"Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians"An article to his fellow vets in the Veterinary Times, March 2006, by Bob Michell, BVetMed BSc PhD DSc MRCVS, Former President of the RCVS
Rapid Diagnosis RT PCR - " a transforming moment"
" ...the means to eradicate and control these diseases are now available ... ..." Read in full
Warmwell.com Archive ~ Bird Flu pages Contact the site How FMD crisis was turned into a disaster - Scotsman, TimesPlease use F5 button to refresh the page RPA latest bovine TB Harriet - latest --------------------------------
Archive March 2006
March 31 2006 ~ "a great deal of uncertainty about the origins of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and transmission risk in humans."
A review of the study by Dr Martin Jeffrey quoted below . Extract: Prion Theory of Mad Cow Disease Called Full of Holes at www.medpagetoday.com
"....Although people with a specific genetic mutation are thought to be less susceptible than others to infection with vCJD because their digestive systems degrade the infectious prion protein, experiments in sheep indicate that prion protein is taken up equally in the gut by animals with ostensibly protective, neutral, or susceptible mutations in the same gene. ...... "This clearly shows that resistance is not achieved by blocking uptake of abnormal proteins from the gut," said Dr. Jeffrey. "It must be achieved by some other mechanism."In view of such new studies, one wonders what the widely detested National Scrapie Plan is achieving.
The Countess of Mar (see below) has often voiced concern about the "scientific" advice being given to the government. In the debate on March 7th she warned about both the unscientific nature and the over-prescription of the government's TSE regulations. The TSE Regulations of 2002 were, in the first place, "based on the widespread assumption that a rogue isoform of a protein designated PrPcalled prion protein by somecauses TSEs. That hypothesis is unsupported by rigorous analysis and substantial data contradict it."
It looks as though the government will at last have to take note.
March 31 2006 ~"... perhaps by making them beautiful he is constructing a fitting memorial to the millions of animals slaughtered in this tragedy."
Chris Chapman has sent a review of the exhibition ( which has been extended until the end of April) of the response of five photographers and an artist to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 in Britain. As participants at the recent Manchester Conference (Cultural Documents of FMD) said, the inclusion of art, poetry, photography and social science - far from being a distraction from the veterinary, technological and scientific input - served to remind people of the emotional impact of the 2001 catastrophe. The review ends:
"....finally there are Clive Landen's extraordinary monumental and darkly beautiful photographs, confusing us that so much death can also have such beauty..but perhaps by making them beautiful he is constructing a fitting memorial to the millions of animals slaughtered in this tragedy. You're unlikely to see any more powerful photography in Manchester for a long time."Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University - until 31st April 2006. (More on Chris Chapman's work )
March 30 2006 ~ " I don't feel like we have lost, because so many people come up to me when I go into town and shake my hand or give me a hug..."
Sheilagh Kremers' letter of thanks for the widespread support and loving concern she has received from those appalled by the present bovine TB policy. Even though at present "he is still with us" she dreads Fern's killing. This is of no concern to those for whom slaughter happens only on paper.
".... If I wanted to sell him, I would ask market value, but I dont want him to go. I cannot replace him, because of his breeding, but that does not seem to make a difference to DEFRA. So now they are going to appoint a rics valuer. They will be at my gate again soon. . .."(Below the letter is the chronology of Mrs Kremers' fight)
March 30 2006 ~ "scientists have struggled to make sense of how an abnormal variation of a normal protein can trigger an infectious disease..."
Journalists this week have rushed to copy headlines of the "Silent killer vCJD is more widespread than thought..." variety (see below). Scare stories about the "timebomb" disease rarely do much to emphasise the speculative nature of scientists' pronouncements. ( The Sun announced boldly "14,000 'infected' with CJD".)
Yet all sensational value would disappear were it not for the widespread - and unproved - assertion that eating BSE can cause vCJD because of an infectious " rogue prion".
New evidence publicised today is at least challenging the prion theory.
"Since the outbreak of BSE in cattle and vCJD in humans, scientists have struggled to make sense of how an abnormal variation of a normal protein can trigger an infectious disease. Some are questioning whether this simple relationship exists at all. This paper adds new evidence that can inform the debate..." MoreSome heretics of the rogue prion theory consider that the very name "Transmissible" is absurd when so little hard evidence exists to suggest that Spongiform Encephalopathies are infectious at all. As Magnus Linklater says, "There is money to be lost and reputations to be damaged if the bottom drops out of the prion creed" Unfortunately, far more has been already lost because of it - swathes of regulation, trade wars costing billions, the infamous National Scrapie Plan - and the untimely deaths of millions of harmless animals. If "TSE" is shown to be a misnomer, the political fallout will be incalculable. For this reason, heretics tend to get their funding removed and their names discredited.
March 30 2006 ~ Review of Illegal Meat Trade in the UK
The illegal meat trade is now the third largest illegal trade in the UK, one worth an estimated #1 billion a year. So much of vital national and international importance is connected to the illegal meat trade issue: the spread of viruses and zoonoses - including Ebola, the threat to public health through the spread of "dirty meat", the constant risk of infection to livestock, secret and inhumane slaughtering, exploitation of Third World wild animals and habitats.
Central authorities, usually so eager to impose their blanket regulations on the law-abiding, appear to show little enthusiasm for devoting resources to stopping and prosecuting those involved in the illegal trade. It is well known that criminal gangs involved will stop at nothing to protect their source of easy millions.
A courageous fighter on our behalf, Dr Yunes Teinaz, will be speaking on the Illegal Meat Trade and food safety at the North East Region Annual Symposium, Britannia Hotel, Newcastle Airport - 5th to 7th April 2006. Dr Teinaz was recently quoted in the Observer
'In one of the biggest cases I was involved with, in which we had seized 250 rotten sheep carcasses and 100 sheep heads, the criminals ended up with a #250 fine and 140 hours of community service. I got my car clamped on the same day and it cost me nearly as much,'See also Simon Hoggart's recent comment in the Guardian "Doomed".
March 29 2006 ~ The Orkney AI scare "Just how long it took to get the samples to the appropriate laboratory is not disclosed..."
Essential reading for anyone interested in Exercise Hawthorn - or indeed in the ability of the Government to respond to any kind of crisis involving pathogens - is James Irvine's article yesterday on www.land-care.org.uk about the Orkney scare: "Putting the contingency plan into operation - but with the same mistakes, yet again" Extract:
" ... the problem of getting the samples from the dead poultry off the island...the officials allegedly tried to take them into the cabin of a scheduled Loganair flight, only to be refused under dangerous substances legislation...."As James Irvine points out, this has happened before when DEFRA attempted to send samples from Perthshire to a laboratory in England by plane - yet, as we have been saying on warmwell now ad nauseam for five years - if the available (since 2001) rapid, on farm diagnostic tests were being used, this sort of thing, described by the farmer concerned as "the biggest cock-up I have heard in my life" would simply not arise.
James Irvine goes on to address the vaccination question:
" the UK government can claim that it complies with the EC directives on the matter. They are only required to think about the use of vaccination when an outbreak occurs.The UK government can say that it has thought about it and dismissed it. ...Some advanced and constructive thinking (i.e. better forward planning), better use of modern technology and of course better communication with its own staff and with others would be in order."Dr Irvine's clear and exasperated article should be read in full.
March 29 2006 ~ DEFRA is keeping its plans for Exercise Hawthorn "under wraps"
"The aim of Exercise Hawthorn is to review, check and update the government's current contingency plans for a national outbreak of bird flu," says DEFRA. No report on the exercise will be published until "the Summer", following a debrief at the end of April.
An article in a Norfolk paper, The Advertiser, under the headline "Dealing with bird flu: the facts", is a little short on facts. Bird Flu page latest.
March 29 2006 ~ " the exhibits on display at Analytica will include a number of testing technologies... that make it possible to detect the virus quickly and efficiently."
" cooperation among experts, research institutes and political decision-makers at the international level is essential. .." says Laboratory Talk.com
"... test systems are needed that are capable of isolating a large number of samples and then identify the type of virus. There are hundreds of different subtypes of the avian-flu virus, most of which are harmless. ...... Microbiological analysis plays a key role here ..... Quick and precise analysis methods are the first step in the race against the virus. ... To efficiently test the effectiveness of entire libraries of active ingredients as quickly as possible, the corresponding virus DNAs are replicated synthetically. How quickly they actually succeed may depend on the distribution of labour within the international scientific community. After all, given the complexity of an epidemic, cooperation among experts, research institutes and political decision-makers at the international level is essential. "What we have so often seen in the UK, however, is a lack of a proactive investigation into what is available, a spinelessness on the part of the veterinary hierarchy when faced with out-of-date and destructive policies that ask vets to deny their oath of care, a reliance on a "science" that is not rigorously challenged - and the putting of big financial and political interests before health and welfare considerations. As Professor Michell said in the Veterinary Times ( 9th July 2001) when writing in favour of a proper inquiry into FMD
"The issues to be addressed will fall under the headings of scientific knowledge, implementation and resource costs, animal and human welfare, politics. "
March 29 2006 ~ "scientists say anyone who argues wild birds are responsible, is speculating rather than relying on any facts."
An interesting article today in a Canadian paper quotes Dr. Ted Leighton, Executive Director of the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre and one of Canada's foremost experts on avian influenza in wild birds.
"The collective expertise of the world right now cannot tell you whether the virus moved by human agency in poultry and poultry products in animal feeds or whether it moved by the natural agency of wild birds."He insists there is much we need to learn about the spread of high pathogenicity H5N1 - and the article urges that more concern is shown for the birds. More on Bird Flu page
March 27 2006 ~ Grim irony of leachate removal at Gt. Orton as the memorial ceremony took place.
The killing of the so many healthy animals at Great Orton and elsewhere in 2001 was remembered in an address of heartbreaking brevity and power. Wreaths were laid. Border TV reported. But into the waiting silence came
"...two huge waste disposal tankers ... This is a daily event to collect the "leachate" from the site for disposal elsewhere.Read in full and if you have broadband, see pdf file of photographs, courtesy Nick Green, of the "low hazard" waste on its daily exodus.
Had Defra taken the slightest bit of notice of one of the farmers - a civil engineer and used to digging massive holes in the ground - they would not have the problem which will cost more than #2million per year for the next decade."
