Effect Measure

European bird flu: an open book?

Two months ago Germany reported H5N1 in asymptomatic ducks and geese.
Now the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization is saying this may be
a sign that there is already a reservoir of hidden infection in
healthy domestic birds in Europe. The FAO points to a huge popuation
of chicken and waterfowl in the Black Sea area that are similar to
asian bird populations and in contact with them via migration. FAO
wants more surveillance of domestic ducks and geese in some eastern
European countries that have not kept up as much as their western
European neighbors:

“It seems that a new chapter in the evolution of avian
influenza may be unfolding silently in the heart of Europe,” said
Joseph Domenech, the organization’s chief veterinary officer, in the
statement. (Bloomberg)

This seems like a very curious thing for FAO to say and makes me
suspect FAO has already been reading the opening of the new chapter
without telling the rest of us. They make it sound like they are just
making a plausible speculation. It’s hard not to suspect they know
more than they are telling.

That’s what happens when the record of transparency is, well, cloudy.


  1. #1 anon
    October 26, 2007

    maybe they have access to the sequences

  2. #2 Tom DVM
    October 26, 2007

    To give credit where credit is due…

    …Dr. Niman was the first and has been talking about this eventuality for months now.

  3. #3 herman
    October 26, 2007

    In about March of 2006 a stray cat on the German island of Rugen in the Baltic Sea died of bird flu. Cats eat dead birds, and become infected.
    The bird flu viruses found in Africa and Europe are the closest to becoming a human virus, since the viruses there have the change in the viral protein that facilitates the virus’s ability to infect the cells of the upper respiratory system in mammals.
    There may also be a reservoir of hidden infection in healthy domestic cats, or dogs, or some other mammal. WHO has already recognized limited human to human infection, based on close contact, which has resulted in clusters of human infection.
    The virus is slowly adapting to mammals, and not just infecting birds. An exclusive concentration on birds as the reservoir of bird flu infection may be a fatal error.

  4. #4 anon
    October 26, 2007

    how could it be “slowly adapting to humans”, when it
    evolves in birds ?

    no h2h2..2h or h2h2..2b yet.

  5. #5 Tom DVM
    October 26, 2007

    “how could it be “slowly adapting to humans”, when it
    evolves in birds ?”

    It started out evolving in birds…now it is adapting in both birds and a wide variety of mammals…

    …and it will take the line of least resistance…which now appears to me to be mammals.

  6. #6 herman
    October 26, 2007

    In the human clusters of bird flu infection in Indonesia and other parts of Asia, there has already been h2h2h,etc; and this has been recently recognized by WHO. So far the only bird flu strain from a mammal that closely matches the strain in a human, came from a cat, not from a bird. This happened in Indonesia.
    Many of those infected with bird flu had never had any contact with birds. So how did they contact bird flu? If for example, the virus evolves to infect very large numbers of cats throughout the world, its name may be changed to cat flu. And if instead, it infects dogs worldwide, perhaps the name will be changed to dog flu. How would you feel if your doctor told you that you have dog flu?

  7. #7 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 27, 2007

    Tom-Webster is lecturing at the main library on Sunday afternoon. You have any questions you want asked? Full blown lecture lasting 3 hrs with a 1 hr q&a after.

    Herman-I dont know whether you saw the study posted up sometime this month or late last about the “round the corner” ability of flu to survive and be truly airborne. I believe the doctor who was using an ordinary flu virus or studying it proved it could “round the corner” on the downwind and go much farther than thought before. Something like 2000 meters if my memory serves. And you are right about H2H2H as Heyneman (I think thats how you spell it) stated for the record that it very likely was.

  8. #8 Marissa
    October 27, 2007

    In my opinion, H5N1 has reached a dead end. We should be watching for the next strain that we do not have resistance to.

  9. #9 herman
    October 27, 2007

    M.Randolph Kruger,
    Thank you for the information about h2h2h. I think we are now much closer to a pandemic, and that there are other vectors or reservoirs than birds.

  10. #10 Tom DVM
    October 27, 2007

    Hi Randolph. I just saw your post.

    I would like to sit down with him for an hour.

