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Could asymptomatic chickens force Phase 4?

Posted on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 10:53AM by Registered CommenterScott McPherson in , | Comments2 Comments


As you know, I have been clamoring for a raising of the WHO pandemic threat level --from 3 to 4 --for some time. My previous justifications have centered around suspected changes in the H5N1 virus itself. Also used as justification was the bullheadedness of the Indonesian government as itstill refuses to display any type of transparency when it comes to sharing virus samples orreporting human cases in a timely manner.

Allow me to build a case here.

Recall the recent reports, and my blog on same, talking about how the Chinese have unwittingly produced an amantadine-resistant form of H5N1 via inoculation of fowl with a vaccine, coupled with Amantadine, that has resulted in a viral course change?

Look at the recent speculation from two different Chinese regional governments that H5N1 may have mutated again, and is now producing (at least in China) asymptomatic chickens, still shedding H5N1 virus, but not dying?

If we are producing, either through vaccine boo-boos or via natural selection (or both) an H5N1 virus that no longer causes chickens to die in staggering numbers but still continues to shed H5N1 virus, now that is scary news.

So what if, suddenly, we have lost our most important sentinels in the fight against pandemic H5N1? What if the virus has not changed, but the conditions for infection have? I am saying that if it is true that we have asymptomatic fowl in China and in other parts of Asia, and possibly Egypt, and as a result it is becoming easier for humans to get infected simply because fowl are not doing their duty and dying to warn us, then perhaps it is time to reassess that threat level once again.

When you lose a major source of intelligence when fighting a deadly foe, what do you do? When intelligence experts lose their eyes and ears, they ratchet up the threat level to compensate while they regroup and re-establish their eyes and ears.

Perhaps it is time for the WHO to do the same.  If theories hold true, and there is H5N1 present in China and elsewhere that produces asymptomatic, virus-shedding H5N1 avian flu in birds, then we have indeed lost our eyes and ears within the most populous nation on the Earth, the font of all known infectious respiratory diseases.  Any prudent homeland security expert would exercise great caution and would raise the threat level.

It is time to have serious and real dialogue on this issue.

Reader Comments (2)

In China the most part of human cases confirmed by WHO haven't reported poultry contacts, at least traceable. Thus,it is possible that this is the result of a underreporting by local authorities, mismanagement of vaccination campaigns or persistence of live poultry markets. We don't know whether Chinese poultry flocks are actually asymptomatic or simply there is not reporting by local and regional entities...

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGiuseppe Michieli

Yes, I think it is entirely possible that lax surveillance could be a factor. But die-offs are not occurring in several of these new cases, and that has to worry a lot of public health people in the affected areas. But I would have to think that H5N1-infected chickens at a live poultry market would begin to show the classic symptoms of distress, and the resulting concern would ripple into the general community and be noticed by officials.

January 21, 2009 | Registered CommenterScott McPherson

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