Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Post-Passover Plague?

Avian Flu Cases in Egypt Raise Alarms

That wouldn't be a post-Passover plague, now, would it?

An unusual pattern of avian flu cases in Egypt — almost all are in toddlers, all of whom have survived — has led some flu-tracking Web sites to speculate that dozens of silent cases are circulating there.

That would be an alarming development, but other experts, including those at the World Health Organization, say such fears are exaggerated...there is no evidence yet of asymptomatic avian flu cases or any significant mutation in the H5N1 virus.

“Right now, it’s all hot air,” said Dr. Robert G. Webster, a flu expert at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. “I hope to hell it’s not happening, because it would mean the virus is adapting to humans. But there’s not a shred of data.”

...An April 8 Reuters article from Cairo quoted a visiting W.H.O. expert saying his agency feared “something strange happening in Egypt” and would help the government test the blood of healthy people for antibodies this summer.

Antibodies to the flu would indicate they had recovered from silent infections.

But a W.H.O. spokesman said privately that the agency was just helping the Egyptians with a long-planned study and the article had “jumped the gun.”

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