Tuesday, October 18, 2005


The virus known as 'Spanish Flu' has been resurrected by the US as part of a bid to combat Bird Flu. "The 1918 virus was an entirely avian-like virus that adapted to humans," said Dr. Taubenberger. Scientists are studying it to find out what made it so deadly and comparing it to the way H5N1 is evolving may be the only chance to head off a world pandemic.

H1N1, named for the proteins on the outer skin, haemagglutinin and neuraminidase, hit American troops leaving for France in September 1918. From the 1st September to November ll, 1918, the American Force lost 35,000 men in battle. Starting from the same date through to April 1919, in Europe and America, the US Army lost nearly the same number to flu and pneumonia. The Navy lost over 4000 men in the last four months of 1918, nearly twice as many as the Germans had killed in the whole year. In Philadelphia, 7,500 people died in two weeks. There had been outbreaks in 1915, 1916 and 1917 but in France in 1917, horses also began dying of flu-like ailments.

In 1997 H5N1 appeared in Hong Kong. Authorities thought they had contained it, but 2005 sees H5N1 arrive in Europe. Already 64 people are dead but only after direct contact with infected birds. It, so far, has limited or no capability to pass human to human. No-one knows how many mutations it needs to become a global killer. In 1918 there was no jet travel but the virus spread world wide regardless and spread fast. It targeted young healthy people and killed quickly. Today we have a vast number of immune compromised people, AIDS sufferers who won't survive.

How many Australian scientist do we have working on virus vaccines?
How much of the 50 million dollars going to ASIO would be better used in training scientists to combat a greater threat than terrorists will ever be?

In 1918, there was no global health authority to collate data on the epidemic.
There are no exact figures for the deaths world-wide but it is believed to have killed 1 per cent of humanity.
The war on terrorism is nothing compared to this.
It's time the Government got serious about science.


Kelly & Sam Pilgrim-Byrne said...

Scary, scary stuff indeed. The Uni we work at in Perth has a world-renowned "expert" on the bird flu - she was deployed in Vietnam when it broke out there. Her unit has been warning the government for ages.

Today, it's hit Greece with the first case reported.

JahTeh said...

Last night they announced they're starting production of Relenza again in Victoria. An Australian discovery by Australian scientists.

River said...

Four years later and the governments still haven't done much more against our latest flu threat.