March 27 2006 ~ 'Silent killer vCJD is more widespread than thought' says the Independent - but no evidence given for this dramatic statement
The Times newspaper edition, disgracefully, has this "story" as a front page spread: Disease that is here to stay
'Silent killer vCJD is more widespread than thought' is the headline from the Independent's Health Editor, Jeremy Laurance* as if frightening new evidence had been found - but there is no evidence offered from "researchers at the Institute for Animal Health in Edinburgh" - only speculation.
In a similar article in the Scotsman, Hugh Pennington, president of the Society of General Microbiology, is quoted:
"... there could be a second wave of fatalities if more genotypes are affected but not yet coming down with symptoms. You cannot rule out the possibility there may be some effect of BSE on people who have so far shown no effect. But, people with longer incubation periods are likely to be less susceptible to the disease."....... Prof Pennington thought a second wave would have begun to show."As we say below, research grants are the life blood of science but the number of deaths due to definite or probable vCJD in the UK is ever-dwindling. During the 12 months of 2005 it was 5. Scare mongering in the press (See also Glasgow Daily Record, Times , BBC and Daily Mail) therefore seems mischievous in the extreme.
The peak number of deaths was 28 in the year 2000, followed by 20 in 2001, 17 in 2002, 18 in 2003, 9 in 2004, 5 in 2005, and one so far in 2006. (Figures from ProMed.) (See also warmwell page on BSE/vCJD)
( *Quotation - Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, The Independent http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/antenna/mmr/cip1/122.asp "Health stories in the newspapers tend to focus on "miracle cures" or "deadly scares". Editors are always looking for a sensational story. That's what sells papers."
March 27 2006 ~ "Pesticides Action Plan Groups are dominated by industry bodies and Government agencies"
The award-winning campaigner, Georgina Downs, writes that
"despite the fact that the Strategy states that it seeks to accommodate, as far as possible the differing views of a wide range of stakeholders the Action Plan Groups are dominated by industry bodies and Government agencies and there is no representation of rural residents and communities with the direct experience of living near sprayed fields, on any of the groups. .." "Government continues to ignore key Stakeholders , (rural residents and communities) and the health impacts of pesticides, in new National Pesticide Strategy"An emailer wrote this morning; "Georgina D was on Radio 4 early Sat morning and I was impressed. Not so by her counterpart, nor by the other interviews on related issue. One of interviewees basically said that govt was willing to accept pesticides and their consequences and just use new drugs to fight the ensuing cancers - or something to that effect. Sounds familiar doesn't it?"
March 27 2006 ~ Pushing Farmers Out of Farming - India - ".....Rs 1900 million to be incurred on crop biotechnology research and another Rs 2000 million for the application of transgenic technology in livestock and poultry"
Devinder Sharma's article Pushing Farmers Out of Farming
".....the second Green Revolution ....... The dominance of the American agri-business becomes clear when one finds the US supermarket giant Wal-Mart and the seed multinational Monsanto on the board of the Initiative. ...Read the article in full
Tailored on the objective of transferring the unwanted and risky technology of genetic engineering on plants and animals, which incidentally is not finding many takers worldwide, the US finds India an easy dumping ground. ...
...Even in America, the entry of retail chains in the agriculture sector have only shifted the profits to a horde of middlemen -- retailers, processors, certification agencies, quality controller and so on. Farmers earn only 4 per cent from whatever they sell. In 1990, farmers would earn 70 per cent of what they would sell. The rest of the profits are shared by the chain of middlemen. In Canada, the National Farmers Union (see warmwell page) has in a study shown how the combined profits of 70 retailer and agribusiness firms have multiplied whereas the farmers have mounting losses. The same model is now being shifted to India..... "
March 27 2006 ~ Two Minutes Silence
Today,a 2 minute silence was held - in particular at Great Orton in Cumbria ( 1 p.m. at the main gates to the Great Orton Slaughter site - or "Watchtree Centre") - to commemorate the five year anniversary of the infamous contiguous cull policy. Rural leaders and vets, who joined forces as AVACA Artists and Vets against the Cull in 2001, are planning to coordinate the laying of a wreath, a short prayer and the observance of two minute silence at the Great Orton burial site AVACA.: Tel/fax. 01706 82 7961 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
( The goat memorial was commissioned by Hilary Peters and placed at Greenwich in 2001.)
March 26 2006 ~ "At least two large mutations and two small mutations away from being the next human pandemic virus..."
The Washington Post " A Pandemic of Fear"
" According to a significant study published in the prestigious British journal Nature recently, the H5N1 bird flu virus is at least two large mutations and two small mutations away from being the next human pandemic virus. This virus attaches deep in the lungs of birds but cannot adhere to the upper respiratory tract of humans. Since we can't transmit the virus to each other, it poses little immediate threat to us..." Read in full
March 25 2006 ~ "....completely blind to the economic and human' consequences of the RPA's failure"
Muckspreader 21 March 2006 - Private Eye
"... McNeill.... the second massive career failure in a row. He had previously......played a key part in the drama whereby, wholly unnecessarily, Britain lost three quarters of its abattoirs, leaving vast tracts of the country without a slaughterhouse....
... McNeill's departure has done nothing to improve matters. Almost immediately the agency's IT system crashed yet again, losing quantities of data. The word from inside the RPA was that many farmers could not hope to be paid until midsummer at the earliest.
..... Peter Clarke, chairman of the Cornish NFU ....was not slow to identify where the real blame lay: "Mrs Beckett must have had knowledge of how shambolic this agency was'.... has allowed him to remain on the payroll, still drawing his #160,000 a year. " Read in full
March 24 2006 ~ China is giving free bird flu and FMD vaccines to its farmers
The Ministry of Finance has decided to allocate 800 million yuan (about 57.5 million pounds ) from the central finance budget and more than 900 million yuan (112 million US dollars or 64.7 million pounds) from local governments to pay for the vaccine, the 'Farmers Daily' reported today. The Ministry of Agriculture said farmers can get the vaccine free of charge provided that they will use it properly according to the Ministry's latest immunisation regulations. See report.
March 24 2006 ~ Member States can get provisional authorisation for use of vaccination
The EU Discussion paper Vaccination of Poultry against highly pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 (Diva Strategy), dated March 2nd 2006, says
"..This document is aimed at providing guidance on the possible use of vaccination against HPAI H5N1 in domestic poultry or other captive birds in the current EU Member States in the period March - July 2006".The paper goes on to say that
".. it is recognised that one of the most important bio-security measures, namely keeping poultry indoors, may not be easily applicable in certain categories of poultry or would compromise the status of organic or free-ranging poultry....Annexe 2 says that "Member States may apply emergency vaccination before approval of the emergency vaccination plan, subject to conditions
As regards marketing authorisation procedures, in accordance with article 8 of Directive 2001/82/EC, the Member States may provisionally allow the use of currently available inactivated vaccines without a marketing authorization for placing on the market, after informing the Commission of the detailed conditions of use."
The paper may be read in full as a pdf file here (new window)
March 23 2006 ~ " Vaccination plans should be submitted to the EU Commission before seeking approval to actually start vaccinating"
The BVA considers that one of the conditions under which it would support vaccination is " if the level of culling as a control method reaches such a level as to be unjustifiable on ethical or welfare grounds, as has now been declared in the Asian context by the WHO, OIE and FAO". In view of the inevitable delay in obtaining vaccines, it is to be hoped that British Veterinary Association statement (pdf file Feb 24 2006)quickly reached the right eyes. (html file) Extract:
We should be very grateful if anyone could tell us if the UK has yet submitted vaccination plans to the EU in case of need and whether the BVA advice is being followed.
- Defra's contingency vaccination policy should be finalised immediately
- The vaccination plans should be submitted to the EU Commission before seeking approval to actually start vaccinating
- A vaccine order should be placed in line with the UK's contingency plan
- The contingency vaccination plans should be re-examined daily/weekly"
March 23 2006 ~ Who is giving Ben Bradshaw such poor and inadequate replies to Parliamentary Questions on vaccination for Avian Influenza?
Yesterday, Jim Paice asked what the evidential basis was for statements that birds vaccinated against avian influenza continue to spread the virus.
It is hardly surprising that no scientific "evidential basis" could be referred to or quoted.
Mr Bradshaw answered vaguely that
The use of vaccination against outbreaks of avian influenza in recent years has been well documented in many scientific articles and papers.adding that "my officials have examined the published material and consulted with experts at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency." No evidential basis here. Nor in the next part
"It has been a frequently recognised feature of the use of vaccine in the field that vaccinated birds can continue to allow spread of the virus, whilst not showing typical clinical signs. This is particularly true if large numbers of birds have been vaccinated. "If there were peer-reviewed evidence for there being a danger of spread by vaccinated birds, would "his officials" not have been able to give chapter and verse? The vague phrase
"It is therefore widely recognised that...."will surely not do when so much is at stake and when the question asked specifically for scientific evidence. The peer-reviewed papers that show that vaccination does indeed work and carriers are not a problem either for "masking disease" or for silent spread can be seen at the top of the Bird Flu pages
March 22/23 2006 ~ " we would control the disease by culling all birds on any infected premises and dangerous contacts
said Ben Bradshaw on March 17. "....additional strategies could include a cull of flocks in the immediate area to prevent the spread of disease."
In view of the Contingency Plan's woolly definition of "dangerous contacts" these are ominous words indeed. Mr Bradshaw continues to contend that "available vaccines are too limited to provide a fully effective or efficient solution" in direct contradiction to the OIE's view (see below) that " the vaccines made in China at the Harbin Veterinary Institute conformed to international standards and were fully effective", Joseph Domenech, chief veterinarian at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization who said, "There are many pros and no cons for the vaccine," the Minister of Agriculture in the Netherlands who has vaccinated his own birds, and the ProMed moderator who says that "bona-fide, certified, safety-and-efficacy- tested vaccines are used, they are effective." Above all, there are peer reviewed papers demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccination.
Whatever may be the reasons the UK government is denying free range poultry owners access to vaccination , they are not scientific reasons and they should be challenged.
March 23/23 2005 ~ "there is still extensive provision within Defra's Contingency Plan for contiguous culling and other pre-emptive culling."
