Dec 23, 2013

A cluster of flu-like illness with cytokine storm activity in Texas is being called a “swine flu outbreak”, but honestly, I don’t think it’s strictly H1N1 that’s making these people sick. My first clue was that tests on many of the victims have been either inconclusive or negative for H1N1.

At first, flu tests were inconclusive. “The second time they checked him, he came back positive for Influenza A, Influenza B,” Wright said. Dustin suffered kidney failure, which has been associated with severe cases of H1N1 Type A, or swine flu. He had no known underlying medical conditions.

His case has many similarities to cases in Montgomery County that puzzled doctors this week. Of eight cases in that county, four patients have died.

Wednesday afternoon, Montgomery County health officials said one surviving patient tested positive for H1N1. Two other surviving patients tested negative for H1N1 and results are still pending for the fourth.  

“So what we’re doing now is we’re retesting those patients who tested negative from the private lab,” Montgomery County Medical Director Dr. Mark Escott said. “And those samples will be sent to the state and the CDC for confirmation testing.”

The illnesses started with flu-like symptoms, then progressed to pneumonia and, in some cases, organ failure. They all initially tested negative for the flu.

Now, why would I think that this could be H7N9? Well, why would Sugar Land, TX be concerned about it?

Avian Bird Flu H7N9

The City of Sugar Land would like to ensure that all residents are staying informed about the H7N9 Influenza Virus.

While there are no reported cases of H7N9 in the United States or anywhere else outside of China, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking standard pandemic preparedness precautions, including beginning to develop a candidate vaccine virus to produce an H7N9 vaccine should it become necessary.

About H7N9

  • The first human infections with H7N9 were reported at the end of March.
  • A few of the infected people in China have had mild illness, but most of illness associated with these infections has been severe so far.
  • The H7N9 virus is a novel influenza virus with pandemic potential, the situation in China is being carefully investigated.
  • Many of the human cases of H7N9 are reported to have had contact with poultry; however, some cases reportedly have not had such contact.
  • At this time, other than advice for travelers or ill persons, CDC is not making any additional or special recommendations for U.S. public action specific to H7N9.

The City of Sugar Land will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

That was in April, at the beginning of the outbreak in China. Also in April, Baylor scientist Pedro Piedra stated:

While many medical professionals are urging calm, there is still a lingering concern that, because this new strain of bird flu is somewhat different from those identified in the past, there are still many unknowns about the infection. “We do see something similar every few years with avian [bird] flu,” Richard Webby, who works out of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in the field of infectious diseases, explains. “What’s making everyone a little bit more uneasy is that, looking at the  sequence of the virus, it appears to have some mutations we think may indicate that the virus might have increased its ability to replicate in humans.”

Dr. Webby, like other health officials, is still quick to mention that there is no current evidence that H7N9 has the ability to pass from person to person, and that the strain would have to mutate in order to gain the ability to have that occur.

Which brings me to my second clue: the fact that the “mystery illness” in Texas has been reported to be resistant to antiviral medications such as Tamiflu. Well, guess what? H7N9 has already mutated enough to be resistant to antiviral medications:

Almost universally, flu viruses become less virulent when they become drug resistant. In becoming drug resistant, their ability to replicate and its effectiveness is usually considerably reduced.

This is not the case with H7N9. Patients suffering with H7N9 have been treated with Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and the virus has shown it is resistant in several patients. Normally this would improve the prognosis for the patient, but it hasn’t. Patients have still suffered a long duration of illness and poor clinical outcomes generally, with some patients still dying from the disease.

Nicole Bouvier M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said:

In this outbreak, we saw some differences in the behavior of H7N9 and other avian influenza strains that can infect humans, beginning with the rapid development of antiviral resistance in some people who were treated with oseltamivir and the persistence of high viral loads in those patients.”

But surprisingly, transmission of the drug-resistant virus was no less efficient than that of the drug-sensitive version. Many of the people infected with H7N9 during the outbreak in China were elderly or had other conditions that predisposed them to severe influenza illness,” observed Dr. Bouvier. “Nevertheless, our study suggests that flu viruses can indeed develop drug-resistant mutations without suffering a penalty in terms of their own fitness. (source)

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Saini has had their report published in Nature Communications. You can read the full report here.

The fact that the virus does not weaken once it develops resistance has caused grave concern amongst scientists. The speed and virulence with which H7N9 strikes have had doctors worried since the disease first surfaced in China just a few months ago.

Although the disease has been proven to pass from person to person it does not, at this point, do so easily. Scientists are concerned that should H7N9 infect a person who is suffering from seasonal, easily transmissible flu, that genetic reassortment will take place allowing the H7N9 virus to be easily passed from person to person.

With H7N9 developing drug resistance so fast, and with that drug resistance not altering the ‘fitness’ of the virus, the race is on to find something that will reduce its virulence.

By July, the microbiologists were saying that it could return with a vengeance in the fall, with human-to-human spread possible. Remember, all it takes is one plane ride with one carrier of this virus to bring H7N9 to Texas.

