Effect Measure

Bird flu: Bangladesh behaving badly

Bangladesh is a country with more than its share of woes. Now there is H5N1 galloping through its poultry. Bangladesh needs all the help it can get. Which also means it needs to help others, too. How can a resource poor country like Bangladesh help other nations? They can start by sharing the genetic sequences of the viruses isolated from their poultry:

Bangladesh has refused to share the genetic details of its H5N1 bird flu virus with India. In a blow to India’s efforts to find the origin of the highly pathogenic avian influenza strain that is presently wreaking havoc in West Bengal, Bangladesh has informed the external affairs ministry that they are “yet to genetically sequence the H5N1 virus strain circulating there”.

In a communication to MEA, Bangladesh has said the virus sequencing is still “under way in a lab in UK”, and that it would therefore “not be able to share any virus related information” till the final reports arrive.

However, a senior animal husbandry ministry official told TOI on condition of anonymity: “We know for a fact that Bangladesh completed genetic sequencing of its virus as early as in mid-2007. The OIE Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza in Weybridge, UK, has completed the sequencing. The lab officials can’t divulge the details till Bangladesh agrees to share the information.” (Times of India)

Of course one can be sure of very little when it comes to India accusing Bangladesh or Pakistan of something or the reverse. Behaving badly is the norm when it comes to neighbors in this part of the world, but I can’t help but surmise India is right. It is not plausible that Bangladesh doesn’t have the genetic sequences. India’s suspicions as to the reason they have not been divulged is probably also correct: they show that the current outbreak in India may be the result of illegal poultry trade in bordering Bangladesh.

I don’t know what the consequences of such a demonstration would be for Bangladesh, but in terms of reputation, failure to share the sequences is sufficiently damaging in itself.

Bangladesh has enough misery imposed on it by forces it can’t control. This is one it can control. Time to behave properly.


  1. #1 Tom DVM
    February 5, 2008

    Indonesia and Bangladesh and the rest are just ‘following the leader’.

  2. #2 revere
    February 5, 2008

    Tom: No. The issues are quite different. The original leaders in that sense were the US CDC and many academic scientists, but again the issues are different. We need to be a bit more nuanced about this.

  3. #3 Medclinician
    February 5, 2008

    Bangladesh has been a problem in the health community since and before the days of George Harrison, of the Beatles. For a comprehensive look at this country you might reference the CIA database here which is available to the public.


    This is an extremely comprehensive and detailed look at the countries with many facts and history you might not be aware of.


  4. #4 Shannon
    February 5, 2008

    I too have wondered why Bangladesh was dragging its feet. After much thought I am certain the accusing tone of the Indians may be the sticking point. At the very beginning of the outbreak there were some in the Indian government who were determined to point fingers towards Bangladesh. I can’t say I know for certain what the point of knowing where this particular virus emanated from, from a political standpoint or, why it is pertinent but, it obviously is for the Indians. Do the Bangladeshis fear economic reprisals, saving face or, something more ominous. I have no idea. Until the Indians back off with accusing rhetoric, I believe those in Bangladesh are going to keep mum on the subject of sequences. Unless, of course, the rest of the world can somehow increase the pressure on Bangladesh.

  5. #5 M. Randolph Kruger
    February 5, 2008

    From what I get from a person inside of it is that they really havent been testing the way they should have been. Its not H5N1 unless you have a test. No testing, no BF.

    Shannon is probably the closest to whats really happening. Cost alone for Bangla would put it out of reach for them. Then if you get the confirmation, then what? Its a geo-political bug. You only find it if there is going to be money there to combat it.

  6. #6 Albert
    February 6, 2008

    Niman is actually saying that “false negatives” in India is raising pandemic concerns. Of course, he’s also saying today that dead crows are also raising pandemic concerns. It’s just simply crazy. The bottom line is that we have not seen a case of one false negative since late 2005, which was with a family of 4 in Turkey before they even developed a sound testing method, but those testing issues were resolved long ago. Since that time, there has never been another documented case of a false negative, period. Although Niman has played that card ever since. Tamiflu blankets are also not creating false negatives. Humans are not easily catching this virus and that’s just the reality of it. Hyping every bird death into “pandemic concerns” is way off the wall and it’s making everybody here look like alarmists.

    What about science and facts? Debating if India is covering up cases is just wild speculation.

    Remember, the swine flu did not mutate, and there is a chance that H5N1 never will as well. Niman might write about raised “pandemic concerns” when a few crows die, but the reality is that nothing has changed whatsoever. Niman might be hyping this thing for years to come so you all may be doing “this” for a very long time to come.

    Niman’s constant hysteria over every little dead bird is starting to make him look like a very fearful nervous person. If there is ever a Panflu, he might drop dead of a heart attack out of fear, lol.

  7. #7 revere
    February 6, 2008

    Albert: Since we didn’t post about this or Henry here I’d appreciate it if you would keep the anti-Niman stuff elsewhere. It is disruptive to get involved in these kinds of fights. There are plenty of places to vent about Niman, just not here. That goes for pro-Niman stuff, too, for others.

  8. #8 Albert
    February 7, 2008

    My apologies revere. Since the topic was about Bangladesh, which is where Niman is currently promoting the new panflu and false negatives, I thought I would throw in my opinion.

    Although he mentioned that dead crows have raised pandemic concerns, when it turns out the crows did not die of a/i after all, you would think people would raise an eyebrow.

    Best regards,


  9. #9 revere
    February 7, 2008

    Albert: No problem. I am trying to police this as any Niman associated thread gets out of hand with the speed of light.

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