    …the list of questions would of course be long and would center on the information that is being withheld.

    So…I guess if I could ask one question, it would be…What are the sequences that we are not seeing…indicating as to progression of adaption to mammals.

    If I had a second question it would be…what is the hidden adaptive mammalian reservoir…and have small shoreline mammals been tested…and if not…why not.



  11. #11 herman
    October 28, 2007

    Why do you believe H5N1 has hit a dead end? I would appreciate it if you could please explain why.
    H5N1 continues to kill people and make others sick in Asia, with what appears to be increasing frequency. The virus has adapted to the upper part of the human lung.
    It has infected birds, dogs, civit cats, cats, tigers, and possibly pigs. In birds it has expanded across the planet, and is now endemic in many bird populations.
    It has caused clusters of human infection, spreading from one human to another in a chainlike way, h2h2h. WHO scientists have recently aknowledged this. Of course its ability to infect humans is still limited, and requires close contact. But as a Russian doctor stated last week, this virus is still a danger, and has the capacity to cause a pandemic if it continues to mutate and adapt to mammals. How many more people in Indonesia and elsewhere will die from this virus?

  12. #12 Marissa
    October 28, 2007


    If you actually look at the frequency of outbreaks in mammals and humans, you will see a peak in late 2005 and say the first half of 2006. In addition, we are not seeing the cluster activity we saw in 2007. If we look at a phylogenetic tree of evolution since 1997–or much earlier, if we believe that H5N1 came into existence several years prior–all of these branches could turn out to be dead ends because it actually gets harder to produce the required nucleotide changes to significant human infection. Okay, we don’t know how long, on average, it takes a strain to become really infectious once it gets “out of the starting gate.” But if the strain reache a dead end and can’t go back because it’s branches have evolved in the wrong direction, then it’s not really going anywhere. What can happen is that a new strain develops and that will be the one that will become the new pandemic candidate. The point is to be prepared for all possibilities, not just H5N1.

  13. #13 herman
    October 28, 2007

    Thank you for your explanation. I sincerely hope the peak in 2005 is the end of the line for H5N1, although people still continue to die, which is very sad; especially when those who die are children.
    The Russian doctor stated the virus is at stage 3, limited human to human contagion; and could easily continue on to stage 6 as it continues to mutate at a very rapid rate.

  14. #14 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 29, 2007

    Okay, freshly back from a lecture by Dr. Robert Webster from St. Jude on BF…. It aint all bad news folks. There were fewer people there than the last time and a lot more time to ask questions. The W. Series was getting started so thats the answer to the lack of people.

    The high points-

    -So far H5N1 hasnt gotten its act together to make it highly infectious hence no massive CFR’s. Why hasnt it? The virus hasnt mutated to a human receptor mold for the H5, it clearly has though for the N1. His fear is that both would be achieved in a sudden manner with no capability to slow or stop it.

    -So far, it has produced 4 distinct clades and about 4-5 sub-clades behind that. The orignal version actually as Marissa indicates is almost gone. Its still there genetically in all of them but doesnt reflect itself very well.

    -The problem apparently isnt poultry… its ducks that co-mingle in some flocks with poultry. Said poultry ends up in some cases in the factory hen houses. Hence the big bird slaughters. Where do you put 33 million chickens after a slaughter? The new airport at Hong Kong will provide you with a feather soft landing.
    -What happens when the virus is introduced into common area pools such as lakes, small streams, ponds and fountains? All the birds get it from either contaminated water or from ingestion of poop. It apparently reproduces in the gut of the birds. VERY few ducks apparently get sick but nearly all are endemically infected when they come into contact with it. Fewer and fewer sentinel cases. .

    -Surveillance? In the US and particularly Alaska and Canada it is high. DEFRA in the UK didnt think it thru when they hired the bird watchers to do samplings. They didnt even find baseline numbers for Newcastles disease the two years they let them do the swabs. Now DEFRA is doing it themselves and contracting with a company (undisclosed) to perform the work. Its a five year and multi-million quid contract.

    -The Chinese have no bird flu. How do we know? Because the Chinese said so. How can we trust them? Did I mention anything about trust? If you do no surveillance or dont report the surveillance, then you have no bird flu.

