to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. While there, he begins a series of radiation exposure experiments on American soldiers and civilian hospital patients.
1932 The Tuskegee Syphilis Study begins. 200 black men diagnosed with syphilis are never told of their illness, are denied treatment, and instead are used as human guinea pigs in order to follow the progression and symptoms of the disease. They all subsequently die from syphilis, their families never told that they could have been treated.
1935 The Pellagra Incident. After millions of individuals die from Pellagra over a span of two decades, the U.S. Public Health Service finally acts to stem the disease. The director of the agency admits it had known for at least 20 years that Pellagra is caused by a niacin deficiency but failed to act since most of the deaths occured within poverty-striken black populations.
1940 Four hundred prisoners in Chicago are infected with Malaria in order to study the effects of new and experimental drugs to combat the disease. Nazi doctors later on trial at Nuremberg cite this American study to defend their own actions during the Holocaust.
1942 Chemical Warfare Services begins mustard gas experiments on approximately 4,000 servicemen. The experiments continue until 1945 and made use of Seventh Day Adventists who chose to become human guinea pigs rather than serve on active duty.
1943 In response to Japan's full-scale germ warfare program, the U.S. begins research on biological weapons at Fort Detrick, MD.
1944 U.S. Navy uses human subjects to test gas masks and clothing. Individuals were locked in a gas chamber and exposed to mustard gas and lewisite.
1945 Project Paperclip is initiated. The U.S. State Department, Army intelligence, and the CIA recruit Nazi scientists and offer them immunity and secret identities in exchange for work on top secret government projects in the United States.
1945 "Program F" is implemented by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). This is the most extensive U.S. study of the health effects of fluoride, which was the key chemical component in atomic bomb production. One of the most toxic chemicals known to man, fluoride, it is found, causes marked adverse effects to the central nervous system but much of the information is squelched in the name of national security because of fear that lawsuits would undermine full-scale production of atomic bombs.
1946 Patients in VA hospitals are used as guinea pigs for medical experiments. In order to allay suspicions, the order is given to change the word "experiments" to "investigations" or "observations" whenever reporting a medical study performed in one of the nation's veteran's hospitals.
1947 Colonel E.E. Kirkpatrick of the U.S. Atomic Energy Comission issues a secret document (Document 07075001, January 8, 1947) stating that the agency will begin administering intravenous doses of radioactive substances to human subjects.
1947 The CIA begins its study of LSD as a potential weapon for use by American intelligence. Human subjects (both civilian and military) are used with and without their knowledge.
1950 Department of Defense begins plans to detonate nuclear weapons in desert areas and monitor downwind residents for medical problems and mortality rates.
1950 In an experiment to determine how susceptible an American city would be to biological attack, the U.S. Navy sprays a cloud of bacteria from ships over San Franciso. Monitoring devices are situated throughout the city in order to test the extent of infection. Many residents become ill with pneumonia-like symptoms.
1951 Department of Defense begins open air tests using disease-producing bacteria and viruses. Tests last through 1969 and there is concern that people in the surrounding areas have been exposed.
1953 U.S. military releases clouds of zinc cadmium sulfide gas over Winnipeg, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, the Monocacy River Valley in Maryland, and Leesburg, Virginia. Their intent is to determine how efficiently they could disperse chemical agents.
1953 Joint Army-Navy-CIA experiments are conducted in which tens of thousands of people in New York and San Francisco are exposed to the airborne germs Serratia marcescens and Bacillus glogigii.
1953 CIA initiates Project MKULTRA. This is an eleven year research program designed to produce and test drugs and biological agents that would be used for mind control and behavior modification. Six of the subprojects involved testing the agents on unwitting human beings.
1955 The CIA, in an experiment to test its ability to infect human populations with biological agents, releases a bacteria withdrawn from the Army's biological warfare arsenal over Tampa Bay, Fl.
1955 Army Chemical Corps continues LSD research, studying its potential use as a chemical incapacitating agent. More than 1,000 Americans participate in the tests, which continue until 1958.