In the light of the article by Bob Michell below, it is interesting to look at the National Foot and Mouth Group's request in March last year to the National Audit Office to investigate the cost of the contiguous cull and pre-emptive slaughter in 2001. Extract
"....our concern is that contiguous and 3km culling could well be included in future disease control strategies under the auspices of Dangerous Contact - even though the validity and efficacy of this approach has not been demonstrated.The figures from PQ 2164, Gt Orton figures and references to the relevant scientific papers, copies of the Vet Record, etc. were presented and can be seen in the letter.
....We ask the Public Accounts Committee to ensure that the crucial and valid investigation of the costs of pre-emptive slaughter in 2001 is now undertaken ..." read in full
The NAO appear to have taken no action
March 22 ~ "the money wasted was of the order of #1 - 2 billion: say #100 per household...
The article by Bob Michell, BSc, PhD, DSc, MRCVS in the Veterinary Times "Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians" Extract :
"five years ago. In the name of veterinary disease control, we were about to embark on the greatest unnecessary slaughter of healthy animals in the history of our profession. It cost #10 - 12 billion and involved, to the European Parliament, the slaughter of 10 million animals.
Since fewer than 25 per cent of the pre-emptively culled premises were actually infected, and since the consequent mass killing probably impeded control, the money wasted was of the order of #1 - 2 billion: say #100 per household. That sort of money could have financed the MRC's research expenditure throughout those five years.
There are those who still argue that it was money well spent - though not when given the opportunity to argue their case in detail against the mounting peer - reviewed published evidence that it is mistaken.
Five months ago, the following challenge appeared in Veterinary Times (October 24, 2005) To anyone who still believes that the contiguous cull was instrumental (ie essential, not just an adjunct) in bringing the 2001 FMD outbreak under control to explain how its consequences - the downturn in the epidemic - preceded its introduction together with the opportunity to respond in 1,000 - 2,000 words.
Should have been a doddle for any proponent with a modicum of self belief. In the event, the silence has been deafening ..."
March 22 2006 ~ ".. we should explain how unpardonable it was and how unaccountable is the subsequent lack of political concern or accountability..."
Another extract from Bob Michell's article to his fellow vets in the Veterinary Times, "Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians" It is never too late, he says, "never too late.... that the reasons for expensive disasters are properly identified" :
".... There are more than 10,000 vets. On Monday, March 27, at 11am, there should be a two-minute silence, in every surgery, classroom or stable, on every farm, to mark the fifth anniversary of the implementation of the contiguous cull: to commemorate the unnecessary death of millions of animals and the unnecessary suffering of those on whose farms they lived, or whose livelihoods evaporated in the smoking pyres amidst our green and pleasant land. And we should explain how unpardonable it was and how unaccountable is the subsequent lack of political concern or accountability.Warmwell understands that rural leaders and vets are joining forces as AVACA Artists and Vets against the Cull They are planning to coordinate the laying of a wreath, a short prayer and the observance of two minute silence at the Great Orton burial site (Watchtree Centre) and possibly also at the Animal War Memorial in London. More detail can be obtained by phoning AVACA.? Tel/fax. 01706 82 7961 or emailing email@example.com
March 22 2006~ "all we now lack is accountability."
It will be remembered that 451,000 sheep (four hundred and fifty one thousand) were slaughtered at Great Orton. 5786 animals from 115 farms were tested between the 7th and 23rd of April 2001. This was not gentle euthanasia but a messy scramble to kill terrified sheep and lambs as quickly as possible. One farm had a positive test (not active virus but antibody positive) on 9 sheep. One farm had 2 sheep with what Andrew Hayward (DVM Cumbria) termed "mild" positive results. Three farms were inconclusive. All the rest, 110 farms, returned negative results. There were no clinical signs on any of the sheep slaughtered at Gt Orton.
As Bob Michell wrote in the article above " It is not as if we do not know whose responsibility it was: according to the Anderson Inquiry, one of the three initiated by the Government, The Prime Minister said that during the major part of the crisis he, the Prime Minister, was in personal charge ... he always saw himself in overall charge. Sounds very much like openness and transparency to me: all we now lack is accountability. .."
March 22 ~ " the vaccines made in China at the Harbin Veterinary Institute conformed to international standards and were fully effective."
The Reuters article today with the headline "OIE says some China bird flu vaccines ineffective" is perhaps a little misleading. What Christianne Bruschke at the OIE actually said was
" the vaccines made in China at the Harbin Veterinary Institute conformed to international standards and were fully effective."The perceived problem seems to refer to another recent Reuters report about findings of 2004 -2005 when researchers found asymptomatic chickens in a poultry market. Comments following this article by a senior ProMed moderator, confirmed that when bona-fide, certified, safety-and-efficacy- tested vaccines are used, they are effective - as Vietnam has found (read in full)
What Christianne Bruschke went on to say was that
"... there are local companies in China that produce vaccines and it's possible these don't have the efficacy of those made at Harbin,"The moderator at ProMed agreed that but added that
" China seems to have recently recognised the problem and undertaken the complex task of improving controls on its vaccines; early implementation is most desirable."
March 22 2006 ~ "The Chinese are using a number of different vaccines and one of the vaccines it is claimed has a high efficacy," David King
The UK Chief Scientific Advisor appears now at least to recognise - in spite of the word "claimed" - that the Chinese vaccine is effective. (Reuters article) What is so odd is that he goes on to say that
" the often close contact between humans and chickens in China meant that vaccines were particularly necessary there."as if close contact were not a feature of the free range poultry sector in the UK.
It would seem that David King, once again, is failing to take into account the vast difference between the intensive "factory" sector where birds are treated as mere insentient commodities, and the humane rearing of birds - accounting for several million in the UK.
"...we couldn't possibly use a vaccine that hadn't been fully through the European procedures of testing" David King says, appearing to ignore the OIE's assurance that " the vaccines made in China at the Harbin Veterinary Institute conformed to international standards and were fully effective." The French and the Dutch are satisfied with the vaccines and the Dutch Minister Cees Veerman very publically showed himself being the first to have his birds vaccinated, "This is a good way to keep bird flu out," he said.
But back in the UK we have David King's pronouncement which leaves all those free range owners and producers without the option of protecting their birds - in spite of the OIE acceptance of the conformity of the vaccine to international standards: Reuters article
March 21 ~ Germany says it will not import Dutch vaccinated poultry and eggs because "consumers fear possible health risk"
Reuters reports that farmers in the Netherlands are choosing to wait rather than vaccinate poultry against bird flu because they fear a negative effect on exports.
"The main Dutch poultry farmers organizations said most farmers have not started vaccinating because the biggest importer of Dutch poultry, Germany, refuses to buy meat and eggs from vaccinated animals as consumers fear possible health risk. "We are astonished by this. The effect of vaccination cannot be compared to that of a noxious chemical infecting and staying in the body of the vaccinate. As was explained to us in 2001 by Dr Ruth Watkins, it is more to be compared to an insect sting which is swiftly dissipated by the organism. Up to 33 vaccines are used against animal diseases in meat happily consumed by Europeans. The spurious "consumer worry" was a nonsense perpetrated during the 2001 FMD crisis. At the time the FSA eventually put the fear to rest, as did the Consumer Council, who said that no special labelling was required. That such a erroneous notion should be discouraging some Dutch farmers from vaccinating is distressing. That such an excuse is still being used to hoodwink the public is disgraceful
March 21 2006 ~ Silence of the Lambs - 2 minute silence on 27 March
In a recent article "Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians" in the Veterinary Times, Prof Bob Michell, BVetMed BSc PhD DSc MRCVS, Former President of the RCVS , proposed that a two minute silence be observed on Monday 27th March (next Monday), to commemorate introduction of the Cull policy.
Read again the letter written by Bob Michell on 9th July 2001; FMD: there must be a proper inquiry
We have received an email from Nick Green, who was so courageously active and so appalled at what happened in Cumbria and at Great Orton in particular. He will be publically observing the silence at Great Orton and invites others to stand with him.
March 21 2006 ~ Apologies about the item below
The story appeared in the Independent on FEB 22 not March 21. As we know, the decision to vaccinate by France and the Netherlands was agreed by the EU a month ago when the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health backed Commission proposals to allow those countries to carry out targeted preventive vaccination campaigns on poultry
March 21 2006 ~ Vaccination talks stall as bird flu spreads in Europe Apologies for highlighting this article a month late.
March 20 2006 ~ "... the real victims of industrially produced, lethal H5N1
have been wild birds, an ancient way of life and the poor of the Earth, for whom a backyard flock has always represented a measure of autonomy and a bulwark against starvation. " From the article at Post Gazette.com. Big chicken farms gave birds the flu
"... The truly great ruse is that industrial poultry farms are the best way to produce chickens -- that Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods and Charoen Pokphand are keeping the world safe from backyard poultry and migratory birds. "
March 20 2006 ~ A brave new world withour free range poultry
A Reuters report yesterday suggests that China has its sights on poultry rearing of such intensity that a worker on one already existing plant says, "I eat chicken, but not very often. It kind of makes me sick."
"At one such farm, eight workers raise 1.2 million chickens a year in six long sheds, each 1,900 square metres (20,500 sq ft), under strictly controlled artificial light and temperature"More alarming still is the unqualified statement by the Reuters writer; "Such large-scale operations are also a defence against bird flu."
It is worrying that a respected source such as Reuters should suggest that this is an uncontested fact.
Grain's paper (read here) begins: "The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. Its epicentre is the factory farms of China and Southeast Asia .... Within crowded poultry operations, the mild virus evolves rapidly towards more pathogenic and highly transmissible forms, capable of jumping species and spreading back into wild birds, which are defenseless against the new strain. In this sense, H5N1 is a poultry virus killing wild birds, not the other way around."
March 20 2006 ~ "So far there has been no confirmed case of a healthy, live chicken being a carrier of the virus,"
China's CVO, Jia Youling, is quoted in today's Reuters report. "China's experience has shown that vaccination is a very effective way to control bird flu." More
March 20 2006 ~ European free range poultry owners distressed
Waterfowl and free range flocks are being shot by their distressed owners in Denmark because they have nowhere to house them. In Germany, a pro-vaccination petition is online . A paper is to be given to Herr Seehofer at a press conference on April 3rd, following remarks by the Minister of Agriculture that have appalled welfare groups. On 17 March HP AI was confirmed in Sweden. The highly pathogenic H5 bird flu virus was found in one mallard. 700 birds, ducks and pheasant with females mixed with wild males will all be killed. China said on Sunday that the country has provided 2.967 billion vaccines to local departments to stem the spread of bird flu. See Bird Flu latest.