    -Human to human transmission while acknowledged now is considered to be due to maternal relations rather than paternal genetically. Females suffer the most. Didnt get into that one too much. His example was a bit different from the WHO graphs. He said just figure on average for every male that goes, that two females will go before them.

    -Why arent we at Pandemic Level 4 with the criteria having been met? Good question, sidestepped it. He was there as a member of the WHO and St. Jude. I really didnt expect him to answer that one.

    -How long to produce a vaccine? A year and a half ago, samples were sent the Aussies who in turn sent it to St. Jude and they got some samples too. They produced a vaccine in under a month as did the Aussies. Both were chastised and no more samples rolled in. Hence the Supari issue. I am not sure whether he was speaking of the Chinese, the Indons or both. He did say that they are both pissed at him and the Aussies. Vaccine though he said would be a moot point based on the production as they CANNOT produce a viable vaccine that would hit the antigen directly because in the space of the six months, it would mutate probably to ineffective status. He also said that the first wave of the virus he thought would be gone within 3 months of onset. So we wouldnt even really get started.

    -61%, 5 year CFR and the nearly 84%, 1 year CFR. Whats his read on what happens if we get it going and at what CFR would it slide to did he think? Up pops the slides and he has shown that every pandemic since 1918 has been less and less in intensity. The question? Are we being set up for the big one or are we hyped to the point that it might come in at less than 1%? He didnt know.

    -What about the H7outbreak in England a few months ago? That wasnt H7 he said, there was some H7 mixed in with it but it was H5. I didnt ask the question so I was furiously flipping thru my back list and the UK said it was human H7…. I think he let something slip here. Human to human H5N1? I know it was on the B. Matthews farms as H5N1 but that was poultry. Didnt get a chance to clarify that one.

    -Is there H5N1 on the N. American continent? No, and he doesnt understand why. Every place else where there has been cross-species bird interaction they have gotten it. Doesnt know why.

    -Fresh markets in Hong Kong, China are being closed. By this time next year the fresh markets will be gone. They have on their own decided to buy up the leases and compensate and close them. The day care where the initial cases were in Hong Kong several years ago was next to the fresh market. The floors were loaded with bird crap and it wasnt unusual for small children to slip and fall and there was even a sign under a cage in Chinese that said, “Be careful, bird poop is slippery”

    -Flu shots? Okay and this here is big. MICE injected with H5N1 and having had the ordinary flu shot improved their survival rates to 50%. Zero survived without it. Pneumovax he said was a VERY good idea for post viral infection bacterial pneumonia. But thats mice. There is no guarantee as there is no one willing to take the chance with the virus. Primates have done very poorly with and without the vaccines. Guilliame-Barre syndrome noted in likely unacceptable levels in mammals. Ferrets for instance have experienced permanent paralysis in the hind quarters. They would get sick, very sick and recover and then the virus apparently would wind its way into the brains. Thats a hurdle the government is going to have to make if and when BF comes… improper testing. You might survive but be a paraplegic or have polio like symptoms.

    -Swine to human transmission. Well, they infected a pig with H5N1 in the bio-containment and then put him in with other pigs. No transmission took place. They then tried ferrets… it smoked them and every other barnyard animal that they infected never got to the put them in with other animals. They died too quickly. E.g. they had to ensure they were infected and by the time they got ready to move them, they were dead. Poultry for instance it kills them within 24 hours. Some in as little as three hours.

    -Are you planning to retire Dr. Webster? His wife said she will have to go back to work if he does. Why? Cant stand to have him around the house when there is something like this bug or others rolling around. He paces and draws pictures in magazines and yells at her when she tosses his important work out not knowing its in there of course.

    There were many slides and the like and I am going to try to get this thing downloaded to an acceptable zip format for everyone who wants it. The sound is kind of sucky but these things generally are that way.

    Will advise to all who want it when I get the video down. It might load your computer out at 1:15 minutes worth of really good stuff. ASF’s might be in our future on this one.

  15. #15 Tom DVM
    October 29, 2007

    Thanks Randolph!!

