Entries in Popular Culture (52)

Mixed messages, cafeteria-style preparedness won't cut it in swine flu flight

Those of us who have been preaching pandemic preparedness for years are extremely and understandably interested to see how this entire swine flu situation unfolds. For us, the societal impact and response is almost as important (and perhaps more important) than the actual spread of the disease.

One element of pandemic preparedness and (now) mitigation is risk communication, or what you tell the public. And I am not at all sure that the government's risk communication aspect has been handled as smoothly or as honestly as it could.

Not at fault (yet) is the media. I have been very impressed with the coverage and the quality of reporting from NBC, CNN and FoxNews. Fox and NBC have relied upon Osterholm; CNN has Gupta On the Ground in Mexico City, and Fox has Geraldo warmed up in the bullpen to close. NBC's Bazell has been spot-on. These three networks have been quite good at educating the public and relating history.

These networks, however, will not "go it alone" and recommend certain actions unless and until the government does.  They are in the business of reporting news, not making policy.

What people want to know is exactly what to do right now. People are concerned-to-scared. Few people now are openly scoffing at the headlines since the WHO raised the pandemic threat level. That act by Geneva was, in and of itself, an act of risk communication.  It was an excruciatingly calibrated decision for the WHO to make. But they made it.

Why the decision-making angst in Geneva? The WHO has resisted the urge to raise the pandemic threat level for years. This blogger, along with hosts of others, have actively called for a Phase Four designation based solely on H5N1 human cases. Now, with the expansion of swine H1N1, that designation has been attained. And that is serendipitous good news for all who wanted stronger surveillance for all potential strains. Therefore, one "peace dividend" of the raising of the pandemic threat level may be to catch more human H5, H7 and H9cases.

The other dividend was clearly meant to get more Earthlings to take this threat more seriously. And that is the opening, the entree, that we cannot squander. To not use this opening that the WHO has given governments would be criminal.

So what should we be telling people? We should be telling them to prepare and to learn more about influenza. I am not talking about the Romero-esque TV commercials that the Ford Administration ordered up during the 1976 swine flu scare. I am talking about telling people to get their "hurricane kits" or "earthquake kits" restocked and brought up to speed. It is time to re-educate the American people on previous pandemics and previous near-misses, such as 1946 and 1951, with viruses that were also H1N1 but were much more virulent and, some thing, either swine-like or were actual swine influenzas that jumped the species barrier back in the day.

Telling people to buy one to two weeks' worth of food, water and medicines to prepare for hurricane season -- an annual hit-or-miss proposition with a clear historical precedent of occurrences -- is not considered folly; it is considered prudent.

Likewise, to tell people not to prepare similarly, in the face of the greatest threat to public health since SARS, also with a clear historical precedent, is equally prudent.

So why is everyone afraid to do so?

That brings up another issue: I wonder if anyone is testing this new swine flu against the antibodies of people who went through 1946 and 1951? Those people and their entire age group may be partially immune to this new strain and we may not even be aware of it. That may help explain the reason why older Mexicans and others are not falling in quantity.

By now, you should have a clear plan of action for Phase Four, Phase Five and the dreaded Phase Six. Phase Four should include beginning your "hurricane kit," or your all-hazards kit. It should include two weeks' worth of food, water and influenza and intestinal medicines and Gatorade to restore electrolytes. The Bush Administration was preaching this for three years, with not panflu threat! Emergency managers, including my very good friend and soon-to-be FEMA head Craig Fugate, have been preaching this Gospel of Personal Responsibility action item for years and years.

Why we are not telling people to do this nowis bizarre.

At some point, we need to tell people to update those kits and to prepare. To have told the American people to stock supplies from 2005 to 2008 and then NOT tell people to do so in the face of a potential pandemic sends a mixed message which is bad, bad, bad.

What I will call "cafeteria-style" preparedness also won't cut it. If you had a plan for Phase Four, stick to the plan. If that plan meant stocking, then stock. If it meant fleeing to the equator, bad timing, unless that's where you were headed anyway.

