YES! Of course it could, that is a stupid question. Anyway, the Times Online has a big article about the new show and its relation to reality:
"The sudden outbreak of a lethal virus that spreads quickly, killing millions, is a nightmare scenario that haunts many of us - especially those who have been watching BBC One's apocalyptic new drama Survivors.
Viruses have indeed wiped out 90 per cent of a human population. We've seen that in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 with Ebola, an unspeakably nasty affliction caused by a haemorrhagic fever virus that has one of the highest case fatality rates of any human disease. It's one of a family of viruses that you definitely don't want to have, which also includes those responsible for Lassa fever and Marburg fever. But this event did take place in a very isolated area in a small population, with almost no access to medical help.
The lethality of these viruses limits their spread. People become so ill so quickly that they cannot travel far before dying. Ah yes, you say, (if you are the scriptwriter of Survivors), but what if someone boarded an aircraft immediately after infection but before symptoms appeared. Couldn't they spread it halfway across the world and kill 90 per cent of the population that way? No. Sorry to be a Survivors killjoy, but these viruses are pretty much stopped in their tracks by effective isolation and infection-control measures.
On the other hand, a candidate for a really good apocalypse virus is one that can be transmitted by droplet infection in the air, is infectious before a person has any symptoms and is not so lethal that people who have it can't spread it about by traveling. Something like flu, for instance. Pandemic flu is perfect. So would - could - pandemic flu wipe out 90 per cent of the population?
Categorically not, and for a number of reasons. One is logistics. You can't infect everyone at the same time, which means that we would have warning of potential infection and could prepare against it.
Avian flu poses a threat
The most likely (but by no means the only) pandemic flu candidate is H5N1, which causes avian flu in birds, such as chickens and ducks. At present, although human beings can be infected with avian flu and it has a high death rate (about 60 per cent), it is not spread from human being to human being. If it was, we would, thanks to the surveillance systems that the World Health Organisation has in place, know about it quickly, know where it was and could take counter measures. For instance, government might order mass vaccination with a pre-pandemic flu strain. This wouldn't be as effective as a vaccine specific to the particular strain, and would not necessarily prevent infection, but it is highly likely to prevent deaths.
But back to that scary old 60 per cent death rate with avian flu. Jonathan Van Tamm, Professor of Health Prevention at Nottingham University, did the numbers for me. “What this figure means is that 60 per cent of people who get ill with symptoms die, not 60 per cent of the population. It's a big difference.” To understand how many in a population might die from a new virus, you need to know the clinical attack rate, that is the proportion of the population that becomes ill with symptoms. Not everyone will be exposed to it and not all of those exposed are likely to develop symptoms and become sick.
If the clinical attack rate of a pandemic flu virus were, for example, 33 per cent (and not everyone would get it all at once of course, like in Survivors) and there was a case fatality rate of 60 per cent, 20 per cent of the population would die over the period of the pandemic, but this is unlikely.
As Professor Van Tamm says: “History tells us that, so far, we have never encountered a pandemic flu virus with a clinical fatality rate greater than 2.5 per cent (in 1918 it was 2.5 per cent; in 1957 and in 1968 it was less than 0.5 per cent). It's still an awful lot of people (280,000 in 1918) but nothing like the Survivors scenario.
A good plot line, and one that has been exploited in Survivors, is how panic and lack of preparation by government contributed to death rates. But here is the good news. As far as pandemic flu is concerned, which our Government regards as the No 1 threat facing the UK, Britain is among the best, if not the best, prepared countries in the world.
Lest you think this is hype, I took part in the G8 pandemic flu exercise in 2006, a simulation of a worldwide flu crisis in which all of the G8 nations took part. It was immediately apparent that this was the case. Most countries are woefully ill-prepared compared with us. If you want to check out the extensive and detailed plans for pandemic preparedness, they are on the Department of Health's website.
These plans have already been tested, in an exercise in January last year called Winter Willow. Lasting several days, it involved more than 5,000 people. It assumed an attack rate (those developing symptoms) of 30 per cent of the population. There were a number of lessons learnt, such as the need for clearer and more consistent advice on the use of antiviral drugs, face masks and the stocking of home supplies.
