Bird Flu in Egypt and Swine Flu in California Raise Guarded Concerns

By Eliza Strickland | April 23, 2009 10:55 am

pigs and chickenEgyptian health officials have just reported two deaths from bird flu within days of each other. The dangerous virus variant H5N1 struck down a six-year-old boy and a young woman, bringing the total death toll in Egypt to 25. While bird flu experts note that Egypt has seen a surge in human cases in recent months, with 16 confirmed since the start of the year, compared to seven cases between January 1 and April 17 last year [Reuters], they also say that the Egyptian people’s level of alarm is out of proportion to the threat.

Rumors have appeared in the Egyptian media that the virus is circulating widely, and that some people get “silent infections” which show no symptoms, but still allow them to pass on the virus. The rumors have been fueled by the pattern of recent infections: Many of the infected patients have been toddlers, leading to the belief that stronger adults are also infected but simply show no symptoms. Although thousands of Egyptians have rushed their children to hospitals this flu season, there is no evidence yet of asymptomatic avian flu cases or any significant mutation in the H5N1 virus. “Right now, it’s all hot air,” said Dr. Robert G. Webster, a flu expert…. “I hope to hell it’s not happening, because it would mean the virus is adapting to humans. But there’s not a shred of data” [The New York Times].

While the H5N1 virus rarely infects people, the looming fear is that the virus may mutate into a form that can be transmitted easily from person to person, which could spark a deadly pandemic. However, an outbreak of swine flu across the world from Egypt, in Southern California, has reminded people of the hazards of overreacting before all the information is in.

Swine flu is found in pigs and very rarely in humans who have direct contact with pigs; the United States reports one human case every one or two years. However, two California children were diagnosed with the disease this spring, sparking an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control. Since neither of the two children, a 10-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, had contact with pigs, it “increases the possibility that human-to-human transmission of this new influenza virus has occurred,” according to a CDC report. The girl did attend an agricultural fair four weeks before becoming sick, she said, but did not have any contact with pigs or other livestock [CNN].

The incident has brought back memories of another swine flu outbreak in 1976 among army recruits at Fort Dix, New Jersey, which taught public health officials a tough lesson. That winter, 13 men got sick and one died of what proved to be swine influenza viruses–viruses that were thought to be similar to the one responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. U.S. officials ordered the manufacture of swine flu virus vaccine and the country proceeded to launch a mass immunization program that saw upwards of 40 million people injected with the vaccine. The feared pandemic never occurred. But the vaccine appeared to trigger a high level of cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a type of paralysis [The Canadian Press], and thousands of vaccine recipients filed injury claims.

UPDATE on April 24, 4:40 EST: Not all swine flu is created equal, it would seem. While health officials still say that the virus currently circulating in the American Southwest is not a major cause for concern, another outbreak of swine flu in Mexico City has already killed at least 16 people.

Related Content:
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80beats: Ignored Strain of Bird Flu Could Lead to a Pandemic… of Light Sneezing
DISCOVER: The Science of Avian Flu

Image: flickr / Effervescing Elephant

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Nick

    My fiancée’s step-grandma got Guillain-Barre from the regular flu vaccine – when she was 80.

    She recovered. Never got a flu shot again after that and lived to 91 (danced to the last in her hospital bed).

    I’ve actually gotten sick after having Thanksgiving dinner with a family who had all gotten their flu shots. I’ll never be getting one myself, that’s for sure.

  • Matthew

    I am surprised at the ignorant response above by Nick. Does your use of single anecdotal evidence lead you also to stop going to the dentist because that one time you got a cavity after going your whole life, or have you taken up smoking again because you know of a few people that have lived long lives while smoking? It is a good thing scientists use actual evidence, otherwise our society would not be able to benefit from the surfeit amount of good it brings.

  • Arik

    Every time I have gotten a flu shot, I got sick that season. In the almost 30+ years I have not gotten a flu shot, I have gotten sick maybe twice in season.

    No flu shots for me.

