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Online Discussion: Tracking new emerging diseases and the next pandemic; Now tracking the Aussie Flu.

Thai senator suspects H5N1 coverup

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    Posted: July 17 2006 at 8:49pm

Thai senator suspects H5N1 coverup

Bird flu has returned, suspects senator
By Phoojadkarn Daily 17 July 2006 02:11
Outgoing Ubon Ratchathani senator Nirand Pitakwatchara said at the weekend that he believes bird flu has resurfaced in Thailand, but that state authorities have concealed the matter for political reasons.

Nirand, a former chairman of the senate committee on social development and human security, said it was most likely that the Agriculture Ministry, under Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, who was responsible for dealing with avian flu when she was Public Health Minister, has teamed up with the Public Health Ministry to cover up the reappearance of the disease to protect the Thai Rak Thai government.

“If bird flu has really come back, it means that all the government’s measures to prevent the disease have failed miserably,” said Nirand.

“It seems to me that the government’s previous actions were only meant to build up its image and gain political popularity,” he added.

The senator’s comments coincided with the disclosure by a livestock official who told a Phoojadkarn Daily reporter that bird flu has returned in Phichit and Phitsanulok provinces, killing poultry there in recent months.

Livestock officials have been told to keep their mouths shut as the news may affect the government’s stability and lead to a worsening of political and economic conditions, said the source, who asked not to be named.

RSOE HAVARIA Alert ~ Biologycal Hazard - Thailand
GLIDE CODE: BH-20060713-6770-THA
Biologycal Hazard - Thailand
Event date/time: 2006.07.13 - 18:35:37 Event: Biologycal Hazard
Location: Thailand

Thailand's Northeast is on alert for possible outbreaks of avian influenza after poultry were found dead from unknown causes in the region, regional officials said Thursday. However, the authorities stressed, no bird flu case has been confirmed. Regional Office of Animal Heath and Sanitation 3 director Suwudhi Chalejorn, who oversees the nine provinces in Thailand's northeast, said poultry found dead in five of seven provinces have already tested negative, but lab results are not yet available for nine dead birds from Surin and one from Yasothon. The poultry deaths alerted local animal husbandry officials to boost prevention measures against possible outbreaks of bird flu in all provinces under supervision of the regional office, he said. Dr. Samroeng Yaengkratok, head of Nakhon Ratchasima provincial public health office said that during the first six months of 2006 no patients in the northeast were reported as infected with bird flu. 


Ministry says it hasn't been covering up any outbreaks

Tuesday July 18, 2006


The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry yesterday denied vehemently it had been covering up fresh outbreaks of bird flu following reports of mass deaths of poultry over the past few weeks.

It could not possibly conceal such outbreaks because its bird flu surveillance and diagnostic operations were monitored closely by various agencies such as the World Organisation for Animal Health, said Charal Trinvuthipong, assistant to the agriculture and cooperatives minister.

Covering up bird flu outbreaks would also end up doing more harm than good to the country, he added.

Officials had conducted so-called "X-ray" bird flu surveillance tests nationwide from last month and about 53,000 fowl tissue samples tested negative for bird flu, Mr Charal said.

Mr Charal was responding to a pointed query from an outgoing senator, Nirun Phitakwatchara, a member of the Senate's panel on human development and social security, who suspected the ministry had been concealing the recurrence of bird flu after poultry deaths on a large scale were reported in many areas devastated by previous outbreaks.

The ministry was accused of mismanagement and covering up the disease when it first struck the country in early 2004.

About 61 million poultry died or were culled in the first outbreak. But H5N1 has not been detected in Thailand since November.

"Our ongoing active bird flu surveillance operations may have misled people into believing there have been bird flu outbreaks. It's true that the disease, which is now endemic to Thailand, may emerge again today or tomorrow. However, it is impossible for us to cover up outbreaks if they do occur," said Mr Charal.