But there are other reasons why a flu pandemic is unlikely to mirror the Survivors outbreak. For instance, typically viruses do not retain their lethality. They are modified, with the passage through humans becoming more transmissible but less lethal with time.
Fit young men died within 24 hours
But perhaps the most potent reason is that we are not clones. Our immune systems are not all configured the same, our response to illness is highly variable, even when infected with the same virus. Typically, the old, sick and young would die, but even this isn't always the case. In the 1918 pandemic, fit young men died within 24 hours of infection, not from the virus but as a consequence of the “cytokine storm” unleashed by their healthy immune systems, which go into overdrive and attack the body while fighting the virus.
We are long overdue a flu pandemic. Expert opinion as to when it will happen varies between two and five years. It is certain that 90 per cent of us will not die. It is also certain that a flu pandemic would cause serious disruption to the economy, so, please, will everyone avoid hugging ducks in Asia - at least until we're done with this economic crisis."
Interesting article, if not a little naive about the potential H5N1 has, or any biological agent for that matter. Ebola and Marburg have something like a 24 hour incubation period. There's no reason a hemorrhagic virus could not mutate (or be purposely developed, for that matter) that has a much longer incubation time.
When it comes to viruses there isn't some magical biological scale which keeps virulence and contagion in check. Usually its a game of red queen between the virus and its hosts for several generations before we see any kind of equilibrium.
Basically, believing that a virus can't have both a high mortality rate and a high infection spread is a belief based on hope and faith that trends in the past will stay the same.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
This is the story from NaturalNews.com:
The letter from the FDA's own scientists goes on to say, "It is evident that managers at CDRH have deviated from FDA's mission to identify and address underlying problems with medical devices before they cause irreparable harm, and this deviation has placed the American people at risk."
Congressman John, Dingell, chair of the committee which received the letter, went on to charge that these FDA bureaucrats "approved or cleared medical device applications in gross violation of laws and regulations..."
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/26/2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
From the WSJ:
"...The FDA said Theravance's telavancin worked as well as an older drug, vancomycin, in treating the skin infections when reviewing two main clinical studies conducted to examine telavancin. When looking at skin infections caused by just MRSA, the agency said Theravance appeared "numerically" better than vancomycin at treating the infection, but the difference didn't meet a statistical bar showing telavancin was superior..."
"...Later Wednesday the same panel will consider Targanta Therapeutics Corp.'s oritavancin and will look at iclaprim by Swiss biotech company Arpida Ltd. Thursday...."
Wow, exciting! Something as good as vancomyycin! Let's just try red queening Staph till it beats us down and kills us all! There's no mention of the FDA looking at Zevtara any time soon... oh well...
oh the phDA! So sad, so sad.
Also, this is great news for Targanta, so there may be some boost in their stock price, which is currently rock bottom. (that is not financial advice!!)
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/21/2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Also, yet another Thai province has had an H5N1 outbreak among poultry farms. But this is sad, and unsettling, news. H5N1 has not gone away and it seems to be as deadly as ever, CIDRAP with the report:
"A 15-year-old Indonesian girl from central Java recently died from an H5N1 avian influenza infection, according to news reports that cited a local health official and a physician who treated the girl.
In June Indonesia's health ministry stopped reporting new H5N1 cases promptly, opting instead for periodic updates. Over the past few days media reports had said the girl's death was suspicious and that she lived near a poultry slaughterhouse, and today the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters reported that the girl had an H5n1 infection.
If the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the girl's infection, it will be listed as Indonesia's 138th H5N1 case and 113th death.
Agus Suryanto, head of the medical team that treated the girl at Doctor Karyadi Hospital in Semarang, told Reuters that health ministry labs confirmed that the girl died of an avian influenza infection. He told the AP that the girl was hospitalized 10 days before she died"
This is the first H5N1 death in Indonesia since July.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/18/2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Certainly under the department of the interior, for food production research, right?