I can tell you that in my own plan, as one detail, I order a stop to all vacuuming in Phase Five. That is because vacuuming will stir up particles that had drifted to relative harmlessness on the rug, to dry out and become inert. Vacuuming reactivates those particles, kicks them up back into the air where they can be re-inhaled. Business and political leaders would do well to order the same action -- but in Phase Five.

As I mentioned in my Computerworld blog of 2008: For hurricanes and pandemics, plan one category higher.you need to assume ahead of the experts, the government spinmeisters and the virus/hurricane/calamity itself. You will never go wrong if you plan one category ahead of the approaching event.

If nothing else, you'll have a great ravioli supply for those midnight snacks if we all stand down.

When a recession and a pandemic collide

DANGER!!!!  LONG BLOG AHEAD.

I was going to call this particular blog "We don't need a pandemic to show us the economic consequences of one." In it, I was going to talk about how the current recession -- and a possibly worse description lurks in the wings -- is mimicing how the global economy would recoil during a pandemic of any severity.

One look at the economic numbers draws a striking parallel. GDP in the US is down by about half the Congressional Budget Office's estimates for a severe, 1918-style pandemic. The CBO estimated (along with the World Bank, the IMF and just about every other financial entity) that a 1918-severity pandemic would reduce global GDP by 5% to 6%, and most of that would come in a huge shockwave with a 20-week duration.

Well, it's the first quarter of 2009, and the US GDP has declined by an estimated 3.8%, adjusted annually. And again, most of it happened in a very condensed timeframe.

The key difference? This recession will be with us for a long time. Comparatively rosy estimates of a 2010 or even a 2011 recovery are going by the boards. In the government sector, no one can seem to get the declining revenue numbers right.  (My advice to them is to take their most pessimistic estimates and reduce them another 20% and budget from there.)

Now imagine what would happen if the Next Pandemic were to occur just as the global economy attempts to restart its engine; say, in 2011. And imagine if this pandemic were as severe as 1918's. Imagine a 5% to 6% drop in global GDP on top of an annual 3% to 4% decline in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

This is enough to cause even the most optimistic among us start to head for the proverbial hills.

Making matters worse is the lack of funding to prepare for the first pandemic of the 21st Century.  Any pretense -- any possibility -- that the private and public sectors can adequately stockplie and purchase items for that event is now out the window.

But not for all. In Britain, even though its government is also dutifully doling out billions of pounds Sterling to banks and other institutions, its government has declared it is doubling its stockplie of antivirals -- and (wisely) increasing its reliance on the inhalant Relenza/zanamivir for prophylactic use by first responders and law enforcement/military.

What do the Brits know that we don't know?

I read the federal government's recent assessment of the fifty states' preparedness for a flu pandemic, and I am sorry, but I don't believe a word of it. It's not that I think anyone is lying, but I refuse to believe any state is truly, look-in-the-mirror-prepared for a killer pandemic with a mortality rate close to 1918's.

Why? I do not see any state moving beyond the 25% antiviral purchase goal. I see many states meeting their share of that 25% goal, but none really exceeding it.

Why? I see no state embracing innovative solutions, such as the co-administration of probenecid to effectively double the supply of Tamiflu.

Why?  I don't think the feds can plan their way out of a wet paper bag.

Why? There is no emphasis on information technology data center and network professionals as among the first to need antivirals, particularly those in the public sector's own front lines of defense -- namely social services, law enforcement and unemployment assistance. Nowhere, in any federal pandemic document, do I see anything other than a cursory reference to "critical infrastructure" as even acknowledging the essential role that government data center and application developer and system engineer and network engineer and cybersecurity professional employees will play in a pandemic.

Why does this matter? NOTHING is done on paper anymore. Further, try to move back to paper! You will fail, and fail miserably. You want to see civil unrest and civil disturbances? You want to see blood in the streets? Watch the computers fail and watch people already bone-weary from years of a severe recession lose their subsistence lifelines because a pandemic hit and the mainframes shut down. The quickest route to civil discord is if/when the mainframes fail during a severe pandemic.

