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New bird flu strain: Genuine threat or fear mongering?

dailyalternative | alternative news - New bird flu strain: Genuine threat or fear mongering?

China, Japan and Vietnam are on alert not to let the deadly new bird flu strain spread. The last decade has however shown the information about a virus has always spread much faster than the virus itself.

The new strain of bird flu, labeled H7N9, has already claimed five lives. Four people have died in the county’s financial hub of Shanghai, while another person died on Wednesday in the neighboring province of Zhejiang, after being confirmed infected on Thursday.

Scientists studying samples of the virus taken from a Chinese man who died in hospital in March say this strain of the disease is harder to track than the now more common H5N1.

The scientists from research institutes around the world warned on Wednesday that this new virus can generate no noticeable symptoms in birds while seriously harming humans.

“In that sense, if this continues to spread throughout China and beyond China, it would be an even bigger problem than with H5N1 in some sense, because with H5N1 you can see evidence of poultry dying, but here you can see this would be more or less a silent virus in poultry species that will occasionally infect humans,” AP quoted the University of Hong Kong microbiologist Malik Peiris.

The Chinese Health Ministry announced it’s mobilizing to combat the virus. Passengers flying to and from Hong Kong are being called to report on their condition if feeling unwell. Vietnam banned poultry imports from China in an effort to prevent the deadly virus from getting in.

Scientists have so far said there are no signs of transmission of the H7N9 virus between any of the victims or people they have come into close contact with.

However, they are already looking into the possibility of a pandemic, saying the virus may mutate in future and become easier to spread among humans.

However, statistics from World Health Organization shows the term “pandemic” has so far been hardly applicable to bird flu or swine flu, which together are much less deadly than common seasonal flu.

Bird flu has claimed 371 lives since 2003. The 2009 swine flu outbreak killed much more – 18,138. In the meantime, the common flu, which is hardly ever in the news, kills 250,000-500,000 every year.

This huge difference in numbers of casualties between exotic kind of flu and the seasonal one has caused many to believe that this is being orchestrated by the pharmaceutical companies.

In 2010, the British medical journal and the Daily mail published a list of 20 people who worked as advisors for WHO and the same time they had financial ties with pharmaceutical companies.

That same year the World Health Organization came under scrutiny from the Council of Europe, which was looking into whether the international body had colluded with drug companies to exaggerate the threat from swine flu.

An estimated US$18 billion was spent worldwide on vaccinations and drugs to fight it.

Swiss-produced Tamiflu was pronounced the best remedy for swine flu back when the outbreak of the disease started. Later, scientists started doubting the drug’s effectiveness.

“We have evidence that it is less effective than was previously thought, that it doesn’t seem to be clearly effective in reducing complications in healthy adults but it also shows that the data available for evaluating drugs generally is inadequate, because drug companies hold on to data which should be more publicly available,” said Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal in an interview with RT.

RT’s Aleksey Yaroshevsky was in Ukraine in 2009 and remembers how swine flu hysteria led to shelves at local pharmacies being emptied “by the people panicking, rushing there to buy medication.” Further speaking of the scale of the panic he recalls an episode “when the Prime Minister of Ukraine back then, Yulia Tymoshenko, arrived personally at the airport to meet huge shipment of the Tamiflu drug.”

Eventually, there were cases when Tamiflu was actually incinerated because there was too much of it.

“I think they are trying to unnecessarily feed the sense of panic in the population. People demand Tamiflu from their doctors… Pharmaceutical industry has been having a field day of profits after this swine flu scare,” analyst William Engdahl told RT.

As for the new H7N9 bird flu strain, there are so far no vaccines against it, but scientists already say that existing anti-flu drugs are likely to do the job.

This means the demand for Tamiflu or a similar drug may well be resurrected soon.

 

dailyalternative | alternative news – New bird flu strain: Genuine threat or fear mongering?

via New bird flu strain: Genuine threat or fear mongering?

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Health & Science

Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records

A controversial deal between tech giant Google and the National Health Service (NHS) will allow artificial intelligence units access to 1.6 million confidential medical records. Since 2014, Google has partnered with several scientists in an attempt to understand human health, but a new report reveals the data gathering goes far beyond what was originally anticipated.

According to documents obtained by the New Scientist, the data sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust gives access to the sensitive healthcare data of millions of NHS patients. The chilling and wide-reaching deal allows DeepMind access to the medical records of the 1.6 million people passing annually through the three London hospitals owned by the Trust — Barnet, Chase Farm, and the Royal Free.

The Google-owned A.I. firm announced in February it was working with the NHS to build an app called Streams — intended to help hospitals monitor patients with kidney disease. However, the new information has revealed that the extent of the data being shared goes much further and includes logs of day-to-day hospital activity, records of the location and status of patients, and even logs of who visits them and when.

Results of pathology and radiology tests are also shared, as is information from critical care and accident and emergency departments. In addition, DeepMind’s access to the centralised records of all NHS hospital treatments in the U.K. means the tech company can access historical data from the last five years, all while receiving a continuous stream of new data.

At the same time, DeepMind is developing a platform called Patient Rescue, which uses hospital data streams to build tools to carry out analysis and support diagnostic decisions. The New Scientist explained how it works:

Comparing a new patient’s information with millions of other cases, Patient Rescue might be able to predict that they are in the early stages of a disease that has not yet become symptomatic, for example. Doctors could then run tests to see if the prediction is correct.

While the Royal Free has not yet responded to the question of what — if any — opt-out mechanisms are available to patients, the New Scientist suggests this is unlikely to be a straightforward process. Despite the agreement stating Google cannot use the data in any other part of the company’s business, many will be seriously wary of the access the online tech giant now has to the confidential data of millions of people.

As the New Scientist wrote:

Data mining is the name of the game in the burgeoning field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and there’s no company in the world better at that than Google.

 

daily alternative | alternative news – Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records

via Google Now Has Access To Millions of Patients’ Medical Records.

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