  • Brian

    60 people (possibly more deaths unattributed) died in Mexico because of the swine flu over the last couple of weeks, and over 900 are sick. They have closed all the schools in Mexico City which I do think is a prudent measure. WHO has said this has gone international. I don’t think we should start doing shots or shutting down schools in us, but calling it hype and hysteria is a bit disingenuous.

  • Jo

    Yargh! Confirmation bias, people! Your anecdotes DON’T PROVE ANYTHING. Want to convince me? Cite a properly conducted study.

  • Reader :D
  • Eliza Strickland

    @ Brian and Reader —

    this was written before the news of the Mexico cases had hit the presses here in the U.S.

    Check out today’s post, which discusses the situation in Mexico. As I say in today’s post, the U.S. virus doesn’t currently appear to be cause for major concern, while the Mexican virus does seem to be quite dangerous.

    But I agree — in retrospect I wish we hadn’t used the word “hysteria” in the headline.

  • Eliza Strickland

    And on third thought, we’ve decided to change the headline. I also updated the article, and added a link to today’s coverage of the Mexico outbreak.

  • Matt

    CDC confirmed today that the virus samples taken from the patients in the U.S. are the identical to the samples taken from patients in Mexico.

    Also, readers should be aware that any flu shot they’ve received this season does not protect against this particular strain of influenza, as those shots were formulated for A/Brisbane/59/2007(H1N1)-like virus; A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus; B/Florida/4/2006-like virus. The current strain, while not yet identified, appears to be a new variant – possibly containing elements of swine, human and bird influenza.

    There is no vaccine for this current strain (assuming we were able to identify and sequence it, the quickest we could formulate one would be several months) initial reports are that the virus seems to respond well to Tamiflu.

  • http://blogs80/beat richard thomas

    I was curious about any correlation between swine consumption and
    the swine virus.

  • illiana Dallaire

    I’m very curious and suspicious as to how the bird flu/swine flu got mixed in with the human flu? And if the CDC reports that the flu in Mexico is the same strain that was diagnosed in CA then any thinking person would see the reason for a very grave concern!! As for Roche and it’s “vaccine” this is the very same company accompanied with Plough Schering who developed the “cure” for Hep C. That wonderful vaccine that is only 7% effective.Plus it leaves people so debilitated they are unable to function, often permanently.An attempt at a class action suit was filed against both companies in the 90s but the attornies (Massey & Vittel) the Erin Brokovitch attornies needed 70 witnesses in 3 months. Unfortunately the witnesses were spread around the country and so ill,disabled and broke due to the “treatment’ that they wern’t able to get to L.A. that quickly.
    Personally I don’t care what the situation I wouldn’t get a flu shot if you paid me!! My trust level of the AMA and the pharmaseutical co’s is nill,by the way they’re in bed together.Oh here’s one more curious fact to ponder. To manufacture a vaccine you first need a sample of the virus itself. Imagine that. Sign me disgusted and completely suspicious.

  • illiana Dallaire

    I wonder why my comment was erased?

  • Bri

    Maybe the link below is unrelated but I can’t help but think that it’s too coincidental

  • Chris

    Just great.

    How can officials effectively stop a virus? We could stop air travel between Mexico and the US, but that won’t happen. This is how it will all start, “the fear of disrupting commerce for the sake of normality”. What if this does become a pandemic? Will we have enough Oseltamivir to go around? No one will take this seriously except the officials until we’ve got another 1918 on our hands.

    What I’d really like to know is; do we still have that “stockpile” of anti-viral drugs from a few years back when H5N1 was big news? I hope we do. So many times in the past have we been unprepared for a pandemic, and because of the 1976 swine flu scare, how many of us will take this scare seriously?

    I guess not a lot of people are as scared as I am.

  • Liviana

    I have it… i’m recovering at the moment.

    This is what happens:
    You pant hard and cannot catch your breath, your chest will get really tight, you may not even cough or get sick that much but you’ll feel extremely fatigued that you just want to give up, you sweat and feel sore and have diarrhea …

    It is serious and is a strange sickness.. You may have Bronchitis with it or a sinus infection( i did)

    Be careful because it will kill you if you do not get on medicine NOW!

  • Brenda

    I very much agree with Matthew and Jo.