There’s good news and bad news out of China about the H7N9 avian flu strain that has caused more than 130 human infections and nearly 40 deaths so far this year. In the near term, it appears that the virus has been fairly successfully contained by control measures implemented in live poultry markets, with reports of new infections having eased substantially in recent months.

However, it’s not quite time to uncork the champagne yet. A new report published last week in the journal Science warns that “the character of the virus, including its pandemic potential, remains largely unknown,” that “one virus isolated from humans was highly transmissible in ferrets by respiratory droplets,” and concludes: “Our findings indicate nothing to reduce the concern that these viruses can transmit between humans.”

“H7N9 Influenza Viruses Are Transmissible in Ferrets by Respiratory Droplet” (Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1240532), was conducted and co-written by teams of scientists led by Dr. Hualan Chen, corresponding author, at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute’s State Key Laboratory of Veterinary Biotechnology at Harbin and the College of Veterinary Medicine, at Gansu Agricultural University in Lanzhou, China.

No cases of H7N9 outside of China have been reported and the new H7N9 virus has not been detected in people or birds in the United States.

The CDC also notes that the number of new cases detected after April fell abruptly, possibly resulting from containment measures taken by Chinese authorities such as closing live bird markets, or from the change in seasons, or a combination of both factors. Since avian influenza viruses have a seasonal pattern to them, the CDC warns that the incidence of H7N9 infections – in birds and people – may ramp up again when the weather turns cooler in China, and since limited person-to-person spread of bird flu is thought to have occurred rarely in the past, most notably with avian influenza A (H5N1), based on that previous experience, some limited human-to-human spread of this H7N9 virus would not be unlikely should the virus reemerge in the fall.

The major concern with H7N9 is its pandemic potential, the CDC warns, noting that influenza viruses constantly mutate, and it’s possible that this virus could become able to easily and sustainably spread among people, triggering a global outbreak of disease (pandemic).

Sure enough, in October:

More H7N9 cases in China: Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) People traveling to China should take health precautions as 10 more H7N9 avian flu cases have been reported there since October, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center said Tuesday. Center spokesman Chou Jih-haw said the 10 cases included three in Guangdong province, five in Zhejiang province and two in Hong Kong. There have been 142 confirmed cases of the H7N9 virus in China since the outbreak began at the end of March, he said. Of those patients, 47 have died.

A few days ago,  we heard rumors of a huge H7N9 outbreak in China. It was not reported on by the mainstream media, but pictures did leak:


Interestingly enough, most of the articles about this cluster and the new cases cropping up here and there across Texas have emphasized getting the flu shot, even though all of these cases tested negative initially. For those of you that believe that the pharmaceutical companies making these vaccines would never screw up or try to cover it up if they did: Don’t forget the Bayer incident, when a drug for hemophiliacs was tainted with HIV and was covered up and shipped out for sale anyway:

Or how about the time that Baxter International mistakenly sent batches of H5N1 (serious bird flu) in vaccine materials that were supposed to be H3N2 (regular flu), which would have sparked a pandemic of catastrophic proportions had it not been caught by an astute lab technician who tested it on ferrets.

Baxter International Inc. in Austria unintentionally contaminated samples with the bird flu virus that were used in laboratories in three neighboring countries, raising concern about the potential spread of the deadly disease.

The contamination was discovered when ferrets at a laboratory in the Czech Republic died after being inoculated with vaccine made from the samples early this month. The material came from Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter, which reported the incident to the Austrian Ministry of Health, Sigrid Rosenberger, a ministry spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview.

“This was infected with a bird flu virus,” Rosenberger said. “There were some people from the company who handled it.”

The material was intended for use in laboratories, and none of the lab workers have fallen ill. The incident is drawing scrutiny over the safety of research using the H5N1 bird flu strain that’s killed more than three-fifths of the people known to have caught the bug worldwide. Some scientists say the 1977 Russian flu, the most recent global outbreak, began when a virus escaped from a laboratory.

The virus material was supposed to contain a seasonal flu virus and was contaminated after “human error,” said Christopher Bona, a spokesman for Baxter, in a telephone interview.

And to top it all off, the Dutch have been messing with H7N9 in the lab to see what they can do to weaponize it!

But with China braced for scores more cases of a deadly new strain of H7N9 bird flu, Ron Fouchier and Ab Osterhaus say the benefits of this gene mutation research far outweigh the risks.

The experiments, designed to explore H7N9′s potential to develop drug resistance and find which genetic modifications might enhance its ability to spread, could offer the know-how to halt a lethal flu pandemic, they say.

That could be with well-timed new vaccines or other therapies tuned to the pandemic strain’s genes.

“We’re bracing for what’s going to happen next. If H7N9 becomes easily transmissible between humans, yes, the case fatality ratio may go down a little from where it is now, but we’d still be talking about millions of people dying,” says Osterhaus, the head of a highly bio-secure laboratory in the Netherlands which will lead some of the H7N9 mutation work.

“This is a critical question – what does this virus really need to become transmissible? It is of extreme importance to being able to understand what’s going on.”

So, along with being suspicious of the official diagnosis, we should be equally suspicious of the medical establishment’s so-called cures for them.