Two stories today about the Avian flu leave little room for comfort.
NOUMEA, New Caledonia (Reuters) – The initial outbreak of what could explode into a bird flu pandemic may affect only a few people, but the world will have just weeks to contain the deadly virus before it spreads and kills millions.
Chances of containment are limited because the potentially catastrophic infection may not be detected until it has already spread to several countries, like the SARS virus in 2003. Avian flu vaccines developed in advance will have little impact on the pandemic virus.
It will take scientists four to six months to develop a vaccine that protects against the pandemic virus, by which time thousands could have died. There is little likelihood a vaccine will even reach the country where the pandemic starts.
That is the scenario outlined on Tuesday by Dr Hitoshi Oshitani, the man who was on the frontline in the battle against SARS and now leads the fight against avian flu in Asia
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia called an outbreak of bird flu in its teeming capital an epidemic on Wednesday as health and agricultural experts from around the world converged on Jakarta to help control the virus.
Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said the emergence of sporadic human cases of bird flu in recent months in and around different parts of Jakarta, home to 12 million people, warranted the epidemic tag.
More details on the Indonesia angle can be found here.
Indonesia could be on the brink of a bird flu epidemic if the virus continues to accelerate, the country’s health minister warned Wednesday as the number of suspected cases in the capital continued to mount.
Siti Fadillah Supari’s remarks came as a pair of young girls with bird flu symptoms died in Jakarta hospitals and two days after the government declared it was taking “extraordinary” measures to stem the spread of the virus, including the mandatory hospitalization of anyone with suspicious symptoms.
Not very encouraging.