    I do not think it’s “hysterical” to be concerned. I don’t know why governments are so resistant to tougher measures like outright banning non-essential travel to Mexico, for example. Though, I can’t imagine people would be so thoughtless to go to Mexico right now (I think it’s just asking for trouble). But for the few who might be so inclined to disregard warnings, they might unknowingly spread the disease one they return home. Why risk it? If governments were really committed, they would put public safety far above economics and politics and take drastic measures even if “unpopular”. I think the authorities’ lack of knowledge of the full extent of the situation, the fact they are all still gathering crucial information/details and doing assessments of the gravity of the situation should be all the more reason to take a more cautious approach.
    As the adage goes, “better safe than sorry.”

  • melody

    This is the end of times. If this is how GOD wants to end the world so be it, we have no controll. Just have your house in order, and all will be all right.

  • melody

    This is the end of times. If this is how GOD wants to end the world so be it, we have no controll. Just have your house in order, and all will be all right. thanks from a stronge believer in god.

  • David

    How do you stop a healthy intelligent discussion? start talking about God! what a crock! I’m a ‘stronge’ non belever andif you really believe that an omnipotent compassionate God would require a virus to kill his subjects in anagonising way, then shame on you for your stupidity!

  • Tom Gearman

    At this time, the best defense seems to be washing your hands frequently and using an approved mask if you are concerned about exposure.

    FDA approved respirators are available to the general public directly from 3M through their on-line store. There are two styles of NIOSH N95 certified respirators at a flat-fold (Model 8670F) that stores easily in a purse, and a cup style (Model 8612F). Additional information, including product usage instructions, is available at

  • Architect of False truth

    What would be the perfect conditions for testing a new strain of virus while also subduing and thinning the herd?

    Somewhere with high population density and second rate health resources. Where is that?

    Looks like the U.S. found away to divert attention from the massive crime wave in Mexico which is threatening to spill over the border….the “real” threat.

  • Sheri Nakken, RN, MA

    Nothing has been confirmed at all. They love to hype so they can get you to panic to buy drugs and accept their vaccine when it comes out. Wake up all!

    The Avian flu situationhas to do with toxins and not flu at all
    Same here……………

    And I think that is the case for most things – toxic exposures and toxins in the body – nothing to do with a so-called virus or bacteria

    See my Bird Flu pages

    We saw the same hype for Bird Flu and I think it is about toxic exposure in Mexico and Texas too. Or something engineered. Possibly something engineered could cause a problem.

    I have to look further and hear from my colleagues. They couldn’t get us to get upset about Bird Flu and panic so trying a new tact.

    Yes, lots of ways to make money…………vaccine, drugs, and more

    People need to start getting the word out about the links and also about the swine flu fiasco in the past under Gerald Ford and all the deaths and injuries from the vaccine for that panic based on nothing

    Will keep all posted

  • William (Student)

    Everyone’s diffrent. :)

  • who_cares

    Humans are scourge of the earth. our planet will be a much happier and peaceful place without us. BRING ON THE PANDEMIC!!

  • Chris

    who_cares is an idiot.

    Not all of us are suicidal.

  • Liz

    I agree with Illiana and Sheri. First, how did bird, swine and human flu get mixed? This would NOT be naturally occuring. Then, what better place to have it “tested” then in Mexico and SW US? We can just state “it travelled over the borders! (Darn! If we’d only built the fence.) Next, even if this dies out we can now post all sorts of news stories for weeks to scare everyone into running out and getting, or at least create willing acceptance of vaccinations.

    Jo, you want confirmed studies? In my estimation you’ll never get one. “Confirmed, scientific studies” that get to the public will always say whatever the government allows. Anecdotal is often more reliable, just as “word of mouth” advertising is considered superior to any other. People wake up and see what’s going on here. We are being “conditioned” and you soon will not have a choice as vaccines and other type of innoculations will be mandatory. Maybe we’ll just get lucky and get the tainted vaccines after all. That would mean there won’t be much of a “population” left to have to worry about it.

    Then…”OOPS, we’re SORRY, really! We didn’t know it would harm or kill so many people. At least we TRIED”.

