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Bird Flu - Should we be Terrified? by Janine Roberts
There is something pretty unique about this threat. It is the first time in history that we have been warned against a virus that has not evolved to spread between humans.
There is talk of millions of deaths - that are certain to happen sometimes soon. On the basis of these warnings literally billions of dollars are being spent. My cynical side notes that the people giving the warnings are very likely to be beneficiaries in terms of major research grants, so are not totally disintersted in the results of so scaring us? They of course probably never think in such terms - but it does mean that we have to be careful and assess the risks for ourselves.
When asked if there is any precedent, we are told by these scientists to look at the 'Spanish Flu' that killed countless millions in 1918. This we are told, is very likely to soon happen again.
But what is the evidence for the 1918 epidemic being caused by a bird flu like what threatens now? Why was it so terrible then?
I have found a number of problems with this theory of a coming viral Armageddeon.
1. It presumes that the circumstances now are the same as in 1918. Viruses do not evolve in a vacuum. They are pushed to change themselves mostly when they need to do so in order to survive - in other words normally when the environment around them has become dangerous to them. (Such as when their survival is constantly threatened by the same antibiotic.)
2. The work that showed some similarity between a virus present in 1918 and the current bird flu virus rests on the unique work of one scientist and the team he leads. He examined tiny shreds of DNA recovered from the corpses of a few people who died at the time, and from these over ten years he managed to assemble something that he said was possibly similiar to today's bird flu virus, although he also said it was clearly not the same virus.
3. It is presumed that the virus found in birds today, and which humans apparently can catch from birds, is highly dagngerous to humans. The BBC, all the media, call it a dreadful killer virus. This is on the basis that it has only been detected in dangerously ill humans . It is now being realised by scientists that this could well be totally wrong - for it could also be in a great number of perfectly healthy people whom it has not made ill - for they are not being tested for it.
4. Finally - the question has to be asked - just what are they finding in these sick people - for I have found they are not finding the virus directly. The principal test they use for detecting it actually looks not for viruses but for antibodies. It is said that if the type of antibodies looked for are present, then the virus must be also. They are also using another test that looks only for a fragment of the genetic code believed to come from such viruses when dead.
OK - time to look into these argments in some more detail - so we can judge if we really should be so scared..
The First Point. Just what was happening at the time of the 1918 epidemic that might force viruses to mutate - or otherwise cause a terrible epidemic? My suspicions got alerted when I found that the epidemic had started on the Western Front during that dreadful war where millions were being killed, where poison gas was being widely used, and some very crude polluted vaccines widely employed, and had ended when that war ended! The BBC even managed to discover the very military camp at the Western front where it thought it started.
If ever there was a time when a virus might be forced to mutate, that was then - and it is not now. There is no comparison with our lives now in the west - although it should be mentioned that there is much pollution in the East where these birds are mostly falling ill.
We should also not ignore the possibility that the immune systems of the men at the front by 1918 was starting to be gravely affected by the accumulation over several years of toxins from poison gases and many other souces in the blood and tissues - for that is how toxins work. They can accummulate in our vital organs until they get to the point of causing our immune systems and other systems to collapse. At this point, we may not even have the strength to deal with a virus or bacteria - or fungus - that wouild normally not make us seriously ill at all.
So - is there any evidence for this being how the epidemic started, did it really come from the Western front. Well yes there is. The Swiss particularly suspected that this was what was happening - and published medical papers on it. Here is a graph showing how the epidemic peaked in the final months of the war and then ended. The Swiss found the returning soldiers were giving it to wives and girl friends - but the main people falling ill were the soldiers.
Much the same has also been admitted in t he Lancet Infectious Diseases (2002; 2:111-114DOI:10.1016/S1473-3099(02)00185-8) in an article entitled "World War I may have allowed the emergence of “Spanish” influenza/'.
This reported;'The outbreaks in army camps at Etaples in France and Aldershot in the UK in 1916–1917 caused very high mortality in 25–35 year olds. Increased deaths from bronchopneumonia and influenza were also recorded in England. ..,We suggest that the pandemic had its origins on the Western Front, and that World War I was a contributor. ... the question remains as to whether these earlier outbreaks were caused not by influenza but, for example, by pneumococcus, mycoplasma, or Haemophilus influenzae. Bacteriological analysis of the two outbreaks detected a range of bacteria
They conclude: "Therefore, not only are we considering a forgotten pandemic but a forgotten and overlooked origin. The unprecedented circumstances of 1916–1918—in particular the war on the Western Front, a landscape that was contaminated with respiratory irritants such as chlorine and phosgene, and characterised by stress and overcrowding, the partial starvation in civilians, and the opportunity for rapid “passage” of influenza in young soldiers would have provided the opportunity for multiple but small mutational charges throughout the viral genome. Such changes could have been important factors in the evolution of the virus into a particularly virulent form, resulting in a pandemic." "We conclude that the international conflict at the beginning of the 20th century resulted in a huge death toll that might have to be revised to include the 40 million deaths of the pandemic itself."
Why then were there so many deaths in India - they were estimated to have a vast number more than the US? A lot of Indian soldiers also fought on the front. But clearly if the soldiers were bringing back an infection, a mutated virus or bacteria or fungi, it was swiftly dealt with by the immune systems of those they infected, for the disease promptly died out. This suggests whatever antibodies were produced, they were remarkably effective without any need for any kind of vaccine. Perhaps in India so many died because they were already in a very bad state of health for reasons of dire poverty? But - we are only going on estimates. Are we including deaths from other causes?