1956 U.S. military releases mosquitoes infected with Yellow Fever over Savannah, Ga and Avon Park, Fl. Following each test, Army agents posing as public health officials test victims for effects.
1958 LSD is tested on 95 volunteers at the Army's Chemical Warfare Laboratories for its effect on intelligence.
1960 The Army Assistant Chief-of-Staff for Intelligence (ACSI) authorizes field testing of LSD in Europe and the Far East. Testing of the european population is code named Project THIRD CHANCE; testing of the Asian population is code named Project DERBY HAT.
1965 Project CIA and Department of Defense begin Project MKSEARCH, a program to develop a capability to manipulate human behavior through the use of mind-altering drugs.
1965 Prisoners at the Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia are subjected to dioxin, the highly toxic chemical component of Agent Orange used in Viet Nam. The men are later studied for development of cancer, which indicates that Agent Orange had been a suspected carcinogen all along.
1966 CIA initiates Project MKOFTEN, a program to test the toxicological effects of certain drugs on humans and animals.
1966 U.S. Army dispenses Bacillus subtilis variant niger throughout the New York City subway system. More than a million civilians are exposed when army scientists drop lightbulbs filled with the bacteria onto ventilation grates.
1967 CIA and Department of Defense implement Project MKNAOMI, successor to MKULTRA and designed to maintain, stockpile and test biological and chemical weapons.
1968 CIA experiments with the possibility of poisoning drinking water by injecting chemicals into the water supply of the FDA in Washington, D.C.
1969 Dr. Robert MacMahan of the Department of Defense requests from congress $10 million to develop, within 5 to 10 years, a synthetic biological agent to which no natural immunity exists.
1970 Funding for the synthetic biological agent is obtained under H.R. 15090. The project, under the supervision of the CIA, is carried out by the Special Operations Division at Fort Detrick, the army's top secret biological weapons facility. Speculation is raised that molecular biology techniques are used to produce AIDS-like retroviruses.
1970 United States intensifies its development of "ethnic weapons" (Military Review, Nov., 1970), designed to selectively target and eliminate specific ethnic groups who are susceptible due to genetic differences and variations in DNA.
1975 The virus section of Fort Detrick's Center for Biological Warfare Research is renamed the Fredrick Cancer Research Facilities and placed under the supervision of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) . It is here that a special virus cancer program is initiated by the U.S. Navy, purportedly to develop cancer-causing viruses. It is also here that retrovirologists isolate a virus to which no immunity exists. It is later named HTLV (Human T-cell Leukemia Virus).
1977 Senate hearings on Health and Scientific Research confirm that 239 populated areas had been contaminated with biological agents between 1949 and 1969. Some of the areas included San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Key West, Panama City, Minneapolis, and St. Louis.
1978 Experimental Hepatitis B vaccine trials, conducted by the CDC, begin in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Ads for research subjects specifically ask for promiscuous homosexual men.
1981 First cases of AIDS are confirmed in homosexual men in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, triggering speculation that AIDS may have been introduced via the Hepatitis B vaccine
1985 According to the journal Science (227:173-177), HTLV and VISNA, a fatal sheep virus, are very similar, indicating a close taxonomic and evolutionary relationship.
1986 According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (83:4007-4011), HIV and VISNA are highly similar and share all structural elements, except for a small segment which is nearly identical to HTLV. This leads to speculation that HTLV and VISNA may have been linked to produce a new retrovirus to which no natural immunity exists.
1986 A report to Congress reveals that the U.S. Government's current generation of biological agents includes: modified viruses, naturally occurring toxins, and agents that are altered through genetic engineering to change immunological character and prevent treatment by all existing vaccines.
1987 Department of Defense admits that, despite a treaty banning research and development of biological agents, it continues to operate research facilities at 127 facilities and universities around the nation.
1990 More than 1500 six-month old black and hispanic babies in Los Angeles are given an "experimental" measles vaccine that had never been licensed for use in the United States. CDC later admits that parents were never informed that the vaccine being injected to their children was experimental.
