At the moment there is quite a lot of concern over bird flu in my part of Japan, Miyazaki. The wholse story can be read here.
Obviously us foreigners are concerned about the whole bird flu thing too, but a certain member of the JET community decided to post a letter (the contents is in bold below) on the ken-list (a message board for foreigners in Miyazaki).
The letter provoked me to reply and I had written out my reply when I remembered the wise words of Benjamin Franklin.
Any thing started in anger ends in shame
So instead of shame myself on the Ken-list, here is my reply in full to the post.
Do you know that 'bird flu' was discovered in Vietnam 9 years ago?
Do you know that barely 100 people have died in the whole world in all that time?
So the Hong Kong flu epidemic in 1968 (http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/avianflu/timeline.html ) which killed 700,000 people was attributed to a strain of avian flu, which means this document was written in 1977 and the author had an aversion for the number 7 and any zeros which followed a comma.
Of course this could just be a mistake which has arisen from the term Avian Flu now meaning the one strain of avian flu which was discovered in a human in 1997 (indeed 10 years ago), H5N1.
Which makes sense, because it would be idiotic to believe that birds, sorry the species termed as Avian, a vertebrate class with upward of 8,800 members, never caught influenza before.
And only 100 deaths, nice round number, sure it was 107? OK, well if its only 100 deaths in 9 years, about ten people a year then that's just fine. But, before you start tounge kissing the first rooster you see in celebration lets see if that is true.
In January 06 deaths numbered under 100, phew, we can all relax and get back to fondling that rooster… oh but wait, in January 2007 deaths number over 150, stone-me-crows guvna! That's almost a 60% increase over the last year of the total accumulated deaths in the previous 9. (http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/country/en/ )
OK so its worse then we thought, hopefully though there are some drugs we can take to help us from not dying.
Do you know that it was the American government who alerted us to the efficacy of the human antiviral TAMIFLU as a preventative?
Do you know that TAMIFLU barely alleviates some symptoms of the common flu?
Oh bugger me, we’re doomed! But, wait a moment! TAMIFLU is a preventative drug not a ‘cure’ for Influenza A. So the fact that it doesn’t tackle the symptoms of Influenza A is neither here nor there.
My concern is whether it will stop me from contracting avian flu if I came into contact with a carrier of H5N1. Well, would it?
Ignoring the adaptive nature and tenacity of a virus such as influenza, even human influenza drugs have to be constantly monitored to ensure their effectiveness against the same strains as those strains adapt to become resilient to the drugs. Lets ignore that and ask whether TAMIFLU does what it says on the box and prevents a user becoming diseased with FLU A or B.
According to The U.S. National Library of Medicine that is exactly what is does (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/uspdi/500062.html ). Exactly what it says on the tin, it does prevent.
But back to the fourth question, I would answer, show me a antiviral drug that stops all the symptoms of flu for a person suffering flu and I will eat my hat… it's the flu, its not a cut finger, theres no plaster for the flu.
Do you know that its efficacy against the common flu is questioned by a great part of the scientific community?
Do you know that against a SUPPOSED mutant virus such as H5N1,
TAMIFLU barely alleviates the illness?
The desired result of Tamiflu is that it prevents a person getting flu, but I think that the author of these questions thinks that it actually cure the flu, bless his cotton socks and woolly little mind.
As for alleviating the illness caused by H5N1, a dramatically more aggressive strain of human flu which causes respiratory problems and pneumonia, well we established already that its an antiviral drug not equipped or designed to cure disease.
Why is SUPPOSED capitalised or even in the sentence at all? Does the author suppose that H5N1 isn’t in fact a mutation of more common and less pathogenic strains of influenza? What is he trying to stress here? Anyway…moving along, he has more questions and I’m eager not to answer any of them, lets proceed.
Do you know that to date Avian Flu affects birds only?
Do you know who markets TAMIFLU?
Avian flu only affects birds, that's amazing, and that must be why they call it avian flu, scientist are so damned clever.
However, theres a process called reassortment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reassortment ) which means that a virus, such as flu can adopt the properties of avian flu and human flu and then become transferable between the two species. Eeek, just when I had bought myself and the rooster tickets for the oprah.
Ok, next question… is it Roche Labs? It is… do I win a prize?
No? You suck!
Do you know who bought the patent for TAMIFLU from ROCHE LABORATORIES in 1996?
Do you know who was the then president of GILEAD SCIENCES INC. and remains a major shareholder?
Donald Rumpsfeld, former secretary of defense in the USA, please get to the point.
Do you know that the base of TAMIFLU is crushed aniseed?
Do you know who controls 90% of the world's production of this tree?