Why does this matter? Computers will route the information that is needed for people to make decisions and move resources. Computers will tell us who is sick and where (look at the Google plan to match search expressions with geography and, in their plan, be able to predict where a pandemic has broken out). Computers will tell us how much of something is left and how much to ration. If data center people get sick (and because they work in enclosed spaces, they work in very close physical proximity to one another and they WILL get sick in disproportionate numbers to the general population), you will have staffing problems and you will have maintenance postponements and database reorgs gone undone and then you will have system failures. Big system failures.

Recently, I wrote a blog saying Nature has a way of hitting humankind when it is down.  Look at 1918 for confirmation of that fact.  War builds stresses within the system.  So does famine.  So does pestilence.  So does economic uncertainty and calamity.  Everything is interconnected.  The 1957 pandemic was facilitated by American servicemen returning home from tours of duty in Korea and elsewhere in the Pacific theatre. 

We all know that we are long overdue for an influenza pandemic. We also know that pandemic fatigue is now itself a pandemic. And we know that there are stresses upon the world's ecomonic system that are impacting virtually every person on the planet in one way or another. 

Governments in this country no longer have the money to buy adequate stockpiles of masks, gloves, and antivirals.  That time has come and gone.  The only things we can do now to prepare are to plan and to educate.  Fortunately, these things cost little money.  They do require time and leadership. 

If governments (and for that matter, the private sector) have no money to stockpile, manufacturers will have no incentive to produce items that are not wanted.  So you will see reductions in the production of masks and other items intended to brunt the effects of a flu pandemic.  This means that if/when a pandemic does occur, the supply chain will be absolutely empty at the first sign of trouble.  We knew that would be the case anyway, but we also figured the manufacturing capabilities of the world's producers would eventually catch up.

We are in worse shape now than we were in 2005, in my opinion. We are no closer to deciding if schools close in unison or not than we were three years ago. We are no closer to making final decisions about quarantine and isolation than we were three years ago.  And while we have made great strides in preparedness and contingency planning, I cannot help but feel we are overconfident and arrogant in our belief that we have done everything we can do to adequately prepare.

And now we have lost our opportunity to further our stockpiles.  We put off those difficult bioethical decisions for another day.  And now, we lack the capacity to buy our way into enforcement of bioethics and pandemic policy.  It's gone, and won't be back for at least two to three years.  Pity, since recent studies point to successes in mask usage, and of course the recent stories of Tamiflu resistance in H1N1 in this country point to a huge need for Relenza that now no one can afford to buy.  This bird flu blogger has been championing the increased acquisition of Relenza and the purchase and use of Probenecid for years. 

Every day that passes brings us closer to pandemic.  Every day that H5N1, or H9N2, or H2N3 human cases are found brings us closer to pandemic.  And we have learned that despite our best international efforts, H5N1 continues to evolve and claim human lives -- and now, apparently, without the deaths of "sentinel chickens" that have warned us of trouble.

While the world's governments have indeed made strides, we are far short of the goal.  So let us take the opportunity to do whatever we can do in this current economic climate to prepare.  That means we educate people like we have never educated them before on this topic.  And also, we must plan, plan and then plan some more.  As Ike said:  The plan's useless, it's the planning that's important.  We should be taking our pandemic plans and stressing them in tabletop after tabletop exercise.  We need to be reaching out and running these plans past citizens and the media.  And we must ask everyone, What have we not thought of yet?

Because one day the worst will happen, and believe me, we will get bitten on the rear end by the stuff no one took the time to find. 

Definition of a scumbag

Posted on Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 02:06PM by Registered CommenterScott McPherson in , | Comments3 Comments | References2 References

 Killer of Marine deverves the needle.

Delvis Fernandez rode a Marine Humvee's  50 caliber machine gun in the streets of Iraq. Eariler this week, he was killed in a senseless act of violence.

Only he was not gunned down in Iraq. He was gunned down in downtown Sarasota, Florida, his adopted hometown.