The Livestock Development Department reported on Sunday that fowl died in huge numbers in 430 tambons in 50 provinces. The department's laboratory tests confirmed that 351 tambons were free of bird flu, while 79 tambons in 23 provinces were still awaiting test results.

Meanwhile, more chicken deaths were reported yesterday, including about 1,000 in Phichit and 300 in Phitsanulok provinces. The test results on the samples are due to be released next week.

Pornchai Chamnanpood, director of the department's National Institute of Animal Health, a focal point for diagnosing bird flu in animals, also dismissed the allegation that the institute was "ordered" to cover up bird flu detections.

He said the fowl deaths were caused by weather fluctuations and environmental changes, which had prompted some fungi and bacteria to grow more rapidly, devastating livestock. The lethal organisms had been found in some chicken carcasses.However, a high-level source at the department said about 10% of samples were unsuitable for diagnosis of H5N1. The bird flu virus could be elusive and impossible to detect in some cases.

Yukol Limlamthong, head of the Livestock Development Department, said that since the disease was already present in the country, the department did not rule out a possibility of a re-emergence of the virus. The department had been upgrading poultry farm management along with imposing strict controls on fowl movements and carrying out frequent disinfections of bird flu-risk areas as part of the bird flu prevention and surveillance scheme.

Seven provinces in Thailand placed on bird flu watch

 listPublished: Sunday, 16 July, 2006, 01:54 PM Doha Time
BANGKOK: Thailand has stepped up bird flu surveillance in seven provinces for the hot, monsoon season when the virus could re-emerge, a senior government official said yesterday.
“July is a risky month. Over the past two years the outbreak started this month,” Yukol Limlaemthong, head of the Livestock Department, said.
He said four northern provinces — Uttaradit, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok and Pichit — would be closely monitored for outbreaks of the H5N1 virus, which has killed 14 Thais since it emerged in late 2003.

“They are risky areas because of flooding and the rainy season. This situation is good for the virus to grow. We have not found the virus, but we want people to be alert,” Yukol said.

Three provinces where outbreaks have occured in the past two years — Suphan Buri and Kanchanaburi in the west and Nakhon Pathom near the capital, Bangkok — were also on the watch list.

Thailand was slow to respond to the disease when it began ravaging poultry flocks in late 2003, but it now has one of the strongest surveillance systems in the region.

Thailand has not had a human death since December 2005 and no new outbreaks among poultry for about 8 months.

However, a recent incident where Thai villagers ignored government warnings and handled and ate chickens that died mysteriously has raised fears that public vigilance against the disease is waning.

The global human death toll now stands at 132 after Indonesian officials said on Friday a three-year-old girl who died this month had tested positive for the virus.

Experts fear the avian influenza virus could spark a human pandemic if it mutates into a form that can pass easily among people.-Reuters 
A Pattern develops Nirun Phitakwatchara's acusations of a coverup were correct in 2004.

Thailand’s first case of bird flu was confirmed on Thursday as the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it feared the H5N1 strain was spreading across Asia.

A Thai senator said a child from Thailand’s Suphan Buri province had tested positive, after the government admitted three people were being tested for the fatal disease.

Senator Nirun Phitakwatchara accused Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s office of covering up the outbreak of the disease, after repeatedly denying bird flu had hit Thailand.

"All the academics and experts have had to shut up due to political interference. As a matter of fact they realised that the outbreak had occurred since last November," he said.

Thailand’s announcement came as Bod Dietz, the UN health agency's spokesman in Vietnam, said there were "mounting opportunities" for the virus to mutate.

"We see this as an issue of growing concern that more countries have H5N1 infections among poultry stock," Mr Dietz said.

"Although we have seen no evidence of human-to-human transmission, the next step would be for that to occur.

"It is impossible to predict a time or date for this but there are mounting opportunities for the virus to alter its form and begin affecting the human population," he said.

