Bird Flu Alarm

2006-03-02-Bahamas Bird Flu Testing Prompts US to Triple Drug Stockpile

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-03-02-Bahamas Bird Flu Testing Prompts US to Triple Drug Stockpile

The U.S. more than tripled its national flu medication stockpiles as the Bahamas, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Florida, tested whether dead birds found there carried the Western Hemisphere's first cases of avian influenza.

The U.S. government yesterday ordered 12.4 million courses of the flu treatment Tamiflu from Roche Holding AG and 1.75 million of Relenza from GlaxoSmithKline Plc, raising the country's National Strategic Stockpile to almost 20 million courses of treatment, the Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said.

China may have culled about 6,000 chickens on a farm in the southern province of Guangdong after as many died of an undetermined cause. China's Ministry of Agriculture ordered the farm, near the city of Guangzhou, to destroy all its remaining chickens while an investigation takes place, the Hong Kong-based newspaper Apple Daily reported today. The outbreak would be China's second in poultry since the beginning of February.

Bird flu has spread, most likely through the movement of migratory birds as winter ends, to at least 14 countries since the beginning of February. The H5N1 bird virus has been found in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Test results from the Bahamian birds may be ready in four days.

The virus has infected 174 people since late 2003, mainly through contact with birds. At least 94 of those patients have died, and researchers say if H5N1 gains the ability to spread quickly among people it could touch off a lethal, worldwide epidemic, or pandemic.

Health Concern

``The recent appearance of the virus in birds in a rapidly growing number of countries is of public health concern, as it expands opportunities for human exposures and infections to occur,'' the World Health Organization said on its Web site.

President George W. Bush's pandemic readiness plan calls for health officials to buy enough Tamiflu to treat one in four Americans, or about 75 million people.

Canadian food authorities quarantined the eight Quebec poultry farms that imported live ducks and hatching eggs from France, and collected samples from the farms for testing, the Canadian Press reported yesterday, citing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Canada has banned all live birds from France, the first European Union country to find bird flu, the Press said.

German health authorities last weekend found the body of a bird flu-infected cat on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where the country's first cases of the virus were detected. There is no evidence that bird flu infections in domestic cats aid the spread of H5N1 to humans, the WHO said.

An Indonesian boy hospitalized with bird flu symptoms died, doctors in Jakarta said yesterday.

Understanding Avian Influenza