  16. #16 Marissa
    October 29, 2007

    Thanks for the update, Randy. I think he’s being pretty hoenst and straightforward. We use mice quite a lot in flu and I recently reviewed some of that data. Although the models look good, I am not entirely sure that the results are completely translatable to humans. Especially the PNAS data on hypercytokinemia. The H7/H5 in England he alluded to sounds interesting. probably many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.

  17. #17 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 29, 2007

    Tom, one shoreline bird that would provide transmission came up frequently. He said they run all the way from Russia, down to NZ and then back up and cross over into the US. No damned flu. He said there should be but no. Its not that he is dissapointed but just confused as to why. These little guys use the storms to push them south and north and are in constant migration as a result. Anyway, no flu.

    Bigger birds though are the key he stated and that in particular means the ducks. There were 49 million mating pairs of one type of duck that gets it this year and that is a record season and they run from Russia to Alaska to Canada and south. No damned flu. With the distance they cover every day during migration he indicated that we would have it and not know it until it was already underway. Thats the reason for the huge surveillance budgets in each country.

    Marissa- The only part that did get clarified twice on that was the type….H5 with H7 pieces in it. Nice to have two for the price of one.

  18. #18 anon
    October 30, 2007

    maybe he just meant H5 and H7 mix in UK, because they
    had both this year, althouth at different locations.
    Wales was clearly H7, while Suffex was H5

  19. #19 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 30, 2007

    Anon-That particular question was asked another guy. He repeated that part twice. Did we get snowed about a weak H5 outbreak? I dont know. I can tell you that once I get this tape onto disk/zip you can see the man flush crimson when its asked. I can only say that this was better than the last one as the people while fewer were better informed than the last group and that meant the EMA’s and electeds asking silly questions. They were definitely startled at the one here at the Alzheimers center last year.

    But Marissa was borne out about the dead end thing. The original bug as we know it has pretty much gone by the wayside as it has mutated across the last few years. The four clades have about 4 -5 sub-clades behind each them and he showed a slide of the directions they have taken. Some have re-merged with the versions that gave them birth. The Vietnam version is astronomically lethal apparently. That slide was followed by another that instead of showing H5N1 in country to H5N1 by percentage of population. Its a flyspeck in every country that has it even now. We have all seen the red in country maps. These that he provided were based upon percentages of pop. I have seen those kinds of maps before and they were in NBC training in the USAF. It is far more indicative of what is really happening.

  20. #20 Tom DVM
    October 30, 2007

    Hi Randolph. Actually, I was thinking about the role that shoreline mammals have played in the adaption of H5N1 from migratory birds to mammals.

    If you think about it for a minute…the interface between wild birds and mammals occurs at the shoreline which is a very unique ecosystem. Not only do we have an interface between water and land birds but also migratory and land birds and large and small birds…as well we have an interface between birds and shoreline mammals and reptiles as well.

    In addition, forest carnivores scavenge on shorelines for dead fish, birds and mammals as well. I happen to live near a shoreline and my Norwegian Elkhound Clover uses it as her personal ‘buffet’…foxes and racoons are also particularly adept at scavenging and or in the case of foxes, chasing animals out onto the ice to kill them in the winter as well. Shoreline mammals including Muskrats, Beaver, Mink, Otter, Martins and Weazels…and the others like Foxes and Racoons would be feeding on eggs, carcasses and faeces of ducks and geese.

    If you were looking for a vector from this interface to farms…these small mammals would be it…in my opinion…

    …and by the way, I believe that H5N1 started its journey in a lab and poultry farms…and then infected waterfowl and migratory birds…and not visa versa.

    It is amazing to me that this interface hasn’t had more measurable effects since 1918…given the potential for transferance.

    Anyway, my questions for Dr. Webster were:

    1) tell us what we don’t know and won’t be told about the current sequences

    …and 2) have they tested shoreline mammals for H5N1.


  21. #21 M. Randolph Kruger
    October 30, 2007

    He covered 2 briefly and its not just the birds they are catching, swabbing and releasing. Ferrets, cats (feral), Civit Cats, raccoons. What in hell is a civit cat anyway?