    What do you think all the sealed casket parts in Atlanta at the military bases are going to be used for? Play time?

  • la la land lover

    I am scared! What if I get that swine flu thing when I go to school! I am a 13 year old and scared!! What if someone at school has is and then the whole school has it and then when you go home you pass it to your parents!! I don’t loke hospitals they scare me! Plz reaspond!

  • Darla

    I am in Florida and I am in a government job that has many many visitors from Mexico and the Texas border area and this is scary to me. I suffer from CPOD so I have to get a flu shot every year and the pneumonia shot every 5 yrs. I would probably die if I contracted it.
    I wonder, too, how the 3 types of flu fused together. Does anyone think it may be a lab test gone awry? Nothing surprises me any longer.

  • http://discover corbin for freedom

    All I know is I’m staying clear of any sick looking kid riding a pig with a runny nose parrot on his shoulder

  • http://discover corbin for freedom

    Darla, the lab test didn’t go wrong. We have too many people on the planet, haven’t you heard of the mass grave sites being dug, and all the platic liners, and airtight caskets being purchased? Not to mention the furnace company contract. Wake up!!!

  • http://discover corbin for freedom

    We live in a Matrix, if you seek the truth, you can find it mixed with garbage at

  • jonno

    erm, Corbin, nope I haven’t heard of anything to do with mass graves, “platic” liners or airtight caskets. And the weird thing is, I have woken up!

  • Think Positive

    Good grief! Its been the end of times for hundreds of years. I’m glad none of you doomsayers are in charge, because we quickly annihilate ourselves. Talk about a self fulfilling prophesy.
    Also, even if we do shut down commerce and flights to and from Mexico, it doesn’t stop people from sneaking across the border, now does it!?
    Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, buy organic, and don’t buy produce from Mexico. Most of us will be fine. Hysteria kills!

  • dr.o

    belive it or not care to wash hands and mask is the only way to protect.

  • MsCetacea

    Viruses do not need to be “mixed” by any external tampering. They are living organisms and they will mutate. These 3 strains have come into contact with one another naturally – and mutated to form a new strain that shows characteristics of all three. There is no evidence to suggest that this current mutation is any more unnatural than the human flu virus that mutates every year. Why do you think you have to get a new vaccination every year? Becuause it mutates. With all of the other hysterical, unproven theories being commented on, this is second only to the the “End of Days” theory.

  • someone





  • Holley

    All flu comes from birds. Doesn’t usually do much to the birds as it sits in their GI tract. Most flu needs a mammal to mutate. Pigs are perfect and carry many strains. So when the CDC tells me that an avian strain A has combined its RNA process with swine & human I start looking for a real out break to hit in 6months to 12months. Nonsense that someone or THEY did this to thin out population.

    This current outbreak will spend down, sit and begin new combinations in swine and then come back to haunt us in the next round. Hopefully vaccine will be out and ready for your memory cells, T cells to go to work…
    If you are smart enough to get the vaccination.

  • isiseyes

    Here’s the info on the US cases according to the CDC:

    Um… 11 cases total in almost a year? None of which were fatal? Seriously people, I think you don’t need to worry about stocking up on the canned goods and shotgun ammo just yet.

    And to add yet another piece of anecdotal evidence, I too have only ever gotten the flu in the seasons when I got a vaccine shot. Any year when I skipped the shot, the worst thing I got was a head cold. Don’t know what that means, but there it is.

  • Nomad

    i’m hoping the Swine Flu amounts to as little as the other scares and outbreaks that have occurred over the last couple of years

  • upsman

    The Truth is Follow the money to the gov and big corp that are big shareholders in …….what corp and/or corps is making a killing on this flu vaccine and/or vaccines this only be the beta testing…………works the same the international money master has played US in the bailout game……HOLD These People Responsible…….DEMAND many heads in both the flu and bailout…..Get Mad As Hell……..You say You Can’t believe anyone would do what?

  • Judy

    AP article explains how viruses are combined:

    “Pigs can catch human and avian flus, so are thought to be a so-called mixing vessel for the viruses – a host in which viruses can swap genes, creating new strains.”