1994 With a technique called "gene tracking," Dr. Garth Nicolson at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX discovers that many returning Desert Storm veterans are infected with an altered strain of Mycoplasma incognitus, a microbe commonly used in the production of biological weapons. Incorporated into its molecular structure is 40 percent of the HIV protein coat, indicating that it had been man-made.
1994 Senator John D. Rockefeller issues a report revealing that for at least 50 years the Department of Defense has used hundreds of thousands of military personnel in human experiments and for intentional exposure to dangerous substances. Materials included mustard and nerve gas, ionizing radiation, psychochemicals, hallucinogens, and drugs used during the Gulf War .
1995 U.S. Government admits that it had offered Japanese war criminals and scientists who had performed human medical experiments salaries and immunity from prosecution in exchange for data on biological warfare research.
1995 Dr. Garth Nicolson, uncovers evidence that the biological agents used during the Gulf War had been manufactured in Houston, TX and Boca Raton, Fl and tested on prisoners in the Texas Department of Corrections.
1996 Department of Defense admits that Desert Storm soldiers were exposed to chemical agents.
1997 Eighty-eight members of Congress sign a letter demanding an investigation into bioweapons use & Gulf War Syndrome.
2006 You didn't have a clue... did you?"
Well... I did. Mostly...
Barring some of the groaners like that AIDS and HTLV were man made (and the flouride-haterz bullshit), this is pretty factual and damning stuff.
I highlighted what I felt was some of the most egregious actions carried out by our own liberty-spreading democratic constitutional republic.
You have to admit though, the CIA testing out a chemical weapon on the FDA building's water supply is pretty damn funny. The CIA seems to be always coming up with wacky shenanigans while the DOD is doing scary bioengineering stuff and testing it out on inmates and veterans (and, of course, minorities and their children).
Cheers CIA, Jeers DOD!!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/19/2006
Don't hold your breath too long folks, remember how much change happened when they took a look at immigration... Nevertheless, they say are going to put pen to paper and compromise and do the people's business and all that jazz that they're supposed to do -- here's what the Washington Times wrote:
"The U.S. Senate is set to take up a bioterrorism defense bill that has languished for more than a year and seen a new anthrax vaccine stalled.
The House passed its version in September, and now, The Washington Post reported Wednesday there is optimism the Senate version will also pass.
"From a policy standpoint, there is nobody shooting at it," said U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., one of the bill's sponsors.
The bill addresses the Bush administration's $5.6 billion Project BioShield, which called for the creation of an anthrax vaccine and other biological defenses.
However, the effort lost momentum when vaccine maker VaxGen was blocked from conducting tests on humans by the Food and Drug Administration after spending nearly $1 billion on an anthrax vaccine. The vaccine's fate remains uncertain.
Among other items the bill addresses is giving the government flexibility to provide cash infusions to the small companies doing most of the work, as many have run out of money before receiving a payment on completion, the report said."
So the VaxGen screw-up was largely due to the FDA!! I'm hardly surprised. The government gives a company money to make a vaccine, they make it, then the government tells them they can't run trials on it. Woooo! Slam dunk on that one, Government!!
Hopefully this new bill is a little more savvy towards what bioterrorism really is, the threats it poses, and how to prevent it. They should keep the name, though. Maybe change it to BioShield 2.o - I like that. They need to give things more names that sound like they came out of Command and Conquer. They should change the name of missile defense to the "Projectile Destruction Grid."
Here's my little wish list of what to put in a new bioterror bill:
- Mass distribution of a sleek report to ERs across the country on the signs and symptoms of bioterror agents. Homeland Security can do this, fancy reports are all they are good at.
- Smallpox vaccine stockpile -- along with an Anthrax vaccine stockpile (for reals this time).
- Cut the FDA out of drug stuff that involves national security - they are bumbling idiots and will cockblock all useful vaccines.
- Seek out and destroy any languishing samples of live smallpox/polio/etc kicking around in the US. Ft. Detrick I'm looking at you!
- Put more money into novel vaccine research.