Nope! They are growing them in Top Secret Military Locations In Order To "Thwart Angry Anti-GM Extremists." RedGreenandBlue has the story:
"UK officials are hoping to protect genetically-modified crops from the actions of anti-gm extremists. Opponents have targeted almost all of the 54 GM crop trials since 2000. For example, recently more than 400 potato plants were destroyed on a farm at the University of Leeds in June."
What a perfect cover!!
"Yes, we have to move these GMO crops to top secret military basess so those damned 'frankenfood' nutters won't trample them!"
Well, sounds all and well! But hey, now those crops, all of them, are completely shut off from public scrutiny, and are in the provenance of the military. Which means they have some say in its distribution. Say 2% of those crops were used for military research? What would they be doing?
Possibly developing genetically modified invader species that thrive in commonly used GMO strains of food crops -- Biological warfare -- The cheatgrass that destroys not just farms, but multinational agri-businesses.
Now suppose they manage to develop this "takeover deadwheat" type shit, and some evil traitor sells it for cash?
Well, for one, its now a new illicit bioweapon on the black market for any terrorist organization to chose from and buy with petrodollars.
And secondly, it could very well be the next great plague; not of germs or insects, but of plants, of vile monocultures infecting farmlands -- A Zombie Crop. H.P. Lovecraft considered the idea of this occurring from seeds and spores within a meteorite in his story "A Color out of Space."
And with all these super-hybrids and engineered crops, why wouldn't a weed species genetically adapted to displace them not develop naturally? Now that is a truly scary thought.
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/17/2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Ceftobiprole (aka Zevtera) has passed all its trials and been approved by Swissmedic, which is kind of like the FDA for Switzerland. Fox business (ugh, I know...) has the story:
"Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd. announces that ceftobiprole (Zevtera), the first-in-class anti-MRSA broad-spectrum cephalosporin, has obtained regulatory approval from Swissmedic for the treatment of complicated skin and soft tissue infections including diabetic foot infections.
Dr. Anthony Man, CEO of Basilea said, "We are delighted by this approval of ceftobiprole by Swissmedic. This is an important moment for our company and brings a novel and effective treatment against resistant bacteria to patients and physicians here in Switzerland."
The Swiss marketing authorization certificate may be used to facilitate regulatory approval and market entry in other countries including Asia and South America.
The regulatory dossier to Swissmedic was submitted by Basilea's license partner Janssen-Cilag AG, a Johnson & Johnson company, who will commercialize ceftobiprole in Switzerland under the trade name Zevtera.
Ceftobiprole is marketed in Canada and is currently under regulatory review by regulatory authorities in the U.S., the European Union and in other countries. Subject to approval, Basilea will co-promote ceftobiprole in the U.S. and in the major European markets together with the respective Janssen-Cilag companies.------------------------------------------------------
I hope and also expect a quick approval by the FDA for the use of Zevtera. I'm really surprised Canada got this approved before the US. America often likes proclaim it has some kind of pharmaceutical superiority to Canada, but I have rarely found this to be the case.
Most likely some corrupt Senator or Governor is dishing out grant money for an American company to reverse engineer Zevtera and add some random polymer to get a new patent. Big Pharma has no shortage of lobbyists, that much's for certain!
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/15/2008
From the Philippine news site Philstar:
"Authorities have confirmed that bird flu has been discovered in fowl in northern Thailand.
Director-general of the Livestock Department Sakchai Sriboonsue says laboratory tests have found the virulent H5N1 virus in chickens in Uthai Thani province, 180 kilometers north of the capital Bangkok.
He said yesterday the virus has been found in about a dozen chickens raised in a backyard farm after several died.
The department confirmed a bird flu outbreak Sunday among fowl in Sukhothai, another northern Thai province. It was the first case of the virus in Thailand since January when two other outbreaks were reported."
They can possibly nip this in the bud by banning backyard chicken farms like Indonesia had to do. Hopefully we won't get any human cases this year. Last season was pretty quiet for H5N1...
Posted by Frobisher Smith at 11/15/2008