    Sounds pretty natural to me.

    My anecdotal evidence: ever since I started getting annual flu shots 10 years ago I have not gotten the flu and I take the subway to and from work every day. I have never had side effects from the vaccine either.

    This hysteria against vaccines will end up making more people sick in the long run. Doesn’t anybody else remember how devastating childhood diseases were before there were vaccines to combat them? Kids in braces and iron lungs from polio?

  • Joe

    ummmmm…to the people that say that they get sick after they get the flu shots i know why………its because the vaccine contains a very weak flu virus. They give you it because your immune system learns how to fight it off but if the virus mutates and/or you have a weak immune system you will get sick

    there ya go

  • Suze

    I’m frightened for my 1-year-old son. I am a stay-at-home mom, but recently I’ve had to put him in daycare 2 days a week, while I have to be at the hospital. In daycare he is exposed to germs and viruses of all sorts, and his immune system is not developed yet.

    Also, I am expecting a new baby in the next 2 months. The baby won’t have too much exposure to large groups of people for some time, but still, babies are vulnerable.

    What is the risk of this new strain of flu to infants and toddlers? And what can we as parents do to protect our children? Hand washing is not enough here…

  • Marie

    Joe, No. the flu virus that is given today is attenuated (dead) there is no way for people to get the flu from a flu shot these days. now if they are getting the version that can be inhailed, that is a weak live virus and that will give them flu symptoms.

  • Jennifer

    Vaccines are cultured with substances that are foreign to the human body like monkey kidney cells, chicken embryos, and calf serum. They also contain things like themerosol, aluminum and formaldehyde among other foreign substances. They are then injected directly into the bloodstream totally bypassing the liver and kidney which are the organs designed to filter toxins before allowing it to enter the bloodstream. Thanks but no thanks. Think I’ll work on boosting my immune system, stay away from crowds and wash my hands frequently rather than subject myself to big-pharma’s witches brew.

  • NoSwineVaccineForMe

    I received the swine flu vaccine in 1976. It made me as sick as I have ever been. Unless we have a mass extinction event, I will not be receiving it this time.

  • Napoleon

    Oh, what a surprise! This flu came from a people who eat brian tacos, never close their legs, and come into OUR country illegally because they can’t run their own. Thanks Mexico! You’ve been demeaning our species for thousands of years. I hope a bomb drops over Mexico and wipes all of you “se habla espanols” out!

  • Dave

    The problem here is that a) this is a new disease and b) it’s spreading human to human according to the CDC. This is not sars, this is not bird flu (rare human to human). Sars was easy to detect because people were not contagious until they showed symptoms but Influenza carriers can be contagious days before they show any symptoms (,8599,1894072,00.html). It’s better to be overcautious and figure out how bad this thing is, than take a carefree approach that leads to a 1918 epidemic killing 100M people (and in 1918, there was no global air travel).

  • Eliza Strickland

    MsCetacea, Judy and some others:

    Thanks for your rational responses, it’s very important to combat misinformation and prevent hysteria.

    As both those commenters pointed out, flu viruses can mix naturally in pigs, creating new strains. That happens all the time. But this latest new strain happens to be capable of being transmitted from human to human. Bad luck for us. Doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy afoot, or that the end is near.

  • Kris in AL



  • Holley

    Current swine flu will mutate. That’s it’s job. What are the chances it mutates to lethal per human to human contact, that’s the question. But Kris is right, it’s a bit scary!

  • Sheryl

    Some time ago I saw an excellent documentary on the influenza pandemic of 1918. It explained really well that bird flu viruses (chickens, geese, ducks) can be contagious to pigs. Because pigs have a physiology that is so similar to humans, the virus can mutate in the pig to a type that is contagious to humans. On farms, these animals are generally in close contact. It is close physical contact between pigs and humans then that allows the virus to transmit to humans.