He was not gunned down by an Iraqi insurgent, nor was he gunned down by al Qaida-in-Iraq. He was gunned down in a carjacking attempt by a common thug (OK, accused common thug) who, according to police, was aided and abetted in the crime by his mother.

The accused murderer, Deandre Tunstall (photo below), was driven to the crime scene by his mother. Tunstall had a pistol and a black ski mask with him at the time. Police claim Tunstall's mother knew what he was about to do and lied to police about it.

Fernandez was going home after his daily classes to become a police officer. The sheer randomness and the sheer audacity of the crime are shocking, even in this day and age where hardly anything is a shock anymore.  From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

SARASOTA - A witness saw Deandre Tunstall, dressed in black from head to toe, pull a black ski mask over his face, put on black gloves and arm himself with a handgun, Sarasota police say.

Deandre Tunstall, already a felon, is charged with murder.

In the afternoon daylight, witnesses saw the man in black confront another man on the north side of the Star Mini-Mart in Newtown, shoot him several times and flee, police say.

Officials say two witnesses picked Tunstall, 18, out of a photo lineup, and detectives arrested the convicted felon and charged him with murder Tuesday night in Manatee County.

A SWAT team and other violent crimes officers surrounded a house, and found a handgun inside when they arrested Tunstall, police said.

Iraq War veteran Delvis Fernandez, 21, died Friday at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. There was apparently no previous connection between Tunstall and Fernandez, police said.

Detectives believe it was a carjacking attempt.

Fernandez stopped at the convenience store, 2950 N. Washington Blvd., on his way home from community college classes Friday about 3 p.m. He was studying to become a Sarasota police officer.

A witness identified Tunstall as the man dressed in all black running east from the convenience store on 30th St., hopping some fences and telling someone on a cell phone to pick him up on Leonard Reid Avenue, police said.

Seven evidence markers showing the locations of bullet casings or bullet fragments were scattered around the passenger side of Fernandez's car, which was towed away Friday afternoon.

Fernandez, a Booker High School graduate, had returned from an eight-month tour in Iraq with the Marine Reserves, where he often manned a .50-caliber gun on the lead car in dangerous supply convoys.

When he got back home, Fernandez also rejoined his minor-league football team, the Sarasota Millionaires, which had final tryouts Saturday just blocks from the shooting.

Millionaires co-owner Bethsaida Williams said Fernandez's teammates were relieved to hear of the arrest Wednesday, as they prepared to go to his wake.

"A lot of thoughts run through your head. Who else does he have it out for?" Williams said.

The funeral is scheduled for this morning.

Fernandez's friends say he gave back to the community, such as reading to elementary school children.

He had been bilingual since his mother brought him here from Cuba, and would have made a good police officer, said those who knew him.

Police also arrested Tunstall's mother, Rose Mary Salem, 41, on a charge of helping her son commit murder and lying to police.

She admitted driving her son to the convenience store just before the shooting, police said.

Tunstall had just been released from jail after pleading guilty to a robbery. He had been arrested in February and was sentenced to time served. Wednesday night, he remained in the Sarasota County jail without bail.

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20081030/ARTICLE/810300391

This is not the first time an Iraq war veteran has successfully braved the bullets of the enemy, only to come home and be gunned down by an American in a senseless act of violence.  The perp is usually some thug, some piece of crap loser with no future who acts purely out of self-interest with absolutely no regard for the consequences.

We've got some serious issues here.  Note this scumbag was just released for burglary.  It is a step up to murder, but leniency of a judge is inferred by the articles. 

In this case, the perp was black and the victim was Hispanic.  In other cases, the crime is black-on-black.  They can be white-on-white, or any variation under the sun,  Regardless of color, class or motivation, only when all facets of American society decide to deal with finality and with no remorse toward these scumbags will we actually start to regain control of our streets again and move forward together as a people.  No rationalization of the act; no psychobabble about his upbringing or his hopelessness.  Bullshit.  Only the needle or a lifetime of jail without any hope of parole will suffice for him and others like him who prey upon the lawful.