Ummm… Roche. I’m just guessing but in my mind, and logic or common sense aren’t my strong suite, but bare with me, in my mind selling a patent for a drug with a base ingridient of aniseed to a company who own a whole heap of aniseed is a stroke of genius.
Do you know that sales of TAMIFLU were over $254 million in 2004 and more than $1000 million in 2005?
Do you know how many more millions ROCHE can earn in the coming months if the business of fear continues?
George W. Bush bought 1 billion USD worth in 2005, so you’re telling me apart from old Georgie boy there were no other sales of TAMIFLU… oh! I see what you’re trying to get at, it's a conspiracy, those sneaky sons of bitches.
‘The business of fear’, I would argue that fear isn’t a business, my friend, its an art-form. But I see your point (not exactly subtle are you chap), however before I go burn some stripes and banners, call ol’Rooster back up and start tongue tickling the silk voiced crooner (the guy just gets me up in the morning, if you know what I mean). Lets examine some facts.
Roche has sold subpatents to several other drug manufacturers. India is producing Oseltamivir (the actual name of TAMIFLU, TAMIFLU being a brand name) (http://english.people.com.cn/200606/13/eng20060613_273717.html ). Granted, they still get there cut but that's business. Take it up with whoever deals with monopolies. Oh wait, the Philipine government already have and they are obviously not alone as Thailand, where Oseltamivir was not patented by Roche are now selling generic versions of the drug, and probably making a handsome sum for their selves.
I guess the governments of these countries are taking the threat of avian flu seriously, a disease that kilss about 60 people in a year and leads to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of livestock has the affect of making people sit up and pay attention. Throw in the fact that its transmutable to humans.
So… shouldn’t we be precautions, my mother always said prevention is better than cure.
So the summary of the story is as follows:
Bush's friends decide that the medicine TAMIFLU is the solution for a pandemic that has not yet occurred and that has caused a hundred deaths worldwide in 9 years.
OK, so its significantly more than 100 RECORDED deaths (notice how I’m capitalizing my words, no explaination needed I hope) and the death rate has seen a significant increase in just one year. That's ignoring the serious illnesses caused by avian flu.
This medicine doesn't so much as cure the common flu.
Nothing cures flu, you’re an idiot.
In normal conditions the virus does not affect humans.
Wow… are we talking ‘normal’ as in conditions where fresh water fowl, the number one carrier of avian flu (all types, not just the ‘SUPPOSED mutant’ that is H5N1), don’t evidently migrate and spread the disease where ever. And where farmers don’t come into contact with their own poultry and where influenza isn’t a virus capable of mutation (or is it ‘MUTATION’?) and capable of crossing species barriers? Is it that the ‘normal’ we are talking about? Because if it is I have some oprah tickets to bid for on eBay.
Rumsfeld sells the patent for TAMIFLU to ROCHE for which they pay him a fortune.
Roche acquires 90% of the global production of crushed aniseed, the base for the antivirus.
The governments of the entire world threaten a pandemic and then buy industrial quantities of the product from Roche.
No one threatened me. I don’t feel threatened. I’ve been warned, I’ve been educated upon the dangers of, but no one threatened me.
So we end up paying for medicine while Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush do the business.
Do the business? Are they seeing roosters as well? Oh! You mean they screw us over. Those sneaky sons of bitches. Boy, that makes me so mad!
They’ve made up some disease, and then they make some ‘medicine’ for said ‘disease’ and they expect everyone to buy it from one company which is making the shareholders of this other company really rich.
And only 160 odd people in rubbish third world countries have died (reportedly) from a ‘SUPPOSED mutant’ virus which can not be caught by humans.
Well, they must take us for fools.
ARE WE CRAZY, or just gullible?!
WE, my friend are crazy, yes! As daft as a coconut, and YOU, you are the only sane person in a world full of lunacy.
Thank god, that you can phrase poorly researched ‘facts’ into hypothetical questions that patronize and condescend to your audience. That's the way to get people on your side and to topple evil, conspiring and conniving governments.
We must be gullible because without one reference we’ve read from the top of your diatribe to the bottom in some vain hope that you were going to say something worth reading.
The fact that TAMIFLU does prevent influenza has been recorded in clinical studies, which however do show that they are becoming less and less affective, because viruses adapt, meaning that at some point the drug will be useless and a new drug will be needed. Companies are looking into making these vaccines now.
But that doesn’t change the fact the H5N1 has killed people, and was contracted through contact with birds, and birds fly, and viruses mutate and the nature of this virus isn’t known. A cure doesn’t exsist and history shows cases where flu has killed hundreds of thousands.
We would be crazy not to be cautious.
But that is just my opinion and I probably no about as much as the YOU about the subject.
Please excuse me, I have to break it off with this bird.