Avian flu spread

More news on the avian flu front. It appears that the cases in Turkey have been confirmed as H5N1, meanwhile

The EU has banned all bird and poultry products from Romania after tests confirmed the presence of a strain of bird flu there. Duck samples tested positive for the H5 virus, contradicting earlier findings. But there is no evidence yet that the strain is the serious H5N1 variety, which has killed 60 people in Asia. Further tests will be carried out.

EU to ban all Turkish bird products

Another development on the avian flu front. I have not heard of any flu outbreaks in Turkey so I imagine this is a precautionary measure. The BBC notes:

The decision came after Turkish authorities slaughtered up to 2,000 birds in the north-west of the country in an effort to control the disease.

As many as 1,500 turkeys are said to have died on a farm in the region.

It has not yet been confirmed if it’s HN51.

Romania isolates bird flu village

It gets ever closer, and what has Ireland done to prepare? I’d hazard pretty much nothing.

Romanian officials quarantined a Danube delta village of about 30 people Friday after three dead ducks there tested positive for bird flu — the first such cases reported in the region.

Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur said the virus found in the farm-raised ducks came from migrating birds from Russia.

And while it is difficult for the virus to spread from birds to humans, authorities were taking no chances. They sealed off the village of Ciamurlia and banned hunting and fishing in eight counties in the region.

Romania also suspended imports of chickens and other poultry from 15 countries, most of them in Asia.

How long do we have before a mututation occurs?

What keeps me up at night too

Dan Drezner links to some recent articles relating to avian flu, including the recent news that some strains of avian flu could be resistant to the antiviral drug Tamiflu. The figure of 7.4 million deaths globally as a result of a flu pandemic seem frightfully small to me. I have recently heard that Ireland has done practically nothing, and I am still awaiting word from the HSE. Time to start asking again.

Bird flu 'could kill 150m people'

Finally someone is quoting some figures (more reasonable to me anyway) that the inevitable flu pandemic could bring. Foreign Affairs had a special edition a while back on the avian flu threat, and back then I guesstimated a figure of 500 million was more likely than the figure of 20 million being suggested by most news sites. 150 milion would be 50 more than the 1918 pandemic, but I guess the outcome would be entirely dependent on how quickly the world’s governments cooperate and pull together to deal with it.

A tankful of sugar, Brazil's ethanol

I never knew that Brazil had previously gone down the road of ethanol based fuel for cars.

Prompted by the oil shocks of the 1970s, Brazilian governments used laws and subsidies to promote ethanol-only cars, which had 90% of the market by the late 1980s. But supplies of sugar-based fuel dried up suddenly when planters rushed to meet a surge in demand for sugar. Sales of ethanol-powered cars dropped to nearly zero by 1990—one taxi driver famously set his alight outside Congress.

Flex-fuel cars have persuaded Brazilians to give ethanol a second try. The initiative came from the Brazilian operations of parts suppliers such as Magneti Marelli, owned by Fiat of Italy, and Bosch, a German company. They persuaded the government to extend to flex-fuel cars the tax break previously applied to ethanol-only models. Volkswagen was first to the market, followed quickly by other big manufacturers.

Ford announced this week that flexi-fuel based cars will go on sale in Ireland in November. Ford are hoping that Brian Cowen will give tax breaks on bio-ethanol based cars. They have already proved very popular in Scandanavian countries. However flexi-fuel in Ireland will apparently be produced from the waste made during certain dairy processes, a product known as bio-ethanol. I am not sure if that produced from sugar is better or worse.

Flu vaccine stockpile faces delay

Why does this not surprise me. I suppose I should be grateful they are doing something.

The Department of Health is expected to tell the Government’s Working Group on Emergency Planning tomorrow that it will be next year before it has the one million packs of anti-viral drugs which international trends suggest would be best practice for preparing to deal with the emergence of any flu pandemic.

Separately, Department of Health officials are expected to warn that planning for a global flu pandemic, while aiming to reduce the rates of death and illness, can only mitigate the effects of the outbreak and that the consequences were still likely to be serious.

The Department of Health is expected to tell the working group that in the event of a pandemic, anti-viral drugs could be used to prevent influenza in the early stages, alleviate symptoms or shorten the duration of the condition, but that the production of a vaccine tailored to a specific strain could take six to nine months.

The department is also expected to tell the working group that it is also set to procure around 200,000 doses of the H5N1 vaccine against the avian influenza strain implicated in the recent outbreak in Asia.

The working group, chaired by Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea, is to deal with official preparations for a major international flu pandemic at its meeting tomorrow.

Willie O’Dea? Is that not like putting Michael Brown in charge of FEMA, or worse?