March 19/20 2006 ~Chinese H5N1 vaccine : "... Challenge studies performed at 2, 3 and 43 weeks p.v. indicated that all of the chickens were completely protected from disease signs and death.
Ducks and geese were completely protected from highly pathogenic H5N1 virus challenge 3 weeks p.v. ...... results provide useful information for the application of vaccines to the control of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry, including chickens and domestic waterfowl..."From the Chinese research paper (pdf) (not the Hong Kong research) about the improved vaccines in China referred to Professor George Brownlee in his recent letter to The Times
".... The Government should pay for vaccine manufacturers to stockpile vaccines. Similar vaccines should be developed for farm workers who are in contact with poultry.." (read Professor Brownlee's letter in full)(A selection of recent papers on the efficacy of vaccination can be found at the top of the warmwell Bird Flu page
See also Dr Chris Ashton's lettersetting out the case for free range birds to be vaccinated in the UK.
March 19/20 2006 ~ Bird Flu in Israel.
Israeli health authorities have decided to fly 4 million doses of bird flu vaccines into Israel from The Netherlands and will now consider vaccinating all birds in Israel in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading."
The ProMed Moderator (AS) comments: "applied vigilance -- and early, strategic vaccination -- will help in preventing further spread.." See Bird Flu page
March 18 2006 ~ Vaccination costs about 10p per bird
according to the Guardian. The Dutch programme, which applies to "hobby poultry" and free-range laying hens throughout the country will cost no more than about eight hundred thousand pounds, since there are no more than eight million birds in these categories in the Netherlands. (The financial cost to the UK of the war in Iraq so far may perhaps serve as a way of putting this figure into perspective) Intensively reared poultry live only a matter of weeks so it is hardly surprising that the poultry "industry" are not in favour of vaccination. However, as Dr Christine Ashton points out in a letter here, pet and free range birds can live to over 20 years in the case of geese, and even longer in other species. Why should their owners not have the choice to protect them?
March 18 2006 ~ "...the range of hosts will increase as the virus affects new ecosystems..." Ilaria Capua says that in this situation, researchers don't have the right to restrict access to data
The number of countries where H5N1 is being confirmed is increasing . Now, a dog is believed to have died of bird flu in Azerbaijan. The eminent Italian bird flu expert, Ilaria Capua, whose laboratory is one of the 6 World Reference labs, calls for a new and urgent sharing of data. See Bird Flu page
March 17 2006 ~ RPA head sacked
It would seem that the whole computer system has "collapsed" with the loss of a substantial amount of data. WMN merely reports:"The head of the Government's "shambolic" Rural Payments Agency was sacked yesterday - as it emerged vital payments owed to thousands of Westcountry farmers will be delayed beyond the end of the financial year..."
( It will be remembered that Lord Bach was convinced that there was nothing preventing the payments being made on time .." The EFRA Committee's interim report, published on 24th January this year, showed that the Committee were "dismayed at the complacency of the Minister" See below) Jim Paice said the Government was right to sack Mr McNeill but that ministers had to carry the can for the failures.
"Farmers all over England are increasingly desperate for money; sympathy won't pay their bills or their workforce. The fault for this lies at the heart of Government and they should carry the can."Johnston McNeill's previous job was Chief executive of the Meat Hygiene Service, which he left after the Maclean Inquiry into inspection charges for small abattoirs. His career there was not exactly glorious.
The CLA Press Release on the matter: "... We now need to see a step change in the philosophy of the RPA. It must stop being a secretive and defensive organisation which reluctantly releases information and payments ...". See also Hansard
March 17 2006 ~ A "broad consensus" against vaccination?
In reply to another written question about the success of Hong Kong's vaccination policy (see below), Ben Bradshaw said on Tuesday,
".... In this country, there is a broad consensus that preventive vaccination does not currently provide an effective and efficient means of controlling avian influenza and that good biosecurity followed by housing of birds is the best response to a heightened threat." Read in fullThe term "broad consensus" needs further definition. Mr Bradshaw's words about "a wide range of representations and are working closely with stakeholders on these issues" hardly ring true. As MP Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con) said last week
"...many poultry farmers and breeders have received conflicting advice, from all sorts of different sources, about whether or not they should vaccinate, yet few of them have received any official guidance from DEFRA. As a result there is complete and utter confusion.... ""Broad consensus" would appear to refer to advisers such as David King anxious not to lose face and to the intensive poultry sector anxious not to lose export profits and, with the extinction of the organic and free range sector, more than happy to regain the market share lost in recent years to humanely reared birds. It is not good enough.
Elsewhere, we see the Dutch Minister, Cees Veerman being the first to have his birds vaccinated, "This is a good way to keep bird flu out," he said. Across France all the little local mairies are keeping their electorates informed and, because of policies seen to be transparent and ethical, are getting willing cooperation. It is astonishing indeed that even in the face of published evidence of vaccination eliminating the disease from Hong Kong, the UK government (as they did in the case of FMD and Uruguay) can contend it "wouldn't work here" because "the situations are different".
"There are many pros and no cons for the vaccine"said Joseph Domenech, chief veterinarian at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in late February
March 17 2006 ~ "We would pay compensation for healthy birds compulsorily slaughtered
to control avian influenza. If needed, we would also establish a Welfare Disposal Scheme to fund the collection and disposal of poultry. .."
ominous words from Ben Bradshaw.
The misnomer "welfare disposal scheme" is one we hoped never to hear again. As for "disposal", we understand from this email that the Castle Cement's Clitheroe works - in spite of the government's own rules being broken there - is being lined up for the disposal of the bodies of birds "compulsorily slaughtered" and for which there is, according to the Government, such a "broad consensus" of approval.
March 17 2006 ~ Orkney - chicken deaths
The Scotland Today report does not mention a fact that we have heard - that between 100 and 400 birds died overnight. .
UPDATE The Scotsman reports that the cause of death of the chickens on Orkney was not bird flu ITN : "Preliminary results from samples taken from dead chickens on a farm on mainland Orkney have indicated no presence of H5 avian influenza. Further laboratory tests are required to confirm these preliminary findings."
March 17 2006 ~ Manchester Conference "extraordinary"
The Manchester Conference finished yesterday. We have been told that the atmosphere was extraordinary, that avian influenza and other zoonoses were expertly discussed, that the calibre of those taking part - in particular Dr Breeze and other British veterinary experts - was of the highest. There is a real feeling that change is both possible and long overdue.
We have agreed not to publish any full report of the proceedings until they appear in the Veterinary Record and similar publications.
March 16 2006 ~ FMD statistics "We discussed the unsatisfactory position in the minutes leading up to today's PMQs"
With painful but inevitable progress, documents and evidence are emerging to reveal the chaos of misinformation that abounded in the early weeks and months of FMD. An email today tells us of a letter dated 28 March 2001 from the Principal Private Secretary at 10 Downing Street, agreed with all the No 10 staff with an interest ( Alistair Campbell, Godric Smith, Catherine Rimmer, Clare Sumner and David North). Extract:
".....I remain confused about how we can reconcile the 3pm to 3pm data you (and the Conservatives) are using and the data that COBR sees"read in full
March 15 2006 ~ Vaccination for Avian Influenza "There are many pros and no cons for the vaccine," Joseph Domenech
Joseph Domenech, chief veterinarian at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization was quoted by the International Herald Tribune
Tomorrow, Cees Veerman, the Dutch minister of agriculture, will be the first to have his birds vaccinated. BBC Countryfile will focus on Holland's vaccination programme this coming Sunday, 19th March. More detail on warmwell's Bird Flu pages
March 15 ~ The Wales This Week disturbing TV Programme on Illegal Meat can be seen on the Internet.
Dr Yunes Teinaz, the tireless fighter against dirty meat crimes in the UK, has sent the links: Part One and Part Two (open in new windows) . See also the "Dirty Meat" pages on warmwell. The failure of animal health policies have far reaching consequences. Poverty in the developing countries, caused by the loss of livestock and the breakdown of farming, breeds bush meat poaching abroad. In the UK, there are always utterly unscrupulous men ready to deliver cheap, inhumanely killed and dangerous meat for very high rewards. Moreover, Mr Bradshaw's irritated remarks on the subject (here, for example, in reply to a Parliamentary Question about illegal imports) look ever more worrying.
March 14 2006 ~ "we owe it to the stock, which died unnecessarily, to keep punching home the truth until it begins to stick."
We agree with Peter Greenhill and his contribution to the most recent smallholders online newsletter about the true scale of the foot and mouth slaughter in 2001.
"....At some time there WILL be a proper enquiry and the sheer magnitude of the butchery should be a major feature in that enquiry.( The figures are those he obtained from The Chief Scientific Officer at a meeting which followed a day after he and Drs. Sutmoller& Barteling came to Penrith on Sept 16th 2001)
It might also be useful to remind ourselves of the blood test figures obtained from Pirbright by the late (great) Prof Fred Brown.
No. of blood tests: 720,000(Read in full)
No. of positive cases: 337"
March 13/14 2006 ~ " .. the time is now right to broaden the base of public support for transboundary disease elimination.."
The audience at the Manchester FMD Conference will, in the course of the next few days, hear about vaccines, differential tests and state of the art rapid diagnotic apparatus already in use, able for example, to detect the presence of dead virus that cannot be grown in cell culture. The technology constitutes a paradigm shift - as it has done since 2001.
Dr Breeze will argue that the time is now right for a 300 year old mindset to change and for public opinion to recognise the need for such a change. The stakes could not be higher and the tools are there. The health of humans, animal welfare in all its aspects, and - because so much hangs on the health of livestock - the alleviation of global poverty, all now depend on an alternative agenda from the selfish policies of the past.