- A Human H5N1 vaccine is probably 6 months away - I want it available, for free, across the country at the Health and Human Services departments for all who want it.
- Stockpile that new antiviral that BioCyst has when it gets approved. Stockpile the hell out of it! I want workers to find cases of it stuffed away in government basements 50 years from now like all the crap they find that we hoarded during the Cold War!
So, Congressmen and Senators: that would be a pretty good bill. Let's just hope whatever the current monstrosity that's headed to the Senate will get tabled until January. Oh please oh please oh please get tabled...
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/19/2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
At least in Britain anyway, I'm sure all of our US biolabs are completely up to code and well-guarded... :/
The Guardian is living up to it's name with this report:
"Urgent measures are needed to prevent dangerous organisms and genetic technology from reaching terrorists and rogue countries, security experts said yesterday.
Lax controls in laboratories, poor international agreements on harmful pathogens and ignorance among scientists of the risks their research may pose are increasing the danger of terrorists devising biological weapons, according to specialists at a meeting on genetics and terrorism at Edinburgh University. The conference, held by the Economic and Social Research Council's genomics policy and research forum, brought together experts on bioterrorism to discuss ways to reduce the risk of terrorists exploiting advances in biological sciences.
They urged an overhaul in the way scientists work and called for vigilance on the funding and publication of research that might help terrorists manipulate organisms or devise other advanced biological weapons. Their recommendations suggest scientists take mandatory educational courses on the potential threats of research and set up bioterror "hotlines" for lab staff to use if they create a dangerous organism by accident.
The most immediate risks are posed by organisms including anthrax, ebola and salmonella, but rapid advances in genetics have given scientists the power to create lethal viruses from scratch and DNA sequences capable of disrupting the nervous system, the experts said. The techniques will become available to all but the poorest of scientific laboratories, they warned."
How is this different from the earlier report I posted? Well, for one, it's not highly reactionary and its not a study put out by one guy who thinks he's brilliant for finding out the fact that terrorists can get a hold of sequenced DNA and put it together to make pathogens.
Second, their proposed solution to this problem was not shutting down lines of communication but rather educating scientists on what would be warning signs and red flags of organizations they should not be shipping DNA to. This is smart, and I think it could be very effective.
This whole organism-from-DNA-bits makes me wonder how far off a chimera virus is in the realm of scientific possibility... I mean, all you would need to do is identify a few killer genes, splice them together with a protein shell and replication sequences and you have your own patented designer bioweapon.
Or are we already at that level of sophistication in genetic engineering?
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/16/2006
Sunday, November 12, 2006
From the Seattle Times:
"In case of a bioterrorism attack, be on the lookout for a mail carrier bearing drugs.
That's one possible medication-delivery method that government officials will be testing Saturday at about 38,000 households in northeast Seattle neighborhoods, which will get little empty boxes in the mail with a flier explaining it's all just a drill.
After a real attack, the box would contain antibiotics to counteract anthrax, plague, tularemia or some other deadly bacteria that terrorists might spread.
"If there were a bioterrorist attack in Seattle, a large number of people would need medications quickly to keep them from becoming sick," said Dorothy Teeter, interim director of Public Health — Seattle & King County. "This is to test our capacity to deliver the medications."
After an actual attack, such deliveries by postal carriers would add to drug distribution by about 12 centers that would be set up in schools, community centers and other locations in King County. Public Health already has held drills to test those centers.
Between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 41 mail carriers will deliver the test boxes to home mailboxes or drop slots in an area that includes ZIP codes 98115 and 98125. The test area is roughly framed by Northeast 145th Street to the north, Northeast 60th Street to the south, Lake Washington to the east and First Avenue Northeast to the west.
Police will accompany the carriers, but will not approach the residences. In a real event, the police would be there to ensure safe, quick delivery.
The drill is the first of its kind in the nation. It's part of the federal government's Cities Readiness Initiative and will be followed by similar exercises in other cities, said Dr. William Raub, senior science adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Seattle was selected because of previous "quality work" in preparing for an attack, he said."