Osterholm, Fugate and coming bird flu blogs

With the exception of Indonesia and South Korea (and India too, I suppose), the bird flu front has been relatively quiet.  This has given me the opportunity to catch up on my posting on my "other" blogsite, the Web home of the computer publication Computerworld Magazine blogs.computerworld.com/mcpherson. That site, as you can imagine, deals with my profession, which is information technology.  But I serve up my observations with the same wit, or lack thereof, so feel free to drop by over there and read those blogs when you can.  they can occasionally overlap, and are a great resource for people used to dealing with calamity and catastrophe.  Emergency managers, DR/COOP/BCP planners, Republican Congressional political consultants, that sort of thing.

My Outlook task list is overflowing with blog ideas for these slow periods.  Of course, impatient one, you can also go to the Websites and blogsites that deal with avian flu on a much more dependable, daily basis.  They are all posted on the left frame of this Website, and they are all worthy of your time.

One item that I am looking forward to writing is a critique of the pandemic guide of the American Civil Liberties Union.  I suppose they will sue bird flu to death, yuk yuk.  Seriously, this topic needs to be debated.  That there will be some sort of temporary cessation, or suspension of some subset of civil liberties is all-but-assured.  The scope of that suspension cannot be determined in advance.  It has to be planned for, exercised, and chronicled.  We also need to define, legally, when that cessation of that subset of civil liberties itself ceases.  Is it when cases drop back below the epidemic threshold?  Is it when the Congress says so?  The governors?  The military?  Homeland?

I will also be turning toward the plague of Dengue Fever and DHF that is becoming endemic in the Caribbean, and how we may be only a blow away from Dengue on our own doorstep.  Hurricanes can bring the United States more than just a lot of rain, wind and property damage.  It can bring misery on a scale not seen since the late 1800s. 

I want to comment on something I read in Mike Coston's blog, Avian Flu Diary.  Dr. Mike Osterholm is a genuinely good person and, I am happy to say, a friend of mine.  Mike's stamina as regards pandemic fatigue is remarkable.  I have found that I need to "charge my batteries" from time to time, leaving the topic of bird flu for days to weeks in order to energize.  Mike Coston has the luxury of a Florida beach apartment to lounge in and recharge, curse him.  Me? I have a backyard with a pool that is forming its own ecosystem.  But thank God that Mike Osterholm is the Energizer Bunny of pandemic planning. 

Dr. Mike has given a seminal speech in his native Minnesota, speaking in front of hundreds who were treated to Vintage Osterholm.  the story is at: http://www.postbulletin.com/newsmanager/templates/localnews_story.asp?z=2&a=342839

Osterholm back on the speaking circuit and getting picked up by the media is a good thing: There is no one else in the world today with the gravitas to match Dr. Mike when he speaks about supply chain disruptions, along with the upcoming potential failure of essential services such as municipal fresh water systems and electric utilities.  And Mike consistently gets it right.  He is Cassandra, but so am I.  So are we all.  And we are right and correct in our beliefs. 

I am barely qualified to carry his water when it comes to these topics.  In fact, he is where I draw much of my inspiration from when I blog about IT and the incredible vulnerability our society has if the technology fails.  Yet that is what I am expert in -- IT -- and I mean IT like IT that means the difference between life and death, good and bad, success and failure on an enterprise scale.  So when I see the train wreck that is the failure of multiple essential services like coal mining, petroleum refining and data center failures, I have been there and done that.

One of the countless things I learned while preparing the entire state of Florida for Y2K was that it is not the loss of fresh water that worries me as much as the inability to move waste.  You see, waste flows downhill as they say, and in most areas of Florida (and probably in your area too), that downhill flow has to be power-assisted.  If there are serious disruptions to the electric grid (and you can count on those in a moderate-to-severe pandemic), human waste will back up and become quite a public health problem.  Sure, there are generators that are responsible for doing their thing at transfer stations, but they, too, require energy -- in the form of petroleum products.  When that flow is disrupted, the other flow will be, too.