March 13/14 2006 ~ "our politicians know full well that the UK will become increasingly reliant upon cheaper imported foodstuffs of unknown provenance
as a direct result of their own policies. But contrast this with the direct financial support given to exporting multinational companies as detailed above, which is specifically designed to level out such price differentials. So, support corporations, undermine farmers; that is their policy of choice .." From this month's smallholders online newsletter, a short article by Alan Beat about who actually benefits from the CAP ( the largest payments by far in the UK are being made, not to farmers, but to multinational companies)
March 13 2006 ~ Russia Starts Mass Vaccination Of Poultry To Fight H5N1
MedicalNews Today.com "Russian authorities have commenced the mass vaccination of the whole country's poultry stock, a massive undertaking in the world's largest country (by geographical size). [In] southern Russia, where vaccination programs got off the ground early, tens of millions of poultry have already been vaccinated."
March 13 2006 ~ "we need secure indigenous supplies of food and energy..."
Professor Lovelock is in no doubt. What is needed in these islands is self sufficiency in food production. Globalisation is, it would seem, about to become obsolete in the face of the end of cheap energy and of the climate change that, he feels, is inevitable. "...our gas and oil will soon be gone and we can not rely on supplies from abroad..."
The exchange between Professor Lovelock and Zac Goldsmith is deeply disturbing. For DEFRA and the Government to be assuming that we are in some kind of "post agricultural era" is, for the UK, suicidal. Policies which discourage and hamstring small farmers, gamble with the health of livestock and threaten the safety of crops are as short sighted as can possibly be imagined.
March 12 2006 ~ "How could he have got it so wrong?"
An email received refutes the figure used by Professor Bourne for example, when blaming cattle movements for bovine TB to Select committees, peer audiences (the most recent Jan 25th. at the ISG open meeting) - that 14 million cattle movements are responsible for the explosion of bovine tb in cattle.
Considering that we have only 9 million bovines on the database it would mean that every one was doing handstands from its place of birth at least 1.5 times. Not so. Of course its not so! The movement of 14.6 million is a movement of not bovine hooves, but DATA."See Bovine TB page latest.
March 12 2006 ~ Another frightening "pesticide": Aldicarb
An emailer writes: ".... I do not know how this chemical is applied - are the granules just scattered on the land, or are they applied in solution?
Maybe one of warmwell's readers could advise? Is its use widespread, or has it been replaced by something else?" Read in full
March 11 2006 ~ No game - foot and mouth 2001
Robert Persey writes that he has just received another interesting internal MAFF document. This one is dated March 21 2001 (corrected by email from 22 as first reported) and is from the (then) MAFF Minister of State, Helene Hayman to Nick Brown, the Minister for Agriculture. The letter is entitled FMD - Getting ahead of the game...... the final paragraph; "All this is aimed to shift gear - to give the impression we now know what we are facing......"
The statement she had given to the House of Lords the same day may be read here.
"....We shall provide the fullest possible information to Parliament, the media and the affected communities...... MAFF.... is taking every step it can to control the disease and to minimise the damage and disruption it can cause."But "every step it can" did not, unfortunately, include the use of already available vaccines (the use of which, in the same year, removed the disease from Uruguay). "Getting ahead of the game" did not include the proactive investigation into differential and diagnostic tests that were also available. The Chief Veterinary Officer's meetings with key stakeholders did not include listening to or seeking the advice of those veterinary experts in the practical eradication of the disease who were so soon to be aghast at the use of the 300 year old slaughter policies being trotted out yet again when the technology existed - David King's protestations notwithstanding - for a humane and swift solution.
March 11 2006 ~ "....When I asked incredulously how on earth she could get cuts from potatoes
she told me that they had been sprayed with a growth inhibitor to stop them sprouting.." Cautionary email received today
March 10 2006 ~ Ben Bradshaw continues to quote David King.
Hong Kong has successfully eradicated AI. :Ellis TM et al. Vaccination of chickens against H5N1 avian influenza in the face of an outbreak interrupts virus transmission Avian Pathology, 2004, 33(4):405 - 412. can be read here (new window)
James Paice's question in yesterday's debate referred to
"experience in Hong Konga properly validated scientific exercisehas shown that vaccinated birds do not transmit the disease"Mr Bradshaw answered " I remind him that Sir David King was grossly misrepresented on one broadcast last week about his view of vaccination. It may help the House if I read the brief statement that he issued in response to that. It was that his advice to Government remains
"that the disadvantage of using currently available vaccine significantly outweighs any potential benefits." (read short debate in full)Weaknesses in the advice of some "scientific experts" to the government has been highlighted by many, the most recent of whom is the Countess of Mar below.
The international appeal (see below) to the veterinary profession by Stephen M. Apatow, President Director of Research and Development Humanitarian Resource Institute calls for an end to destruction as a means of control.
Of even greater significance perhaps is the comment from WTO Director-General, Pascal Lamy, on Wednesday, reminding us that AI is more serious for the human race than a mere political or trade football. "Health takes priority over international trade agreements and intellectual property as the world tries to fight the threat of bird flu" (see Reuters) It is to be hoped that the Government is aware of the growing volume of eminent voices, such as Professor John Oxford, here.
March 10 2006 ~ complete and utter confusion
In yesterday's debate Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con) said
" I am most grateful to the Minister for his courteous reply, but in Newark and Retford many poultry farmers and breeders have received conflicting advice, from all sorts of different sources, about whether or not they should vaccinate, yet few of them have received any official guidance from DEFRA. As a result there is complete and utter confusion. Can the Government put an end to it, please? "It could not.
March 10 2006 ~ Bird Flu. Three counties in Germany are now solidly against the imposition of regulations keeping free range hens in cages
An emailer from Germany has written with an update on the culling and regulations in Germany. Apparently, "until the German vaccine is ready", vaccination is not being considered
"..... On the other side, people who want to vaccinate poultry are becoming more and more determined. I think this is a really positive sign. Also, there are more and more ornithologists and virologists who tell the press, that AI might have reached Germany a long time ago, but wasn4t detected until the swans on RúgenThe email urges readers to sign this international petition against preemptive killing.
March 10 2006 ~ "If you're a true farmer, not a money farmer, you can't help it. You'll always farm."
An article in today's Mirror illustrates the fall-out from FMD and the fear for the future. But it also shows the fierce determination and healthy new cynicism and stubborness of the best farmers. "Whatever's happened, we've always carried on, and fought back," says Henry says..." Read in full
March 10 2006 ~ "Is there any way that we could find out if this letter ever went to the Anderson's Lessons Learned Inquiry?"
An email shows that Nick Brown wrote to Tony Blair flagging up the need for the army to be called in from the very beginning but his advice was ignored by Number 10. That the letter from the former MAFF Minister is deemed sensitive is shown by parts having been deleted.
March 10 2006 ~ "....we conclude that (Contiguous) CP culling is not advantageous when combined with vaccination."
The letter Optimal reactive vaccination strategies for a foot-and-mouth outbreak in the UK in the journal Nature (here as pdf file) by Michael J. Tildesley Nicholas J. Savill, Darren J. Shaw, Rob Deardon, Stephen P. Brooks, Mark E. J. Woolhouse, Bryan T. Grenfell, Matt J. Keeling
"......We have shown that reactive vaccination could be a very powerful tool for combating FMD, and potentially other locally transmitted pathogens, when combined with efficient IP and DC culling and animal movement restrictions. As ever, rapid implementation is essential. A policy that prioritizes vaccination in terms of the shortest distance to any reported infection or DC has strong epidemiological benefits over traditional fixed-radius policies.."The phrase "Fixed-radius policies" refers to the killing of animals, healthy or not, within a fixed radius. The conclusions reached are very different from comments made by one of the writers of the letter, Prof Mark Woolhouse in evidence to the parliamentary rural affairs committee in March 2002. He was at the time an advisor to David King.
March 10 2006 ~ "Can the Minister please explain why, in a situation such as that surrounding scrapie, BSE, CJD or foot and mouth disease, the Government seem to turn to scientists who are not regarded by their peers as experts in the area while ignoring those who are?"
The Countess of Mar has once again shown her deep concern about the "scientific" advice being given to the government. In Tuesday's debate she again warns about both the unscientific nature and the over-prescription of the government's TSE regulations. Genuine experts such as Alan Dickinson warned 20 years ago that measures to reduce scrapie should avoid genetical extremes. The advice was ignored and the so-called "atypical scrapie" cases are now found in the very genotypes actually being selected by the National Scrapie Plan as being "resistant". Of even graver significance is the fact that the Regulations of 2002 were, in the first place, "based on the widespread assumption that a rogue isoform of a protein designated PrP - called prion protein by some - causes TSEs. That hypothesis is unsupported by rigorous analysis and substantial data contradict it."
The transcript of the debate makes for deeply disturbing reading. The Countess of Mar politely and painstakingly dissects the illogical, inconsistent and weirdly worded regulations, concluding moreover that
"I want the Minister to know that I am extremely concerned that all regulation in this field is based on a hypothesis - not even a theory - that none of the "establishment" scientific community can prove, despite millions of pounds of taxpayers' money being thrown at the subject.... . " Read in full
March 9 2006 ~ " the calf had only a 20 to 30% chance of having the disease"
It is a sad day for Mrs Kremers and those who support her. The second test - won at such cost in determination and courage - has been returned as a positive. She has reluctantly and very sadly agreed that Fern be slaughtered. She told the BBC
"The result doesn't mean that Fern has TB. He is a reactor, according to the skin test. He has a perfectly healthy immune system and we are killing our strongest cattle. The skin reaction test is a test for immunity. Only about 20 to 30% of those killed are positively identified at post mortem with lesions."
March 8 2006 ~ DEFRA's Older Cattle Disposal Scheme "seems to require unnecessary and gratuitous cruelty to no justifiable end."
A West Country farmer has decided to have his old bull slaughtered on the farm and forego compensation rather than send it on an unacceptably long and uncomfortable journey. DEFRA's Older Cattle Disposal Scheme demands that old bulls be sent to one of only five abattoirs in the country - after which their carcases are merely disposed of. He writes
"... I only realised the implications when I looked to put my old bull into the scheme.... Since we make a point of sending all our animals that are to be killed to a small local abattoir, only about ten miles from the farm, the old bull would have faced a considerably longer and more unpleasant journey. ... I cannot help questioning why Defra requires older cattle - all over ten years old - to undergo such an unnecessary and stressful end. Their carcasses are to be destroyed and there seems no reason whatsoever to put them through the stress of death at an abattoir - and, worse, at an abattoir far removed from their home farm. ....Why on earth not allow these old cattle to be killed - by a vet or licensed slaughterer - on the farm?"Read the email in full.