Meanwhile, the WHO said on Thursday a prototype vaccine to protect humans from the avian influenza could be ready for clinical testing shortly.

It said "a prototype virus could be made available to vaccine manufacturing companies within about four weeks," but that it would take several steps before the vaccine could be ready for use in humans.

Thailand 'covered up' bird flu,,2-10-1462_1472838,00.html

01/22/2004 10:35  - (SA)  

Bangkok - Thailand's first case of bird flu has been confirmed in a seven-year-old boy, a senator said Thursday, accusing the government of a cover-up after it repeatedly denied the deadly disease had reached the kingdom.

"The case in Suphan Buri (province) has tested positive, that is for sure," said Senator Nirun Phitakwatchara, who is also chairman of the parliament's Social Development and Human Security committee.

He accused the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of lying about the outbreak of the deadly disease in order to protect its valuable poultry industry.

"All the academics and experts have had to shut up due to political interference. As a matter of fact, they realised that the outbreak had occurred since last November," he told reporters.

Nirun urged the government to come clean with the public and admit that the outbreak of "fowl cholera and bronchitis" it is fighting is in fact avian influenza.

Thaksin denied a cover-up, and said it would take several days to confirm the status of the boy in Suphan Buri and two other suspected sufferers who the health minister admitted on Wednesday were being tested for the disease.

"The government is not covering anything up, but the early tests did not detect this virus at all. The government would tell the truth if it was," he said, referring to the three suspected cases.

Nirun said the infected boy was in a serious condition in hospital. The second patient, a chicken butcher from Nakhon Sawan province, needed further testing. He said he had no information on the third suspected sufferer.

"They are in a risk group because they have symptoms of severe pneumonia, they had direct contact with chickens, and all are in affected areas," he said.

Nirun said that the outbreak of chicken disease in five Thai provinces was undoubtedly not fowl cholera and bronchitis but instead the avian influenza that has already hit Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan this year.

In the morning the chickens are fine

"This is definitely bird flu because in the morning the chickens are fine but they die suddenly in the afternoon," he said.

The senator said the cull was ineffective because it was not being monitored closely or carried out using proper sanitary techniques.

Thaksin admitted that some of the farmers in affected areas had sent their chickens to market despite being ordered to carry out a cull and being paid for their losses.

"The problem is that the poultry farmers wanted to take the compensation but did not want to kill their chickens, which led to calamity," the premier said.

The World Health Organization is concerned the H5N1 strain of bird flu was spreading across Asia and providing "mounting opportunities" for the virus to mutate into a far more lethal form.

"Although we have seen no evidence of human-to-human transmission the next step would be for that to occur," said Bob Dietz, the UN health agency's spokesperson in Vietnam.

Interesting background of Nirun Phitakwatchara... I like this man!

Economy of the People, For the People and By the People!
Put Economic Power in the Hands of the People!

Moralists of the world - unite!

People such as senator Nirun Phitakwatchara, one of the leaders of the 1973 Thai student uprising, were positively alarmed. "It's as if we're living in the climate of military rule decades ago," he said. In an editorial, the English-language daily The Nation described Ruengroj as "the wrong man at the wrong place at the wrong time".

Those with long memories readily expressed their fears of radicalization. Pithaya Wongkul, chairman of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, stressed that "the best way out is for the prime minister to dissolve the house and call for a general election to avoid bloodshed - as happened in October 14, 1973 and May 17, 1992." Chaianant Samudvanija, director of Varijavudh College, added that "people are afraid Thaksin will have absolute control over the military, the house and even the senate."

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 17 2006 at 8:51pm
Hmmm, now why am I not surprised?
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July 17, 2006

EU extends poultry ban; possible vaccine renews hopes

The European Commission has decided to extend a ban on imports of fresh poultry meat from Thailand.