So add to that cascading series of probable failures, the failure to move human waste from Point A to Point B.  And that means a very real possibility of diseases such as cholera to suddenly appear as a secondary infection during a severe pandemic with accompanying disruptions to the electrical grid.

When I did the Sandy Springs radio show last week, I mentioned that a pandemic is like Y2K where the people fail, not the machines -- at least not in the beginning.  Eventually, however, machines will fail too.  Not all of them at once, but enough of them to make life pretty miserable for an extended period of time.  Machines break.  Computers break, too, because computers are machines at their core. they all require maintenance.  No maintenance, or reduced maintenance, equates to disruptions and failures.

Now factor in Nature.  Nature does not schedule its rage sequentially, in a linear timeline.  Mother Nature likes to "pile on," like some football coach running up the score on Hapless U. to get a few extra poll votes or points in a computer ranking.  So it is that over half of the influenza pandemics of the past 300 years had waves in what is known as Hurricane Season, June 1 to November 30.  Imagine the problems if a major hurricane hit the United States while a flu pandemic raged?  Can we even begin to imagine what happens when the entire veneer of a modern lifestyle is peeled back by a killer virus and then a natural cataclysm?  Anyone who thinks the infrastructure could withstand that is buying illegal substances from Mexican cartels.

Last Sunday, my wife and I were en route to our church when we noticed all the traffic signals were dormant in the mile leading to the church.  We performed the quick calculus and concluded the power would be off in the church and we thanked our God that He gave us the wisdom to dress very Summery.

Sure enough, when we entered the church, it was beginning to get pretty sticky in there.  We became grateful for the incense!  The point is that within about forty-five minutes, the church began to swelter.  That is how long it took for people to become really uncomfortable with the conditions.  Now transpose that to hours or even days.  It is not so unlikely a scenario:  A few months ago, our City of Tallahassee power was off for just shy of eight hours, caused by a mild thunderstorm.  What was maddening was that our power stayed out while the next street over had electricity within three hours.  Why our block was subjected to torture while another was quickly restored is still a mystery.

An increasingly thin veneer separates us from chaos.  That veneer is abraded today by absurdly high gas prices, unemployment, foreclosures and malaise.  It can be stripped bare by natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes or hurricanes.  It can be blown to smithereens by a severe flu pandemic.  Every single thing we can do to ensure the success of the supply chain and the delivery of infrastructure, utilities, food and energy during a pandemic is important, welcomed and is absolutely essential.

My good friend Craig Fugate is the emergency manager for Florida.  He spoke yesterday at the Governor's Hurricane Conference in Ft. Lauderdale ("Ft. Liquordale" to the oldies there).   The topic was hurricane preparedness, but he also spoke indirectly to this culture of victimization and how it is a cancer upon our society.  People are not taking responsibility for their actions.  Read on::

(Florida Governor Charlie) Crist and Craig Fugate, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, urged people to stock up on food, water, gasoline and other provisions. Fugate said residents should adopt a proactive approach, instead of relying on government to ride to their rescue.

"You don't have to get ready: Somebody's going to take care of you. Your house got tore up? Blame somebody else," Fugate quipped. "Ice didn't get there today, 12 hours after a hurricane? Blame the government.

"So when did we suddenly decide that we were going to play the role of victim?" he asked.

The man tells it like it is.  We could speak the same words regarding a pandemic. We need more Osterholms and Fugates.

Bird flu very much on Chinese minds in run-up to Olympics

beijing2008_logo.jpgLast week's press release from the Chinese government regarding the so-far-succesful creation of a human vaccine against H5N1 avian influenza was picked up by China Daily and Reuters and broadcast to the world.  The Chinese were ready to manufacture some 20 million doses of a trivalent bird flu prepandemic vaccine.  This followed a test of 500 "volunteers" (I am sorry to be so cynical about how the Chinese categorize "volunteers".  