March 8 2006 ~ The European Commission is now expected to lift the beef export embargo
The Telegraph reports The annual incidence of BSE in Britain is now well below 200 cases per million adult cattle. Long journeys for cattle, including calves, for export will now recommence in about six weeks.. As a worried emailer writing of the graphic CWF film of slaughtering in Cairo, "Is this what is going to happen to our live exports?"
March 7 2006 ~ The Northumberland Report 1968/9
The two parts of the report are now uploaded as pdf files. This should mean that those with broadband can access the full report with all its illustrations, maps and graphs. Among the main recommendations of the Duke of Northumberland's 1968 inquiry :
As we know, not a single one of these recommendations was followed. That this report seems to have been consigned to a dusty shelf and not referred to in 2001 is extraordinary. Its clarity, openness and common sense are an example for today when so much apparently simple information is clouded by bureaucratic jargon - perhaps deliberately designed to discourage any dissent from beyond the inner circle.
- contingency plans for the application of ring vaccination should be kept in constant readiness,
- Ring vaccination to prevent spread of the disease (Anthony Cripps QC dissented from the view that this should be suppressive vaccination)
- a team of appropriate experts such as meteorologists, aero-biologists and statisticians, should be formed. These teams would collect data for the purpose of future epidemiological studies. The teams should gain experience in working together before outbreaks occur so that they be fully prepared when their services were required.
- Mobilisation of the Army from the first day
- desirable that some members of the Ministry's field veterinary staff be given training in epidemiology with particular reference to this disease.
- The rapid slaughter of infected animals and burying them on farm in pits lined with quicklime.
- Infected farms disinfected and cleaned within a minimum of 24 hours.
- Stringent checks on pig swill being boiled for an hour.
- A ban on meat imports from countries with a history of foot and mouth disease.
- The appointment of a nationwide team of valuers
March 7 2006 ~ European Commission has sent 2.5 million doses of trivalent vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) to Turkey
Following a visit to Thrace by experts from the FAO based European Commission for the Control of FMD (EUFMD), it was confirmed that the outbreak has been caused by a re-emerging strain of the FMD virus, against which vaccination was stopped many years ago. The vaccination campaign will be closely followed by EUFMD experts on the ground. See europa.eu.int
March 7 2006 ~ "We know next to nothing about this virus; we have only anecdotal information about where it exists and what birds it infects"
Vittorio Guberti, head vet at the Italian National Institute for Wildlife and who has been studying influenza in wild birds for more than 10 years is reported in the New York Times.
"....."We don't even know where to focus. We have to sit and wait for the big epidemic to occur, and in the meantime there will probably be small outbreaks all the time."One of the most interesting - and worrying - points in the article is the comment by the FAO's Juan Lubroth
Scientists do not know, for example, which species are the major carriers of A(H5N1). While they suspect that there may be a few areas at the fringes of Europe that are perpetually infected with the virus, they are not sure exactly where. And while they are convinced that the virus can be carried on trucks, on soles of shoes and in fertilizer, they are not sure how significant those routes are. ....." Read in full
"It's easy to blame migrating birds, because then no one is responsible."Fertilizer that may contain infected bird manure is commonly used to fertilize fish ponds where migrating birds feed. However, the Nigerian outbreak is far from the wetlands. "The outbreaks were in the wrong place and at the wrong time of year."
It is believed that Nigeria's problem may have been caused by the transport of sick birds or bird products infected with A(H5N1) from elsewhere. But what the article makes abundantly clear is that even the genuine experts simply do not yet know very much at all.
March 7 2006 ~ Cultural Documents of Foot and Mouth - Manchester Conference 14/15 March
March 6 2006 ~ The poultry industry constantly asserts that the "biosecurity" of its "farms" is excellent. In fact - as in the 27, 000 turkey enterprise in France - bird flu finds its way in and causes massive outbreaks at factory farms.
The report below from GRAIN should be taken very seriously. We understand that by the time the HN51 was positively identified on the French turkey farm and they went in to slaughter, 80 percent of the turkeys were already dead. The virologist Ruth Watkins tells us "...there is a large susceptible population, they are in close contact in every way, faeco-oral or respiratory, and the genetic type of virus that has the shorter incubation period, the greater titre, will beat one with the converse - even the death of the infected host does not matter to its success as there are thousands to infect "
If the report is correct, the danger to traditional methods of poultry keeping from misinformed bureaucracy (as in 2001) is very great. This forum post from Canada is ominous: "....in 2004 there were over 35 commercial agri-food barns that were infected with AI.... in each barn birds were quickly killed or incapacitated by AI and finally destroyed....All around the barns were commercial free-range, healthy backyard flocks in the open air...nevertheless these healthy flocks were destroyed on the basis of proximity (five and then ten km) NOT on the basis of infection..."
6 March 2006 ~ H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices says GRAIN
"... The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. Its epicentre is the factory farms of China and Southeast Asia and -- while wild birds can carry the disease, at least for short distances -- its main vector is the highly self-regulated transnational poultry industry, which sends the products and waste of its farms around the world through a multitude of channels. .."
An important and well documented report from Grain an international NGO promoting agricultural biodiversity "based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge":
"......Rare are photos of the booming transnational poultry industry. There are no shots of its factory farms hit by the virus, and no images of its overcrowded trucks transporting live chickens or its feed mills converting "poultry byproducts" into chicken feed. The selection of images sends a clear message: bird flu is a problem of wild birds and backwards poultry practices, not modern industry. In this way, the most fundamental piece of information needed to understand the recent avian influenza outbreaks gets left out of the picture..."Read in full
6 March 2006 ~ The Government is quietly trying to overturn the ban on GM technology. Traditional farming practices worldwide are at risk
"Genetic use restriction technology" with regard to seeds/crops (GURTs) is the safeguard, brought about by the determination of Michael Meacher and others, that now looks to be under threat. Information about the plans to seek the overturning of ban is buried in the labyrinthine DEFRA website. See Geoffrey Lean's article Independent
"...ministers have refused to meet environmental groups to discuss their policy and failed to publicise their position.." Read in fullAll this conincides with a US Bill, H.R. 4167, the "National Uniformity for Food Act," postponed until next week. An emailer writes to warmwell that if passed, the Bill would ban US states from setting laws that required producers to label products containing GM products, or recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or , says the emailer, "anything that could cause cancer, birth defects, allergic reactions, or mercury poisoning. .."
He is no doubt quite right that if the Bill gets through in the US there will be pressure on the EU to conform. "No doubt our big food producers would be delighted if warnings were kept off labels."
March 6 2006 ~"The result could be carnage."
New Scientist article "Though effective vaccines exist to protect domestic birds from H5N1, the EU is refusing to allow their general use. Officials say that vaccination just masks the spread of the virus, making it diffcult to monitor and contain. If this policy continues, it will mean that any bird flu outbreak within the EU will have to be handled by culling infected animals and those nearby. The result could be carnage..."
March 5/6 2006 ~ "One certain thing is that we have been eating scrapied sheep for 200 years and nobody has come to any harm." Professor Hugh Pennington
We read in the Sunday Herald that "vCJD expert Dr Stephen Dealler" are once again raising the spectre of scrapie in sheep somehow masking BSE. An atypical form of scrapie has been found in 108 cases but there is no evidence that it is any more harmful to humans than scrapie itself. " The worry is, of course, that atypical scrapie will be infectious to humans, but we don't know," Dr Dealler is reported as saying, adding "..should we, in this wait-and-see period, be taking more aggressive action?"
While research grants are the life blood of science and "wait-and-see" periods may be rather lean, it seems nevertheless that the so-called "timebomb" disease of vCJD hardly merits all this scaremongering. The ever-dwindling number of deaths due to definite or probable vCJD in the UK during the 12 months of 2005 remains 5. The peak number of deaths was 28 in the year 2000, followed by 20 in 2001, 17 in 2002, 18 in 2003, 9 in 2004, 5 in 2005, and one so far in 2006. (Figures from ProMed.) From the latest SEAC Sheep Subgroup Position Statement: " (pdf) Human Health Risk. There is no evidence of a risk to human health, but a theoretical risk cannot be excluded. Comparative transmission studies with humanised mice and other species (including primates) are urgently needed to inform on the potential risk to human health."
March 4 2006 ~ FMD 2001 - "This research resonates with current concerns over the control of H5N1"
Press Release Research shows vaccination benefits during Foot & Mouth outbreak from Warwick University about the research - which was published in the journal Nature on 2nd March in a paper entitled 'Optimal reactive vaccination strategies for a foot-and-mouth outbreak in the UK'
".....the most efficient form of vaccination was to vaccinate first farms based on the shortest distance to infected farm/premises or a potential "Dangerous Contact" and to do so as early as possible. .....the researchers were surprised to find that their model worked better if all cattle were vaccinated, no matter how close they were to the original infection. If all cattle were vaccinated the model showed the spread of infection was slowed even further as even protecting a small number of additional animals from infection had a significant affect in reducing the spread of infection from one farm to another.....
This research resonates with current concerns over the control of H5N1 in poultry, and emphasizes the advantages of carefully optimized control measures..."
March 4 2006 ~ FMD 2001 - a combination of culling and vaccination would have been best, says new research
The WMN reports on new research from Warwick University conducted by Dr Matt Keeling and Dr Michael Tildesley
"..... The research, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, found that the most effective method of dealing with the outbreak would have been culling at infected farms and any dangerous contacts plus vaccination concentrated on farms at the shortest distance to infected premises. The researchers calculated that using this method would have seen 1,088 farms lose their livestock, based on the 10,000 farms that were infected in 2001. The Warwick research was led by Dr Matt Keeling and Dr Michael Tildesley, with contributions from other universities. Their findings, published in the science journal Nature, met a cautious response from farmers' leaders in the Westcountry. Ian Johnson, the National Farmers' Union South West spokesman, said: "Vaccination would have been an option had it been within the arsenal of Defra's contingency plans, which it was not. They were not set up for it. What we had was a creaky old contingency plan that had not embraced vaccination, trying to deal with a situation 30 years down the line from when it was first drawn up....."Read in full. ( Really, it will not do for farmers' leaders to talk about the "luxury of hindsight" as they do in the article. International experts were, from the very beginning, trying hard to get the UK to make use of the latest technology and to understand what was available. This website was echoing what they said. If we knew so early on, then why did not the UK Government? )
March 4 2006 ~ Bovine TB "The Ben Bradshaw statement on the Kremers' calf calls into question the entire bovine TB testing regime."