Did the epidemic die out because this horrible war ended? I think it is safe to say it did. So what really was its main cause? Surely the war, the poison gases, the early vaccines, all are more likely than the local birds? It is foolish to say all epidemics can only have one cause, a certain kind of germ. Many illnesses have many causes that work together to make us ill. I note that a large percentage of those reportedly falling ill with bird flu are children living in poor parts of the world, perhaps malnouished. Why not mostly the adults who spend all their time with poultry, far more than do children. I suspect it is because the immune systems of children are far more easy to damage by environmental factors.
If we are to take seriously this association with the Great War, then evidently we should take seriously the pollution present today in the rapidly industrialising countries, including the smog now enveloping much of Turkey and China. Surely the lesson from the Great War is that in highly polluted and stresful circumstances, any virus might mutate, and ordinary viruses become far more dangerous to birds and to us? So - lets tackle the pollution - not waste money on drugs that might well not work, or even make things worse by adding the polluton that increases mutation. Lets look to the health, the nutrition, the sources of clean water, available in order to keep immune systems strong.
Point Two I have read the scientific papers in which it was claimed that a virus had been constructed from fragments of viral genetic code found in a few corpses of people who died in 1918 that bore a likeness to a bird flu virus - and quite frankly, there are just too many uncertainties in these papers for us to conclude that a bird flu virus was the main cause of that epidemic
Here is an interview with the scientist involved. It can be found at URL: http://www.ninthday.com/tauben.htm The research was reported in "Initial Genetic Characterization of the 1918 'Spanish' Influenza Virus," Science. Volume 275, pages 1793-1796 by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger and colleagues, of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. They had found shattered bits of viral genes in preserved lung tissue samples.
Taubenberger said; 'I have often been asked what is the likelihood of a pandemic like 1918 coming again. The answer is still unknown.' 'We still do not know yet why 1918 was so lethal'."It has been a very difficult task. Ann Reid in the laboratory has been the only person doing the bench work on the 1918 flu project. The hemagglutinin gene has 1778 bases and the largest fragment we can amplify is about 150 bases long. There are no larger overlapping fragments.' This gene is the one they say is unique to their virus. If it is present, they deduce the whole virus was too.
In fact what strikes me most strongly from this research is how risky it can be. It turns out that today it is possible to make new viruses from scraps that might not be anything like anything that has previously existed. He admitted as much when he said "It is certainly possible to make recombinant influenza viruses containing partial or complete 1918 sequences'- and therefore viruses for which we have no resistance or natural protection. It was thus somewhat alarming to discover that the health authorities have sent samples of the viruses he constructed to labs around the world - if one sample should go missing? It does not matter that it is unlike the 1918 virus. It is a new virus that possibly has never existed before,that is what can make it dangerous. Why take such risks? Perhaps sufficient precautions are in place - but I doubt it. Laboratories get polluted much more often than they like to admit.
Point Three. This is based on scientific research done recently that certainly has received little attention in the media - perhaps because it is not scary enough. It seems that many healthy people may be also testing positive for this allegedly extremely dangerous virus - they simply had not been tested very much at all before. If one only examines the desperately ill, it is easy to make false conclusions as to the danger of any particular virus.
Point Four. What is being found with the antibody test used to try to detect the presence of this dangerous virus. It is confidently said that if the antibody is present, then this virus must be also - and so the world's press immediately reports it to all our alarms .I have often been asked what is the likelihood of a pandemic like 1918 coming again. The answer is still unknown.
I've heard this argument before . It is the way the HIV test is also said to work. Enormous problems have emerged with this. It has been found the antibody detected is not at all uniquely present to attack HIV - but can be present for entirely different reasons. For example it is now known to target also fungi - thus fungal infections; and that it also targets the bacteria that causes TB. Thus it quite simply cannot be a reliable test for HIV.
What would make it reliable when used for detecting the presence of this dangerous flu virus? It would have to be first proved that the antibody detected was only present to target this particular virus and nothing else. At the moment I cannot find when this was proved. Perhaps the research is out there somewhere? I simply cannot find it. It is very hard to prove a negative - and yet this has to be done. Then there is another problem. Antibodies do not target whole viruses, but molecules said to come from the virus. Such molecules might be found in different creatures. The one targeted would have to be proved to be unique to the virus in question Then there is the problem about the presence of antibodies. They are made by our bodies to keep us immune - and thus last in us long after a virus has been defeated. Thus the presence of an antibody does not mean the virus is also present - even if it is proved that this antibody uniquely attacks this virus.
Likewise the other test that uses PCR - a technique for studying tiny fragments of genetic code in the blood. This is code from dead viruses - could they have been defeated? Are they certain such fragments cannot come from something else?
Why not look for the virus itself - this seemingly is too hard to do. so the uncertainty continues.
In conclusion, the doctors who continually point to the 1918 epidemic to justify their predictions of immanent catastrophe, are unjustifiably causing a near panic among politicians and many others. By no stretch of the imagination do we now have conditions in the West anything like what happened in the Great War - nor do we have such terrible conditions in China and most of the far East. However we should be monitoring with much care what is happening in Iraq. I would suggest this would be the best place to put to use much of the billions raised. The Iraqis the Palestinians, the Central Africans, Chetnya, there is where we today find the conditions created by war that possibly could put us all in danger. We need to end the fighting, to prioritise immediately measures to greatly improve their heath, and water supplies... even for the very selfish reason that otherwise we too could fall ill.
If we do this, then the bird viruses can safely be given a far lower priority. By removing the environmental conditions that hurt us, we also help the birds, by removing the conditions that force their viruses to mutate.
In 1987 Channel 4 Television sent me to the National Institutes Laboratory in Washington to make a Dispatches program on how a monkey virus contaminating the polio vaccine given to millions of children was now found in many different human cancers. I was to attend an emergency scientific workshop summoned because of reports from laboratories around the world that had found this virus in human cancers. .. Continued