The ban had been scheduled to expire at the end of the month, but has now been extended to December 31, 2006. Ban on poultry imports was also extended for China, Malaysia and Turkey. One reason for the ban not being lifted was that Thailand has not yet declared itself free of bird flu though there have been no new cases for 120 consecutive days, the time span decided on by the World Organization for Animal Health as the minimum period to allow a country to declare itself protected from the virus. Panya Chotitawan, chairman of Saha Farms Co, one of the country's largest poultry exporters, said the ban was unjust. He suggested that the government should invite EU officials to observe the situation in Thailand and persuade them to reconsider the ban.

Meanwhile, Baxter International Inc. has announced the initiation of Phase I and II clinical trials of the company's vero-cell based
H5N1 pandemic influenza vaccine. The study is being conducted on healthy adults in Austria and Singapore using the fully inactivated wild-type H5N1 strain A/Vietnam/1203/2004. Four different antigen concentrations are being tested. Baxter’s goal is to produce a safe and efficacious pandemic vaccine. The company hopes that the study will provide critical data concerning the vaccine dosage required to induce protective immune responses. Preclinical studies in animal models have shown very good cross-protection to date, and the company expects to confirm this in human trials. Baxter is developing both seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccines using vero-cell technology. This proprietary technology is capable of significantly reducing production time compared to traditional vaccine production methods
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Regional news
Innovation does not grow on trees

The Year of the Dog, 2006, could go down as the ''Year of Missed Opportunities'' for Thailand.

Recent meetings between American business interests and the Thai Board of Trade painted a grim picture for the stalled Thailand-US free trade agreement (FTA) talks. American legislators reportedly seem to have lost interest in Thailand.

Other FTA negotiations are under way between the US and various competitors in the region, such as Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia. Moreover, preparations are now focused on Vietnam's upcoming accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The stakes could not be more important. Thailand could lose a significant competitive trade advantage with the US in months to come because the country may no longer qualify for the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme of tariff reductions provided to developing countries.

With no FTA and the GSP in jeopardy, Thailand, once poised to be the regional hub for exports for so many products, could be facing a hopeless disadvantage with other Southeast Asian countries that will have FTAs and GSP benefits, and that trade in the same categories of goods and services.

This disadvantage has provoked panic in a number of industries, most notably Thailand's textile and garment sector, which is dependent on the FTAs with the US and Japan, representing 58% of the Kingdom's garment export market, for its very survival.

This could represent one of the biggest economic reversals of fortune experienced by any country in many decades. Economics aside, there will be real impacts on the quality of life of many Thais.

From the standpoint of health care, for example, no country can go it alone in protecting its citizens from the effects of new, evolving diseases. Health-care solutions for the next generation of disease must involve co-operation between the public sector, health-care providers, research and development centres, drug manufactures (innovators and generics), as well as non-government organisations.

Recent headlines in Thailand justifiably express concern for the human spread of the H5N1 bird-flu virus, Dengue fever outbreaks in Lat Phrao, and even more worrisome, threats of a new HIV subtype, stemming from the local subtype E and the foreign subtype C, reported at Siriraj Hospital. These headlines underline the fact that disease is not static, disease evolves.

In order to stay ahead of the evolution of such diseases, research and innovation is needed. Unfortunately, research and innovation are not free. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but history demonstrates that the patent system is the midwife.

Patents perform an essential role in stimulating the development of essential drugs, including HIV/Aids drugs, by offering incentives for investing in expensive and long-term research and development of new drugs. Without patents, existing HIV/Aids drugs would not have been produced, and new and better drugs needed to overcome the increasing resistance of the Aids virus would not be developed.

Merck's new cervical cancer vaccine, produced as a result of research in Australia, would not be available to prevent HPV and cervical cancer in females without the funds needed to support such research.

The question of how to assure long-term access to innovative drugs is often ignored in favour of arguments addressing only immediate access to affordable drugs. The question we should be asking is: where will the next-generation drugs come from?