WMN "With tens of thousands of cattle slaughtered over the years, Westcountry livestock farmers are questioning if the tests on their animals were carried out correctly....... Both farmers and local vets agree that the pre-movement testing regime under the Government's TB strategy - now due to be introduced at the end of this month - is a waste of time and money, and that the Scottish system of cattle tracing would be vastly more satisfactory...." The Western Morning News has given several pages of coverage to the Kremers case
March 3 2006 ~ " If we do not order or make any vaccine for birds then we can never use it. Are we heading for another disaster on the scale of 2001?" Dr Ruth Watkins
"The persistence and spread of this HPAI H5N1 virus strain is an extraordinary phenomenon without precedent," writes the virologist Dr Ruth Watkins. This up to date article on avian influenza commissioned by the CLA has been sent to warmwell and can be read here. A shortened version of it is to be published in the Wales CLA magazine and the full article should be available on the CLA web site.
"....Why not vaccinate free- range poultry and pheasants as well as hold vaccine in reserve to ring vaccinate an outbreak in a domestic flock? Vaccination may be found necessary in bio-secure flocks to prevent breakdowns of infection in intensive poultry systems." Read in fullInterestingly, Dr Watkins has words of praise for DEFRA in that "tthey have moved forward on diagnosis in contrast to the 2001 FMD outbreak."
March 3 2006 ~ H5N1: Appeal to Veterinary Profession
Stephen M. Apatow, President Director of Research and Development Humanitarian Resource Institute at Pathobiologics International, has sent out this Appeal to the Veterinary Profession. He quotes the former President, American Association of Avian Pathologists
"...Destruction may work when dealing with an early outbreak of an exotic disease. However after three years of utilizing this WHO-FAO approach, H5N1 has spread from part of one continent to three continents. MADNESS! It's time for a better approach..."Dr Apatow asks that vets read and review:
Read the Appeal to the Veterinary Profession in full. It is extremely significant that people of such professional stature deem it "madness" not to utilise vaccination and differential testing when both are available and effective.
- "a veterinary statement regarding the 2001 UK FMD disgrace,"(sic) "by Willem Schaftenaar DVM, Rotterdam Zoo and Chairman of the Committee of Zoo Veterinarians of the Royal Dutch Veterinary Association. Rotterdam, March 21, 2001"
- and the paper that has been on warmwell for the past two days :Ellis TM et al. Vaccination of chickens against H5N1 avian influenza in the face of an outbreak interrupts virus transmission. Avian Pathology, 2004, 33(4):405 - 412.
March 3 2006 ~ "We just hope it doesn't happen..."
This still seems to be the overriding official thinking on the whole question of bird flu.
In Ipswich, a senior trading standards officer at Suffolk County Council, said: "One of the major issues in the event of an outbreak is looking for susceptible birds. That is a door to door exercise. There is a 3km radius and it may be a 10km radius. We just hope it doesn't happen in Ipswich..." According to the report on www.edp24, said he had no idea how many chickens there are in his area.
The head of emergency planning at Norfolk County Council made this ominous statement,"We would enforce whatever restrictions the Government imposed." That means, of course, going from house to house killing people's healthy poultry, closing public footpaths around infected farms, and choosing ways to get rid of thousands of carcases. Behaving, in short, as they did in 2001 - the traumatic social impacts of which are still being felt. All this when, as one sane poultry owner put it in an email,
"...DEFRA should have a vaccine bank. ... available for preventive vaccination for flocks most at risk i.e . free range in East Anglia. ... at the rare Breeds Survival Trust Poultry forum on 28th February ...DEFRA officials have, I think, at last realized that rare breeds and pure breeds of waterfowl cannot be kept outdoors in high risk areas without prophylactic vaccination. It has taken a long time to get this message through. Biosecurity may work for the broiler industry - but birds which HAVE TO BE OUTDOORS are at risk."Read again the peer reviewed paper from Avian Pathology (new window)on how properly conducted vaccination in Hong Kong both protected birds and precluded silent spread.
March 3 2005 ~ "when will the Government set out the circumstances in which vaccination will be used? " asked David Cameron
The Prime Minister's reply yesterday -(very different from the reasurance given to the French by M.de Villepin below ) - showed to whom he has been listening
"A series of peopleour chief scientific adviser, the chief veterinary officer and othersadvise us and sensibly we follow their advice. I am not an expert on this issue and nor is the right hon. Gentleman, but these people are. " HansardAlas they are not.
They advise that although vaccination is effective in stopping birds dying, it is not effective in stopping the virus spreading. Their worry has always been that vaccination masks the disease, rather than stopping it spreading.
The peer reviewed paper from Avian Pathology refutes this. Information is not being properly shared. Reading this extract from Hansard makes one realise that official ignorance about latest scientific advances, virology, epidemiology and frankly, about how ordinary people feel about their free range chickens and pets - is now positively dangerous for the health of our country. Since trust in DEFRA and the SVS is now so low (as in this email) that there are people who are far more likely quietly to bury the evidence of any infection - H5N1 or not - than report it to officialdom, the reluctance to vaccinate as soon as possible could be catastrophic.
March 2nd/3rd 2006 ~ "To my understanding, there are no 'silent carriers'..."
Another email from the General Manager of Intervet UK casts serious doubt on David King's reasons for dismissing vaccination.
"When our vaccine is used as recommended (2 doses 4-6 weeks apart) it prevents transmission of the disease, even with the high challenges used experimentally..... infection...dies out - no new birds get infected, and the few infected birds (which are not clinically sick) recover and clear themselves of the infection. .. what happened in Hong Kong during their outbreak - vaccination, as part of a very stringent overall control program, stopped virus circulation on infected premises from 18 days after the vaccination started. Importantly, carriers were not found. These findings are reported in the attached publication. ( "Vaccination of chickens against H5N1 avian influenza in the face of an outbreak interrupts virus transmission" Avian Pathology, August 2004 (opens in new window)To whom is the UK Government listening? To those who led the UK into the miserable fiasco of foot and mouth 2001 and who have an undoubted vested interest in the continuation of the myth that "vaccination doesn't work" - or to those whose work and experience provides evidence that it most certainly does?
March 2nd/3rd ~ Dominique de Villepin reassured poultry keepers, talking about transparency, vaccination, information and financial support
"... I should like to send out three messages today. The first is about transparency.... . The second message is about protection. ..... The third message is of course about our support for the entire poultry food chain, breeders and the industry. We will begin the vaccination of poultry alongside confinement and protection measures on farms in order to guarantee maximum security. We've also budgeted for compensation and tax relief to the tune of 11 million euros for the poultry industry. We've released an extra 52 million euros for poultry breeders and for the industry as a whole. " Read extact from last friday's speech by the French Prime Minister.
Vaccination is now underway in French zoos.
March 2 2006 ~ We learn today that Sheilagh Kremer's Dexter calf, Fern, has been granted a second TB test by Defra
. If the test is carried out competently and is positive she will accept the result. See BBC
".......Mr Bradshaw, who is also the MP for Exeter in Devon, said recent information concerning the test at Mrs Kremer's farm, had led to a review of the case. He said the Local Veterinary Inspector who conduced the test had not carried it out in full accordance with the instructions issued by the State Veterinary Service and Mrs Kremer's request to have the animal retested would be granted. Mr Bradshaw said in a Commons statement: "I very much regret the course of these events. We will be telling Mrs Kremers that we will reimburse any legal costs she has incurred as a direct result of this case." ...."Warmwell is very pleased at this development and are grateful to DEFRA and Mr Bradshaw.
March 2 2006 ~ "Zoo and free range birds should receive preventative vaccination." Intervet
Jim Hungerford, General Manager of Intervet UK, writes to warmwell, ".. Our reasoning is that these are the birds most at risk and they are solidly protected for 12 months after the two doses of vaccine - if they are exposed to any virus it will not become established or be transmitted (as exposure is an unpredictable risk with migrating waterfowl, we believe vaccination should start now to ensure these birds are protected as soon as possible). The use of non-vaccinated sentinel birds and antibody (DIVA) testing provides the appropriate assurance of vaccination, non-exposure and non-infection.
The government proposal of waiting for an outbreak will require slaughter of the exposed birds (clearly unacceptable in a zoo situation) and the emergency vaccination and quarantine in the surrounding zone. If despite this the infection spread, I can't see society accepting a repeat of the terrible scenes that we saw during the FMD crisis, and I hate to think what it would do to our agriculture. Also, the proposal to house free range birds for months in buildings that are only designed for overnight use poses major animal welfare problems. Finally, emergency vaccination (with a single dose) is never as good as the full course of two doses...." Read the email in full, together with the Intervet Question and Answer sheet and latest press release
March 2 2006 ~ a group of American military scientists has called for the setting-up of a global network of laboratories to contain outbreaks of bird flu and other new diseases that could trigger a world pandemic.
The Times repeats yesterday's news from Reuters that Jean-Paul Chretien of GEIS says It would be foolish and unreasonable for the international community to rely on the military priorities of a single country for the expanded surveillance network that is urgently needed. We cannot be optimistic that a deadly and easily transmissible disease emerging in sub-Saharan Africa, or a rural part of Asia or South America, would be detected, characterised and contained before spreading. But we do have a model for improving the situation. A network of . . . laboratories could help to detect and contain epidemics in key areas.
March 2 2006 ~ The Manchester FMD Conference - Programme
Read in full (My own situation in France made it impossible for me to accept the invitation to speak at the conference myself - but it is highly encouraging to see so many familiar names on the programme. The keynote speech in particular will be dramatic and unmissable. )
March 2 2006 ~ "the Soil Association said it was "mystfied" and "dismayed" by the decision not to vaccinate..."
(BBC) ".... It called for the use of "ring" vaccination - when poultry close to any outbreak are inoculated.
"They have got to bring in every weapon in their armoury," said the association's Robin Maynard. He said he had a sense of "deja vu", likening it to the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. "The end result was 11 million animals slaughtered and #8bn cost to the tax-payer. We just don't want to go down that barbaric, medieval route." ..