I think Seattle is just showing off to rub Chicago's face in it.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/12/2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Another disappointing "they just don't get it" type of report from Media-Newswire:
"James Randerson - who studied for his PhD at the University of Bath - showed how small segments of the genetic blueprint, or genome, of smallpox could be purchased from companies who supply these segments, known as oligos, for a range of biomedical, law enforcement and research applications.
In his front page report, Dr. Randerson asked whether this trade, together with published genome sequences, posed a bioterrorism risk ( see related links section ).
The report prompted calls for access to the technology to be restricted, and a government investigation into the potential threat.
Speaking ahead of the Science Café in The Raven pub in Bath next week, he raised the question of whether the genetic recipe for the virus that causes smallpox should be available freely on the internet.
“These are the dilemmas posed by recent advances in genetics and biotechnology which scientists and the rest of us must grapple with,” said Dr Randerson.
“Intellectual freedom and sharing of information are central to scientific progress, and any restrictions on that will make science harder to do and could limit society's access to future medicines.
“But should there be restrictions on who has access to the materials and equipment that can be used to make viruses in the future, and are the scientific benefits of resurrecting a strain of flu that killed more people than the First World War worth the risks?
“The debate about where the balance lies between letting scientists have the information they need and withholding it from would-be terrorists is interesting, and I look forward to hearing people’s opinions on this issue.”
This is pure idiocy. First, any scientist who wants more governmental controls over research is not worth his weight in virology journals (and those are expensive). Second, it all boils down to the same old fallacy that terrorists are stupid and talking about bioterrorism only gives them more ideas.
They aren't little kids, people. They are grown-ups with usually a Western education and advanced degrees who know damn well what they are capable of achieving in the realm of bioterrorism.
You can't stop information from spreading, you can't keep it out of anyone's hands, and if you try you only end up hurting the people who would use it for good, because those who would use it for evil aren't going to play by the rules and will get information anyway.
You can't stop information. Sure, add extra security checks on people buying snippets of DNA, that sounds like a good policy decision. Shutting down biological research because it could fall into the hands of terrorists is idiotic, they are already doing their own biological research!!!
Stop buying into the concept that we are feeding terrorists ideas when we discuss possible scenarios. It's just not true. Open communication and planning is the only way to beat terrorism, not closed door secrecy -- that only leads to inter-office red tape and we all know that 9/11 could have been stopped if FBI was talking to the CIA.
Dr. Randerson, you can not stop information, and you are an idiot to try. The ability to buy snippets and compose full DNA strands of deadly pathogens is already a well known issue, you're report is nothing new or insightful.
Again, every scientist I have challenged on this point has never came here and defended themselves. I would like it very much if Dr. Randerson would explain exactly how one would stop DNA sequences from being posted on the internet, how one would stop sequencing equipment from being purchased worldwide, and how one would could possibly think that they are smarter than the microbiologists that terrorist networks currently have working on weaponizing biotic material.
There is no issue of balance. Either there is full communication and freedom for biological research or the terrorists have the upper hand, as their underground research will continue unabated by new rules and regulations.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/09/2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
It appears both the US and UK governments have been covering-up and actively concealing the spread of this lethal infection brought back from the current Middle Eastern conflicts. Deadly "A. baum" (Acinetobacter baumannii) apparently goes by many names: MDR-AB, MR-AB, and T-Strain are some that I've found.
It is resistant to most conventional antibiotics. I haven't gotten good material on how it got this way, but e-medicine insists that it is "intrinsically drug resistant." This is a term usually used to describe cancers, not bacteria... It's almost unimaginable that such a pathogen could start out being immune to powerful modern antibiotics.
The strain currently inflicting damage is not endemic to North America or Europe but comes from the soil and water of the Middle East where it colonizes, and I believe this is the type of MDR-AB that is being referred to as the "T-Strain." When it gets into a human host (usually through oral ingestion of the bacteria) it causes a serious and often times fatal respiratory infection. It can apparently colonize almost anywhere, which makes it a serious threat to hospitals and a new addiction to the list of deadly hospital-bread infections out there, such as MRSA, C. Diff and others.
