Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bird Flu In Israel

Israel is experiencing its first real scare with the H5N1 virus:

Hundreds of poultry were found dead in a kibbutz in southern Israel raising fears of the first outbreak of deadly bird flu in the Jewish state.

"We have found hundreds of dead poultry and other sick birds on a kibbutz in the south of Israel, which makes us worried about the appearance of the bird flu virus," one agriculture ministry official told AFP.

"The initial tests indicated it was bird flu although these were not the final results and everything is still being tested in the laboratories", another official said.

Dozens of dead chickens were also found in communities close to the Ein Hashlosha kibbutz in the Negev desert east of the Gaza border, the website of the Haaretz daily reported.

Both the kibbutz and the adjacent communities were sealed off by the agricultural ministry, the website said.

Israel imposed a ban on all meat imports from the Gaza Strip on February 17 following the discovery of the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus in Egypt.

This continues to emphasize the importance of state and local governments' preparedness for the arrival of the flu virus.

If there is a poor response to the arrival of the Bird Flu in America, the blame will fall squarely on the shoulders of these local governments, especially given the HHS's release of a comprehensive update on Avian Flu preparedness:
Antivirals are drugs that lessen the impacts of flu. There are currently two FDA-approved antivirals that have shown effectiveness against the H5N1 virus, Tamiflu, and Relenza. Both must be taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. (Note that there are two other approved flu antivirals, but CDC studies show H5N1 to be resistant to them.)

We are building a national stockpile of these two antivirals. The immediate goal is to stockpile enough antivirals to treat 20 million people. The longer- term goal is to be able to treat 75 million people, or 25 percent of the U.S. population. Achieving this goal depends on future pandemic flu appropriations, manufacturing capacity and participation by the states.Because Tamiflu is also approved for prevention, treatment for an additional 6 million people is also being stockpiled. This will be used in an effort to help contain a first outbreak of potential-pandemic influenza. The concept is to blanket the area of the initial outbreak, giving Tamiflu to as many people as possible to prevent the flu’s spread before it gets out of control. In March, HHS purchased more than 14 million courses of Tamiflu and Relenza, which will increase the national inventory to nearly 20 million courses. The total targeted stockpile is 81 million courses by the end of 2008. HHS will purchase 50 million out right and subsidize (by 25 percent) the states’ purchase of 31 million courses. (A course is the number of doses needed to treat one person – ten capsules in the case of Tamiflu.)

Antivirals will be distributed among the states and territories on a per-capita basis. FDA is monitoring Tamiflu shipments to identify potential counterfeits, and is actively investigating companies selling fraudulent, unapproved influenza products.

It is crucial that local governments heed the warnings and get down to business. Stockpiling Tamiflu is a necessary step in getting ready for the arrival of the H5N1 virus in America, and local governments must recognize this if we are to have an effective response.