    Another listener touched upon the hush-hush nature of what we are not being told. Flamingly obvious he said in his opinion that we are being kept in the dark.
    That was post of the lecture though and he said (the listener) that the Russians are furiously testing on their side of the Pacific…Russian flu or someones flu experiment got loose I guess is where you are heading with it? If that were the case, wouldnt it have been the Chinese re: Qinhai Lake. Come to think of it this guy sounded Canuck, he might have been.

    But Another one line question with a one line answer…. no for number 1 from Dr. Webster.

  22. #22 Tom DVM
    October 30, 2007


    According to scientific principles…no is not an option.

    If specifically asked, I believe there is a professional obligation to tell the scientifioc truth, the whole scientific truth and nothing but the scientific truth…that’s the way things work.

    …and if Dr. Webster can’t or won’t…then no one will…in my opinion.

    At the end of the day…hopefully, enough of them will be left to disclose the source.

  23. #23 M.Randolph Kruger
    October 30, 2007

    One word answer Tom…. P A N I C!

    That is if they tell the truth. I think it will manifest itself soon enough. I dont think for one minute that BF is outtahere. Still killing people and looking the WHO graphs for 10/25 it looks like a 100% fatality rate for the last three months. Maybe the original strain is heading out but there was little assertion by anyone here or out there that they though it was going to be the “one”. Niman has asserted for quite a while along with Revere that this would have to pick up the pieces along the way because it only infected the lower respirator tract. Once it got to the nose, eyes and mouth it would be all over.

    Here is a conjecture question for you, Revere, Marissa and anyone else and its about those birds that didnt get infected even though they were exposed. Taking the receptor points out of the equation why didnt they become infected? Seems that only big birds get it and then transfer it down.

    I wonder if it might be that the little buzzards cant get enough of the virus into them via water, feather cleaning and because they dont have the lung capacity to suck it in far enough. It would explain a lot. If they had the receptors and couldnt get enough into them to become infected that would be some really good science to prove. Sparrows and pigeons seemed big enough if I recall but not these little guys. Big birds and people. Bigger lungs, bigger load on the intake. I wish we had some data on the size of the humans that got it and their lung sizes. Proximity, inhalation capacity, and who got it. Infants/toddlers who have come into contact with it breathe pretty fast and if they inhale it from doo/dust/feathers say for ten minutes it would start to give us an idea of how much you need to get into you to become infected.

    How big is a bar headed goose on average and does it have anything unique about it such as it breathes through its nose?

  24. #24 Tom DVM
    October 31, 2007

    Randolph. I have been tracking viruses in domestic animals for twenty-five years or so…

    …it hasn’t and isn’t going away…everything is happening beyond our five senses…as usual…

    …nature is lulling us to sleep…and about the time everyone is convinced it is gone for good…it will pop up in multiple distinct geographical locations at the same time (within a few weeks)…

    …I’ve seen exactly the same thing many times before…nature is continuosly cycling…it’s just that we have had this artificially enhanced quiescent period for the last thirty years.

    For what its worth…I don’t think birds were or are the endgame.

    I could never have envisioned a virus that could break so many rules…and seemingly have a new unseen twist at every step along the way…it just continues to amaze me…but then again, that is what has kept me interested in nature and pathogens for so many years…and this bug is really amazing to watch and analyze.

  25. #25 Tom DVM
    October 31, 2007

    There may be other pandemic candidates…but H5N1 is a monster…I believe the greatest threat the world has faced in at least two thousand years…with a potential greater than smallpox…

    …but continue to hope…at the end of the day…to be found wrong!!

  26. #26 Solitaire
    October 31, 2007

    Many thanks for posting Randolph. With regard to Websters comments about the H7 being H5 the following is from an article published during the Welsh outbreak by the Senior Medical Officer for Wales, which may lend weight to what you heard (not quite sure what it means)

    ‘Dr Simmons said there is no ongoing risk to the public, and added: “We do not anticipate this virus transmogrifying into the H5 strain, but it’s not impossible.”

    Dr Glossop said the strain of bird flu was “pretty unusual” and added: “We don’t know how it’s going to develop.”

    So maybe there was some sort of H5/H7 mix. Can anyone elaborate on this or is it irrelevant?

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