Now, I find it interesting that the Chinese were making a trivalent H5N1 vaccine.  Hypothetically, it would guard against Clades 2.1 through 2.3.  Or maybe it would guard against clade 1.0 and Clades 2.2 and 2.3.  I don't know, and I am counting on those who do know to post a response.  Of equal interest is the Chinese government's initial denial that Clade 2.3 (also called "Fujian") even existed.  But after they saw the evidence, they stomped off and started killing Tibetian monks in frustration, I suppose.

Anyway, the line I am most interested in comes toward the end of the news story. 

"It's also part of the task to secure an outbreak-free Beijing Olympics," she (SFDA spokeswoman Yan Jiangying) added.

I have speculated as early as last year that the Chinese government would go to extraordinary lengths to make sure H5N1 did not rear its beak during the ultimate sports spectacle.  Nothing like starting a pandemic at the javelin throw to draw bad publicity and start a worldwide economic depression.  So the Chinese will act quickly, decisively and without regard to consequence in order to keep H5N1 out of sight.  See my blog from last September, A problem of Olympic proportions, for refreshment. 

Here's the article about the vaccine:

Bird flu vaccine for humans approved

By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-04-03 07:18


 

A homegrown vaccine for humans against the H5N1 influenza virus, commonly known as bird flu, was Wednesday approved by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA).

Worldwide, only the United States and the European Union have approved human vaccines against bird flu.

The SFDA approval follows two rounds of clinical tests involving 500 volunteers from 2005 to 2007.

The vaccine will enhance the country's capability to protect people from an influenza pandemic, said SFDA spokeswoman Yan Jiangying.

"Almost all known human bird-flu cases are caused by the H5N1 strain," said Yin Hongzhang, head of the biological product department of the SFDA.

But given the constant mutation of the bird-flu virus, it might be another strain instead that could trigger a pandemic, he added.

Yin Weidong, CEO of Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech and the vaccine maker, said in case of a pandemic, the WHO would offer the identified viral strain in three weeks for the producer to incorporate into the vaccine.

The production time for a vaccine against a new strain would take about four months, he said, adding that it takes two months for the H5N1 virus.

The vaccine-induced immunity lasts a year, similar to that of a seasonal flu shot, he added.

The company can churn out at least 20 million doses of the trivalent vaccines, Xinhua News Agency reported earlier.

Yan noted that the company will not sell the vaccine commercially.

"It will be purchased by the government for inclusion in the national strategic stockpile."

She said the SFDA streamlined approval procedures for the vaccine.

"It's also part of the task to secure an outbreak-free Beijing Olympics," she added. (bold mine)

Some 373 people worldwide have been infected with the virus since 2003, of whom 236 have died, according to the WHO. China has recorded 30 infections and 20 deaths.

To date, H5N1 influenza has remained primarily an animal disease, but experts fear the virus could acquire the ability for sustained transmission among humans.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-04/03/content_6587926.htm

Despite the Chinese government's efforts, H5N1 is absolutely entrenched in the nation, and will not go quietly into that good night.  Three people have already died from H5N1 since January, and the virus' ability to mutate and kill evoked the famous Dr. Zhong Nanchan commentary of last month. 

Birds routinely test positive for H5N1 in southern China, including Hong Kong and the notorious Guangdong Province.  Now bird flu has reappeared in Tibet.  From today's Reuters:

China reports birdflu in Tibetan poultry
07 Apr 2008 13:14:13 GMT
Source: Reuters
 BEIJING, April 7 (Reuters) - China said on Monday that an outbreak of birdflu had killed 268 chickens at a poultry farm in the Tibet region.

 

Tests by a national laboratory showed the birds had died from the H5N1 strain of the virus, but it is now under control in the affected area, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on its Web site (www.agri.gov.cn).

 

Bird flu tends to be more active in low temperatures and since the start of this year China has reported three confirmed human deaths from the disease and several outbreaks in poultry.

 

With the world's biggest poultry population and hundreds of millions of farmers raising birds in their backyards, China is seen as crucial in the global fight against the virus. (Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Jerry Norton)

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/PEK137202.htm
I am sure the Chinese government will move swiftly and decisively to cull poultry in Tibet.  Let's hope the Chinese authorities know the difference between poultry and, say, monks.