It is difficult for observers to distinguish between the dry facts and the emotional (and manufactured) hype surrounding the relationship between patents and pharmaceuticals. The issue is usually presented as an ''either/or'' scenario: either we have patents or we have access, we cannot have both.

In fact, the scenario is exactly the opposite: patents provide a balance between incentives for future innovation and research and access to the fruits of that research. The alternative to a patent is trade secret, and trade secret presents the opportunity for a monopoly that is perpetual, rather than the 20 years given to a patent owner to recover the costs of his/her investment.

One fact that is often overlooked is that many essential medicines are not patented at all, such that any improvements to the patent system in Thailand can have no effect on prices of drugs that have already been introduced into the market. Only 17 of 319 products on the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Model List of Essential Medicines are patentable (usually not actually patented).

Any FTA involving patented medicines will only have prospective, and not retroactive effect, on pricing and that effect on Thailand will be economically negligible. The fact is that the Internal Trade Department is tasked with the responsibility of setting price controls on all medicines in the Thai market. Moreover, few know that there is a 10% duty generally imposed on imported medicines. If price is the issue, why not remove the 10% duty, which would have an immediate and beneficial impact on drug process for all Thais?

Objective economic data from various FTAs between the US and other countries (e.g., Jordan, Singapore, Australia) establish that FTAs profit both countries by greatly increasing the amount of investment in the foreign economy.

More free trade is better than less free trade. A rising tide lifts all boats. If the country is left on the sidelines, Thailand's loss in agricultural and seafood exports, garments and textiles, clinical research and electronics, will be its neighbours' collective gain.

Did anyone notice that Intel invested US$300 million in a 1,200-employee chip plant in Vietnam's Saigon Hi-Tech Park in February? Is this the trend for the future? Can we really afford to miss this chance?

Written by Vipa Chuenjaipanich and Edward Kelly of Tilleke & Gibbins International Ltd. Please send comments and suggestions to Marilyn Tinnakul at marilyn

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Thu, July 20, 2006 : Last updated 22:52 pm (Thai local time)

Suphan Buri given 'emergency' status

Local livestock office considers province at risk of becoming centre for epidemic

Suphan Buri, one of the areas worst hit by avian-flu outbreaks, was finally declared an "emergency disaster area" yesterday.

The declaration followed a recommendation by the provincial livestock office that the province should be considered as a "suspected avian flu epidemic area", the province's governor said.

Songphol Thimasart said the livestock office had been monitoring an unusual rise in the number of farm-raised chickens dying in different areas around the province and suspected the deaths to have been caused by bird flu.

Under this status, Songphol said, the province would be able to seek emergency funding in advance in case of future compensation payments tofarmers to mitigate the impact of their birds dying or being culled.

This kind of compensation could only be made if the province is considered an "emergency disaster area" as a result of being a suspected avian flu epidemic area, Songphol said.

It was reported last week that about 200 chickens in the province's Muang district had died en masse, with livestock authorities taking some of the dead birds for testing to see whether the H5N1 virus was the cause of death.

The official test results have not yet been revealed, while reports of chick deaths possibly caused by bird flu had sprung up at various locations in the district.

A poultry farmer, who asked to remain nameless, in Song Phi Nong district said that from his experience with bird flu he thought that the 200 chickens had died from the virus.

"I was glad to see the province make this clear announcement [of it being an emergency disaster area] so that people here are aware and can prepare themselves," he said.

Meanwhile, in Phichit province, two young girls, aged three and four, were added to the watch-list of suspected human cases of bird flu yesterday after they were admitted to hospital with high fever, coughing and severe breathing difficulties.

Lab test results to determine if they have contracted the lethal virus are expected today.

The two girls, who reportedly fell ill in a community in Taphan Hin district where chickens have been dying, were being treated in an isolation ward pending their test results.

These two new cases brought the total number of suspected human bird-flu cases in the province to seven.

The other five cases are three children aged between three and five and two adults, one 57 and the other 72.

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