It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.
Chris Hedges

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Crisis is here.

On October 5th, 2005 the CDC announced they had successfully reconstructed the virus that caused the 1918 flu pandemic. The work, done in collaboration with Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, determined the set of genes in the 1918 virus that made it so harmful. The 1918 pandemic killed an estimated 20-50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 in the United States. The pandemic’s most striking feature was its unusually high death rate among otherwise healthy people aged 15-34.

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command agents have been visiting Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, to investigate the disappearance of three vials of a virus. Christopher Grey, spokesman for the command, said this latest investigation has found "no evidence of criminal activity."

The vials contained samples of Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, a virus that sickens horses and can be spread to humans by mosquitoes. In 97 percent of cases, humans with the virus suffer flu-like symptoms, but it can be deadly in about 1 out of 100 cases, according to Caree Vander Linden, a spokeswoman for the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. There is an effective vaccine for the disease and there hasn't been an outbreak in the United States since 1971.

The vials had been at the research institute's facility at Fort Detrick, home of the Army's top biological research facility, for more than a decade. The three missing vials were among thousands of vials that were under the control of a senior scientist who retired in 2004. When another Fort Detrick scientist recently inventoried the retired scientist's biological samples, he discovered that the three vials of the virus were missing. The original scientist's records about his vials dated back to the days of paper-and-pen inventories.

Health officials in Dallas County are urging anyone with upper respiratory ailments to be tested for a rare strain of swine flu after two cases surfaced in Texas.

Elsewhere across Texas, health departments are on the lookout for the illness, which sickened two high school students from Guadalupe County near San Antonio and a 10-year-old boy from San Diego who visited Dallas before his diagnosis. All three, and the other four victims in the U.S., have recovered and are fine.

"This virus that has been isolated has never been seen before," said Dr. John Carlo, medical director for Dallas County's health department. "The good news is this has been very mild."

It's unclear how anyone caught the virus that combines pig, bird and human viruses in an unusual way, he said. None of the seven people were in contact with pigs, which is how people usually catch swine flu. And only a few were in contact with each other.

Test results the state received from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the Texas illnesses were caused by a swine influenza-A virus that appears to closely match the viruses from the five in Southern California.

It's not yet known whether those cases are related to the swine flu virus that may have killed 60 people in Mexico, sickened hundreds of others there and has health officials fearful of a possible global flu epidemic.

There have been no reported deaths in the United States and health officials say there's not yet cause for alarm here.

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