Due to the governmental secrecy, this bacteria has been allowed to spread unabated and will probably continue as long as the curtain of silence is in place. No US news source has covered this and I could only find two UK news sites that have posted articles about this in the past two years. The best source for information about MDR-AB I've found is Marcie Clark's Acinetobacter.org, which I've added to my resources list.
This looks bad folks, please spread this around and hopefully it will get some air time.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/08/2006
From The Independent:
"Injured soldiers returning from Iraq have brought back a superbug that has been linked with outbreaks in NHS hospitals where they have been treated, a health minister has confirmed. The links between casualties brought back from Iraq and outbreaks in the NHS have caused alarm within the health service and led to renewed demands for more dedicated wards for Britain's armed forces to enable wounded soldiers to be isolated more effectively.
The Health Protection Agency has urged NHS hospitals to step up their infection control measures as a result of the outbreaks of a strain of the superbug Acinetobacter baumannii which is resistant to many types of antibiotics.
"A multi-resistant strain of A. baumannii known as the 'T strain' has been isolated from casualties returning to the UK from Iraq," the Health minister Andy Burnham said in a Commons written answer.
He said the exact source of the infection had not been identified but US casualties returning to America had also been found to be carrying the superbug.
Experts in microbiology who were studying the links between the infection and those wounded in Iraq, said an injured soldier thought to have caught the infection in Iraq may have caused a large outbreak of the superbug in an intensive care unit in an NHS hospital in south-east England.
They reported that the superbug was also found in two hospitals in the Midlands in soldiers who had been injured while serving in Iraq. The HPA said last night it was thought the T-strain survived in soil and sand in warm climates such as Iraq.
At one hospital in Birmingham the bacteria is reported to have infected 93 people, 91 of them civilians. Thirty-five died, although the hospital was not able to establish whether the superbug was a contributory factor.
A. baumannii is resistant to most common antibiotics and, if left untreated, can lead to pneumonia, fever and septicemia. It has been identified in more than 240 military personnel in the US since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and has been associated with five deaths."
Wow! I haven't heard a peep about this in the US media. I haven't even heard of this bacteria. Could this possibly be Saddam's biological dead man's switch?
And what the hell is with the Brits' use of the term "superbug"? It's kind of "super obnoxious". I like how this thing already has a sinister sounding shorthand... the "t-strain."
I'll keep you all posted, of course, on this new nasty bastard.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/08/2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
"Chinese scientists have identified a gene in the H5N1 bird flu virus which they say is responsible for its virulence in poultry, opening the way for new vaccines.
"We can now understand how this virus becomes lethal and the molecular basis for its pathogenicity," Bu Zhigao at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute told Reuters.
The Chinese researchers zeroed in on the virulent gene after analyzing two closely related strains of the H5N1 obtained from infected geese in southern Guangdong province in 1996 -- one highly pathogenic in chickens and the other harmless.
The scientists designed four genetically modified viruses each containing one of the four genes in question and tested them on laboratory chickens.
Only chickens infected with the modified virus containing the highly pathogenic gene died. The other chickens had no signs of disease, the scientists wrote in the November issue of the Journal of Virology.
"Now that we know the special role of the (highly pathogenic) NS1 gene, we can think about developing a vaccine," Bu said, adding that a vaccine which neutralizes the gene known as NS1 could be quickly designed.
"Technically, that can happen very soon, but it is the tests and other procedures that will take a long time."
That's all well and good, but how do we know the gene responsible for poultry deaths is the same one that causes its virulence in humans? And will this only lead to more poultry vaccines, or human ones?
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/06/2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
From the BBC:
"Cases of tuberculosis (TB) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland rose by 10.8% in 2005, figures show. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) recorded 8,113 cases during the year, compared to 7,321 in 2004.
Levels of TB have been increasing year on year in the UK since the late 1980s, but this is the largest single year increase since 1999.
London recorded 3,479 cases, up from 3,129 in 2004. The North West recorded the biggest proportional increase.