    That is why there is bird, swine and human virus agents in the H1N1 virus. If it is like the 1918 virus, it is actually a mutated bird flu, not strictly a swine flu. It is believed by many who studied the 1918 flu that it began in Europe in areas where large numbers of American (an other) service men were stationed and the service men had farms with chickens, geese, etc. and pigs. The virus had mutated from the birds through the pigs to the service men but no one knew. Finally as these service men took leave to go home, it began to spread all over the world. The flu is airborne from human to human. There were so many service men that died it was said it was more dangerous to be in the service stationed in the US than at the front in Europe.

    The 1918 flu seemed to be more severe in that the infected people died usually within 24 to 48 hours. That doesn’t seem to be the case with H1N1. Also, another key element is that the people who were most affected were younger healthier people which is the same as the H1N1 virus. The reason, it was explained, was that those people generally have the most efficient immune systems – so effective that it overreacts in contact with the strange virus. As an example, normally the lungs create fluid to fight the virus. In those people, there was so much fluid, it killed the sufferer. They literally drowned from it.

    The documentary was on the History Channel I think. I hope they run it again. It would help clear up some of the mystery.

  • YouRang

    No one has mentioned (in all the talk about mutation) that the reason there is bird, swine and human flu mixed together is that there are 8 regions on the outside of the flu virus that are relatively stable. They are stable; but if an organism (usually pigs in Asia, but sometimes birds (also usually in Asia) and also sometimes humans) gets more than one kind of flu, there is a possibility that the same cell will become infected by the 2 or 3 kinds of flu and the result will be a new mosaic. Each year they make up a batch of anti-virus for 3 of the mosaics that appear to be the most likely to cause severe illness. Last year, there was a late surge of flu that was relatively mild–it was a strain they hadn’t included (presumably because it was so mild). I had the shot and I got a mild illness late in March that the Dr called flu; however, I had almost identical symptoms this year (minus the low fever but with the same funny punctillate aches (not the usual flu crushing aches)) and it was my usual tree allergies.

  • stan

    Let’s all panic, folks. In India, a GRAND TOTAL of 21 people have died from swine flu. Meanwhile, 1,000 Indians die EVERY DAY from tuberculosis.

  • http://secret shawn

    You people are all so brainwashed. vaccines are a scam. I hear all your comments and they sound intelligent but you are really misguided. I doing my best not to call you idiots. It is a scam. They make billions off you. You are fools. lol I better go. This is so sad. Go watch a video free on youtube called, “khazar conspiracy” then watch invisible empire, the if you’ve got 3 mins youtube- “kosher tax” maybe that’ll let you know a little bit. Watch- speech by BENJAMIN FREEDMAN. you will be enlightened. The h1n1 was created in a military lab, don’t you think it’s odd that the patent for the vaccine was aquired 2 years before the outbreak..that would be impossible because it takes at least 6 months for it to mutate therefore they wouldn’t know how to design it before then. WAKE UP FRIENDs. two months before they started their scam, see who has stock in the vaccine, obama, rumsfeld the usuals, before the scam obama gave legal immunity to the vaccine co. he has stock in. GRASP THAT people. COME ON! THEY changed the criteria 2 months before the scam that constitutes a pandemic, in other words they changed what you would consider a pandemic so they could reach the qualifications for the government to legally make you take it. They are making billions by watching you idiots inject your kids with mercury and poisons. I wish I had time to explain more but you are living under the most evil there has ever been. Obama and bush were puppets. The congress is ceremonial. The Rothschilds and Buckingham palace call all the shots. RESEARCH. I gotta go, the media that you get all your info from comes from them. They own controlling interest in abc, cbs, cnn, msnbc, and fox, all of them, they own Reuters, and ap, associated press. That is all your news outlets. Kennedy secret society speech, youtube and watch it. he tries to warn us but we were to stupid. They are brainwashing all of us. It’s not that you all are stupid you are just gullible. Bless you all, for there are scams being run now and coming down the pike that you better wake up to. We need to get rid of every congress person there is. Watch “invisible empire” free on youtube. They have you trained that conspiracy theories are just for kooks, it is diabolical what they are doing to us. Good luck and you better listen to others trying to wake you up. Pensions are next, they are coming for them and 401k’s soon, then you’ll start waking up but then it will be too late. bye.


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