...organic poultry farmer Ritichie Riggs, from Holsworthy, Devon, branded Prof King's comments as "irresponsible", while the decision not to vaccinate had left him "demoralised".
"They don't care about the flocks, they are not farming people, they don't care about the animals. We are just going along exactly the same route as they took with foot-and-mouth disease," he said. ..."Read in full
March 2 2006 ~ Ben Bradshaw has given permission for the Stafford Bird Show to go ahead this weekend.
An emailer tells us that an attempt to get a High Court injunction banning the show has failed. The trade fair of exotic birds has been approved by DEFRA and the Staffordshire Council "provided the names of all the sellers and buyers are recorded". 100 dealers will attend, including some from Germany and Holland.
Clifford Warwick, an expert in zoonotic diseases, commented,
"When you are in a sinking ship you don't go drilling holes in it.'...but the judge opined that 'the evidence relating to avian flu was merely " based on press speculation"
Switzerland's first case of H5N1 bird flu has been confirmed by tests on a duck found in Lake Geneva. See BBC
Russia said yesterday that it had destroyed 1.35 million domestic and wild birds since July 2005 and now plans to start mass vaccination of domestic fowl, beginning on March 10 to prevent the spread of the virus. ( See Reuters)
At least 15 other countries on 3 continents reported initial outbreaks of the virus in February : Iraq, Iran, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Greece, Azerbaijan, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Egypt, India, France, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. See also Yahoo's Wall of Distrust in Nigeria Bird Flu Fight in which we read how mistrustful the poorest farmers are, chasing away culling teams. Bernard Vallat is quoted: "We won't get out of the crisis in Africa, notably, in a few months. We have to put in at least three years of effort.....the greater chance of the virus transforming itself into a virus more dangerous for mankind."
March 2 2006 ~ " ..a-tishoo, ..a-tishoo! ALL FALL DOWN? How prepared are we for Avian Flu?"
IF WE GIVE THEM THE TOOLS, THEY CAN FINISH THE JOB:
A manifesto for global livestock epidemic disease eradication in our lifetimes.
Dr Roger Breeze
7.30pm Wednesday 15th March, Manchester Town Hall (Admission free) Read in full
March 1 2006 ~ Not only are there effective vaccines available, there are also differential tests to distinguish between vaccinated and infected birds.
The UK has not ordered any . Only 2 million doses for zoo and rare/protected species are now finally on order but there will be a time delay before delivery. We are being led by the same thinking that resulted in the misery, waste and despair of FMD 2001. The difference is that this time the "advisers" are playing with the real possibility of a human pandemic. (And pet owners may be more averse to government policy now that it has emerged that Germany is advising cat owners to keep their pets inside and dog owners to keep them on a lead because of the risk of contracting birdflu. Channel 4 News will report on this tonight) and see also foodconsumer.org
March 1 2006 ~ The French are vaccinating nearly a million birds they say cannot practically be moved indoors.
In the UK however, the Chief Scientific Adviser (see below) David King, appears to take no account of small scale outdoor poultry keeping. The big intensive farms can survive because they are enclosed. But there are many small scale free-range units in Britain. In the case of a recognised outbreak these birds will be summarily slaughtered - if the authorities know where they are. Those registered (and only a third of those that should have done had done so by the deadline) will be doomed. But what of the small holders who have not registered? Are they really likely - without any trust, help, information or encouragemnet having been offered to them- to offer up their birds to be killed? Memories of the bullying fiasco of FMD make this highly unlikely. And the consequence of birds being hidden is that the disease could be "masked" far more effectively than the theoretical problem with vaccination.
David King maintains (FWi) that an outbreak of avian flu in the UK would be far easier to control than the foot-and-mouth disease crisis in 2001. He is choosing once again to ignore the small scale keepers. Their fears and uncertainties are being ignored and no practical help or financial assistance is being offered to them. Such an attitude is dangerous. If the virus is able to mutate as a result, the consequences of the UK stance could indeed be lethal.
March 1 2006 ~ Vaccination takes 18 days before fully prevents infection. It stops infection and prevents asymptomatic virus shedding. We should be vaccinating now in the precious days before the virus gets to the UK.
The UK insistence that vaccination can mask infection needs to be countered by peer-reviewed studies. For example, from the paper Vaccination of chickens against H5N1 avian influenza in the face of an outbreak interrupts virus transmission (Avian Pathology (August 2004) 33(4), 405 /412) we read that - far from "masking infection" via silent shedders of virus, vaccination does stop the disease from spreading.
"....One of the concerns in the use of vaccine to control HPAI in poultry farms is the possibility that while vaccine may protect from disease, asymptomatic virus circulation may continue, resulting in spread of infection to other farms. The monitoring and surveillance conducted on these three chicken farms showed that use of this killed H5N2 vaccine in the face of HPAI H5N1 virus challenge was able to protect chickens from disease and interrupt virus transmission. The protective effect of vaccine became apparent after day 18 post-vaccination. ...This investigation showed that the use of killed H5N2 vaccine on three farms undergoing H5N1 HPAI outbreaks was able to protect chickens against disease and also to interrupt asymptomatic virus shedding. This is particularly relevant when dealing with viruses such as H5N1 where the virus also poses a significant risk to human health." Read in full (pdf)
March 1 2006 ~ Blair reassures MPs on bird flu
With sinking heart we read on epolitix that Mr Blair has told MPs that all the appropriate measures are being taken to protect Britain against bird flu. This is not true, unfortunately. The so-called "specialists" advising the government are convincing them that vaccination "masks the disease and does not actually stop it from spreading". But this is a wild simplification. In the paper Vaccination of chickens against H5N1 avian influenza in the face of an outbreak interrupts virus transmission (Avian Pathology (August 2004) 33(4), 405 /412) we read what "appropriate measures" actually looked like in Hong Kong where the virus was successfully controlled.
".... A comprehensive package of measures including enhanced biosecurity programmes for farms, wholesale and retail poultry markets, the use of rest days in markets to break cycles of infection and a comprehensive monitoring and surveillance programme for early detection of any H5 avian influenza virus incursions.........avian influenza vaccination in Hong Kong is used to complement the strict biosecurity measures and a comprehensive monitoring and surveillance programme already in place. Comprehensive vaccination of all chicken farms supplying the local retail markets was introduced as an additional layer of protection after a one year long vaccination evaluation trial (Ellis et al ., 2004b).
March 1 2006 ~ "... the virus also poses a significant risk to human health"
From the same paper above we read: " If you do not vaccinate, all exposed chickens have the potential to become infected with H5N1 viruses that will replicate to high titres and shed large quantities of virus in faeces and respiratory secretions that will infect further chickens. Each replication cycle increases the number of mutations and the potential for antigenic variation. .." The UK government seems to be forgetting the potentially lethal possibilities associated with a non-vaccination programme.
March 1 2006 ~ France bans light aircraft to avoid scattering infected birds: UK orders spotter planes to fly low over migration areas.
Flights by small pleasure aircraft over areas where migrating birds may be infected have been forbidden in France so as not to scatter the wild birds already there. (Yahoo) In Britain however, spotter planes have been concentrating on areas populated by migrating birds, such as Romney Marsh, Morecambe Bay and the Mersey estuary. One Government source said: "The planes are being used to see if there are cases of dead birds in areas where we could not normally reach them."(Mirror)
March 1 2006 ~ Lack of agreement about vaccination against bird flu - whose view should be trusted?
Is there some fundamental disagreement between the Ministry and Chief Scientific Adviser David King - as there undoubtedly was in 2001? David King's role in the foot and mouth disaster will never be forgotten. 'I should engage myself immediately', and 'impose myself on the situation' he said ( Dr. Richard North's account). The Chief Vet, Jim Scudamore, was subsequently sidelined and David King, in spite of having no veterinary expertise, was able to use his position to ensure that Professor Roy Anderson and his team were to form the 'Chief Scientific Advisor's Science Group' . As David Shannon,the retired Chief Scientist of DEFRA, was to write later,
"The Science Group had enjoyed enormous power without any formal responsibility "Dr Keith Sumption (now promoted to the EUFMD Commission, FAO, Rome, on control of FMD Europe-wide) told the EU Inquiry (Daily Telegraph) that if blanket vaccination had been used in 2001
"following typical epidemiology patterns after vaccination, the last case would have taken place around one month after vaccination began."But David King rejected vaccination and failed to recognise the potential of the RT-PCR rapid diagnosis machine - in spite of having been given a personal demonstration. Caroline Lucas, vice-president of the committee of inquiry, said at the time "It is scandalous that the Government preferred a policy of indiscriminate and illegal slaughter to a policy of testing and vaccination."
That was, of course, five years ago but Sir David King is still saying much the same now as he was saying then. The international experts - such as Albert Osterhaus below - are saying the opposite. Tim Bennett, current president of the NFU, says, "If the scientists recommend vaccination we will go with vaccination. That is why we must make sure, if that is what is recommended, we can actually do it."
March 1 2006 ~"... councillors wanted them given the jab in advance of any possible outbreak of the disease."
The Western Morning News reports on the distress in the West Country at the lack of vaccine to protect the famous black swans of Dawlish. The DEFRA spokesman repeated, what we have now heard so often, that "..the problem is that while it protects the birds from the disease it does not prevent birds from becoming infected and spreading virus " although, interestingly in view of Sir David King's stance at the NFU conference, the DEFRA spokesman did say, " it is on order. We have not ruled out the use of vaccines to tackle the disease." So apparently, vaccines are now being ordered - although they had not been by February 21st (see below).
The Question and Answer page of the EU press release section on avian influenza explains that: "Vaccination does not provide 100% protection against avian influenza, and vaccinated birds may still become infected with the virus, depending on certain conditions e.g. level of exposure to virus. It emphasises that strict surveillance and control measures have to be carried out on vaccinated poultry under EU legislation and says that the costs can be high if vaccination has to be carried out on a large scale. However, in discussing the advantages of vaccination, we read that vaccination reduces the risk of birds becoming infected, lowers the chances of the virus being introduced and reduces the amount of the virus shed if vaccination was too late to prevent infection. The vaccine is particularly useful in protecting valued birds. Read in full
March 1 2006 ~ An Easy, Inexpensive Test Detects Tuberculosis in Livestock and Wildlife
See USDA webpage.
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