The highest proportion of cases - 38% - were reported among people from an Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic background.
Dr John Watson, head of the HPA's Respiratory Diseases Department, said the largest increase was seen among patients not born in the UK, who accounted for 5,310 cases.
Levels of TB in the UK-born population remained stable.
However, he said only 22% of these non-UK born patients in 2005 arrived in the UK during the past two years.
"This suggests that the increase is not a result of a large number of individuals arriving recently with TB but rather a combination of TB disease developing in individuals who may have been infected for some time and new infections acquired in the UK, or as a result of travel to other countries where TB is common."
TB was the biggest killer in the UK in the 19th century. Centre for Infections director Professor Peter Borriello said it was a "bogeyman that was returning".
He said: "An increase of this magnitude over the course of one year is a concern, and as a result we will be monitoring the situation closely over the next few years."
So poor immigrants aren't bringing it over, they're contracting it in Britain. Sure sounds like a public health situation to me. Substandard housing leads to more environmental exposure, which means more cases of Tb. I hope the dear old UK has a good enough health care system to give these people antibiotics, we really don't need MDR-TB hanging out in the Anglo-sphere.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/05/2006
Friday, November 03, 2006
If you think its crazy to be concerned about the Bird Flu, think again. I promise you its the number one issue on the table of every major public health organization. CBC supplies the juicy details:
"(CP) - There's no guarantee the H5N1 avian flu virus would become less deadly to people if it triggers a pandemic, a new report from the World Health Organization warns.
A group of eminent influenza scientists gathered by the WHO last month concluded there is no reason to believe that the virus, which kills roughly 60 per cent of people who become infected, would become any milder if it evolves to become a pandemic strain.
The report, based on that meeting, cautions governments against spending a lot of money to stockpile existing H5N1 vaccines. It also reveals that a low level of H5N1 viruses found in wild and domestic birds appear to be naturally resistant to oseltamivir, the main flu drug being stockpiled against a future pandemic.
The WHO scientist who convened the meeting cautioned, however, that the question of how lethal an H5N1 pandemic might be is the scientific equivalent of a black hole.
Modern science has never seen a flu virus as nasty as H5N1, and there is no way of knowing if the virus can become easily transmissible among people or what an H5N1 pandemic would look like.
"It's one of those things that you hate to conjecture," said Michael Perdue, an avian influenza expert and scientist with the WHO's global influenza program.
"We just don't know enough about this virus, a whole new subtype for humans. . . . If a new H5 enters, it could be more lethal than anything we've ever seen in history. But who knows?"
Apparently the top experts themselves have nothing but speculation on this virus. Low-path H5N1, which is currently all over the US is now tamiflu-resistant. That doesn't bode well, I have a feeling this thing is already totally out of control.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/03/2006
I didn't know the US Government had the power to shut down websites. Oh well, here's the latest on the government's futile attempt to stop the transmission of information, from the Washington Post:
"The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said yesterday that it shut down a public Web site after complaints from U.N. weapons inspectors that the site included sensitive details about constructing nuclear and chemical weapons. The documents were collected in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion but predate the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Intelligence officials said the documents do not indicate that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when President Bush ordered U.S. troops to take over the country and depose Saddam Hussein.
Chad Kolton, spokesman for John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, said the office had "suspended access" to the site pending a review of the documents. "The material currently on the Web site as well as the procedures used to post new documents will be carefully reviewed before the site becomes available again," Kolton said.
The New York Times reported on its Web site last night, and in today's print edition, that the site had been shut down in response to concerns by the inspectors and other nuclear experts. Many of the documents were copies of information Iraq had repeatedly handed over to the United States and other U.N. Security Council members over more than a decade between the two wars."
Yikes! The website isn't up on the Memory Hole, but I did find a pretty interesting attempted-to-be-redacted report from Pfizer on on Chemical and Biological Weapons.
I'm sure the information was something along the lines of "we have no nukes, America. Why are you still asking us about nukes? We haven't been working on nukes for years!"
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/03/2006