The Lithuanian Ministry of Health has reported today that an Indian sailor died in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda. His death was due to the avian flu.
Hy-Science has no information posted on this case. If any of our readers do, please let us know.
Dymphna and Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse like to freak ourselves out over this, but others pooh-pooh the idea. Dymphna’s internist rolls her eyes and makes reassuring noises about the Center for Disease Control. As though scientists from Atlanta are going to swarm in their white coats, waving their wands and spreading “save us” dust on everyone. Uh huh.
In an essay last month, “Bird Flu Targets Europe, Rick Moran said:
Professor John Oxford, an expert on flu at Queen Mary’s medical school, London, said the most worrying aspect of the deaths in Turkey was the large number of human cases resulting from exposure to a small number of birds.”
What we may be observing is a very small but significant change in the pathology of the disease – its ability to infect humans may be improving. While it still cannot be spread through the air via casual contact like sneezing or coughing, it may have mutated ever so slightly so that the virus can either trick our immune system long enough to become established or, more likely, replicate at a faster pace once inside the human body thus overwhelming our bodies’ natural defenses in a shorter period of time.
It’s all a matter of wait-and-see. This is one case where I’d like to be wrong and have my internist’s views on the ability of the CDC to do something effective be correct.
But I’m still worried. Hey, Rick — what have you heard??
UPDATE: A reader sent this URL with maps that illustrate the spread of H5N1 in Europe and the world. Here is the world December map, but the rest of the site is equally interesting.
Tell Rick Moran if you see him.
As always, I’m keeping watch on this strain. We’re all looking for further point mutations at this point. I did write about the ones observed so far on my blog in “Bird Flu Enters the War Zone”, but then I am a virology geek!!
I haven’t seen anything on this yet. Hugh Hewitt has actually been doing a great job because he subscribes to the WSJ and their Bird Flu Monitor.
It used to be you had to read Asia Times or some other Far Eastern Newspaper to find out what the heck was going on but no more. That said, my initial reaction is that they must determine if the patient died of Bird Flu, what strain was it? The H5N1 strain is the most worrisome because it seems to be mutating the fastest. As I mention in that article, it appears to be able to infect humans easier.
Since I posted that article, an additional 25 people in Turkey have come down with the disease. And it is making a comeback in China as well as beginning to hit India. Pretty soon, the WHO and the rest of the world’s Flu resources will begin to be overwhelmed. And if at that point, the disease can be spread by casual contact, some of those worst case scenarios being pooh-poohed by the experts just might come to pass.
On the other hand, each outbreak of the disease has been a different subtype of the H5N1 virus and so far none have managed to become infections outside areas where people are in constant contact with birds. It’s a group of virii, not a single type.