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ICG Risk Blog - [ Threat of H5N1 avian flu pandemic rises to point that business must actively consider contingency plans ]

Threat of H5N1 avian flu pandemic rises to point that business must actively consider contingency plans


The threat of an avian flu H5N1 human-to-human outbreak - which holds the specter of a global pandemic - is now at a point that I submit that firms that do not address the potential impacts to their global supply chains are at a point between a near total supply chain interruption and fiduciary breach. This is cheap prose to firms that are struggling with financial and competitive demands and who can rightly retort that they are no different from the federal government in ignoring the rising warnings from WHO, CDC and others. The supply chain impacts, leave aside the death toll, are going to be stunning. I draw readers to a January 2005 two part series, Using SARS to predict H5N1 Avian Flu impacts on regional & global supply chains.

The tipping point could occur at any time but the forthcoming fall flu season could see the crossover from avian to human transmission as many of those falling prey to human flu chance to be in proximity with animals and birds with avian flu. Once genomic reassortment occurs in one or more doubly infected humans, the game is up for an unprepared globe. SARS was a cakewalk as a disease vector as it is actually hard to transmit in comparison to H5N1.

Hosted by wild birds, Influenza A (H5N1) was first isolated from birds in South Africa in 1961. The first know direct bird-to-human transmission occurred in 1997 in Hong Kong. "Infected birds shed virus in saliva, nasal secretions, and feces," thereby spreading among susceptible birds that come in contact. Most human H5N1 infections rise from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. The epizootic outbreak of H5N1 in Asia is not expected to diminish significantly and it is considered likely that H5N1 infection among birds "has become endemic to the region and that human infections will continue to occur."

No sustained human-to-human transmission of H5N1 has been identified, but the proximity of man to mammals and birds makes the possibility of genetic reassortment a rising case of when not if. Avian H5N1 or bird flu is especially fatal as it, along with SARS, burns, cancers, and other infections, results in an especially deadly pneumonia that causes a condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome in which the victim's lungs fill with fluid.

ProMED-mail, an international program for monitoring emerging diseases, carries a drumbeat of growing infection:

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) [virus infection] occurred among poultry in 8 countries in Asia (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Lao, South Korea, Thailand, and Viet Nam) during late 2003 and early 2004. At that time, more than 100 million birds either died from the disease or were culled. From 30 Dec 2003 to 17 Mar 2004, 12 confirmed human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) [virus infection] were reported in Thailand and 23 in Viet Nam, resulting in a total of 23 deaths.

Beginning in late June 2004... new lethal outbreaks of avian influenza A (H5N1) virus infection among poultry were reported by several countries in Asia: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia (first-time reports), Thailand, and Viet Nam. In late March 2005, state media in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) officially reported the country's first outbreak of avian influenza in poultry.

During August to October 2004, sporadic human cases of H5N1 were reported in Viet Nam and Thailand. Of particular note is one isolated instance of probable limited human-to-human transmission occurring in Thailand in September 2004. Since December 2004, a resurgence of poultry outbreaks and human cases have been reported in Viet Nam. On 2 Feb 2005, the first human case of avian influenza A H5N1 infection from Cambodia was reported. On 21 Jul 2005, the first laboratory-confirmed human case of avian influenza A H5N1 in Indonesia was reported.

As of 21 Jul 2005, there have been 109 human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) in Viet Nam (87), Thailand (17), Cambodia (4) and Indonesia (1) resulting in 55 deaths.

a government auditor and his 2 young daughters died suddenly [as] Indonesia's 1st casualties of avian influenza [in an upscale] California-style subdivision of bankers, businessmen and doctors... [also here] Most residents of the Villa Melati Mas [commuter] community on the western outskirts of Jakarta had paid little [attention] to reports of avian influenza, which has devastated poultry flocks across Indonesia during the last 2 years... Unlike the rural villages of Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, where other avian influenza deaths have occurred, there are no farmers or live chickens in Villa Melati Mas.

Part 2

Archive Number 20050724.2144
Published Date 24-JUL-2005

Latest Information on Avian influenza
ProMEDmail (running archive)

Bird Flu Deaths Sow Panic In Wealthy Jakarta Suburb
Officials Have Not Found Source of Outbreak
By Alan Sipress
Washington Post
July 25, 2005

China Has Not Shared Crucial Data On Bird Flu Outbreaks, Officials Say
By Alan Sipress
Washington Post
July 19, 2005

U.S. and other nations brace for bird flu
By Steve Mitchell
UPI Medical Correspondent
Published July 14, 2005

With New Clue to How SARS Kills, Scientists Work on Treatment
International Herald Tribune
July 14, 2005

Countries Hit by Bird Flu Have Little Medicine to Treat Humans
As Rich Nations Stock Up, Asians Unprepared for Pandemic
By Alan Sipress
Washington Post
July 6, 2005

Bird flu: An ill wind from the East
By David Isenberg
Asia Times
Jul 1, 2005

Bird Flu Drug Rendered Useless
Chinese Chickens Given Medication Made for Humans
By Alan Sipress
Washington Post
June 18, 2005

Gordon Housworth

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