Jump to content
MrsSurvival Discussion Forums

Critically important Bird Flu info from biologist

Recommended Posts



What is the Bird Flu?

Bird flu (avian influenza) is a very contagious disease caused by a virus. Bacteria are much larger than viruses. They grow and divide in two to reproduce. Treatments and medications used for bacterial infections often may not work for viral infections. Viruses are much smaller. To reproduce they enter inside cells and then reprogram the host cell to produce thousands of viruses that then burst out of the host cell to infect other cells. The H5N1 Bird Flu virus mainly reproduces in lung tissues. The H represents a type of protein found on the virus that helps it to enter cells. The N represents a type of protein that helps the virus escape the host cell.


The H5N1 Bird Flu virus is a new type of influenza, a virus that originated in birds. Most individuals in a target population will have very little immunity from this new virus. In the past, deadly pandemic bird flu viruses continued to evolve to a less deadly form which we experience every flu season. Some have just disappeared.


Initially, the H5N1 influenza virus only infected birds (often with 100% mortality for domestic poultry). Later, as the H5N1 Bird Flu virus evolved, mammals such as pigs, tigers, cats and humans became infected by eating infected birds and by poor hygiene procedures when handling infected birds. The H5N1 Bird Flu virus is steadily evolving to become even easier to be infected by birds and infected humans are now infecting other humans but with inefficient transmission.


This virus is potentially very dangerous because it is mutating at a very high rate into different new strains of H5N1 that eventually may spread between humans as easily as the common cold. This is what has occurred with other new but similar bird flu viruses in the past. At present, the mortality rate of the H5N1 Bird Flu virus in infected humans is 50% to 75%. If or when this new H5N1 Bird Flu virus evolves to a stage of efficiently transmitting between humans then infections between humans will rapidly spread and a worldwide epidemic or pandemic will occur with potentially disastrous consequences for everyone.


On July 23, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the world could at any time be faced with a massive flu outbreak like those of 1918 or 1968 that killed tens of millions of people. (Recent research is showing that the 1918 Spanish Flu alone may have killed 100 million people)


In a statement to the Courier Mail on July 30, 2005 the Australian Federal Health Minister, Mr Abbott said that, “The flu pandemic is more likely to occur in the next 12 months than in any time in the past decades. I hope it never happens but almost certainly it will happen.” Later, in another public statement about the potential bird flu pandemic on 31 August, 2005 Mr Abbott says, “Australians are unused to contemplating death on a large scale …since WW2.”


There have been many more dire warnings about the potential devastating effects of a H5N1 pandemic on the world from many other traditionally conservative scientific and political authorities. It would be expected that only the lower conservative estimates and scenarios are being given to the public to prevent mass panic. For example, the WHO often compares and uses the statistics of the 1968 Hong Kong Flu pandemic to predict the estimated death toll of this potential H5N1 influenza pandemic. The 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic had the lowest death rate of all the most recent pandemics and the predicted global death toll of 7 million people would not warrant such serious warnings presently being given by many other authorities.

Recent research from the U.S. Institute of Pathology (Jeffrey Taubenberger et al 2005) indicates that the H5N1 Bird Flu virus is evolving similar to that of the deadly 1918 Spanish Flu virus and not like the less harmful Asian or Hong Kong Flu virus. The 1918 Spanish Flu virus did not combine with a human influenza virus. It simply evolved to become more efficient at human to human transmission, similar to what the H5N1 Bird Flu virus is doing now. The Spanish Flu had a worldwide infection rate of 50% and a mortality rate of 5% and killed approximately 100 million people.


This present H5N1 Bird Flu virus has a mortality rate of at least 50% (the infection rate is unknown). Some scientists expect this high mortality to drop if this virus becomes pandemic but this is only an assumption and may not occur. Even with a 5% mortality rate at least 160 million people will die directly from the pandemic and this does not include the possible subsequent deaths due to the likely breakdown of essential services, such as food, water, and medical supplies etc. The effects on the world from a higher mortality rate would be too horrendous to contemplate but still possible.


Most scientific authorities agree that it is not possible to predict when this pandemic will begin or how deadly it may become. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish new information that is alarmist and exaggerated from conservative, panic avoidance propaganda. Scientific data and research is not being openly shared between countries or between important scientific research organisations.


From the World Health Organisation convention in Geneva 2004, the conclusion was reached that the H5N1 Bird Flu virus would not be able to be contained once the virus mutated to a form involving efficient transmission from human to human. The pandemic will have to run its course. All countries are under prepared to cope with a large-scale deadly influenza outbreak that is expected from this H5N1 Bird Flu virus. There will not be enough staff, hospital beds, medical supplies, antiviral drugs or vaccines to help most of the people who will be affected by this virus. This is in developed countries. Medical help in under developed countries will be almost non existent.


Past and Present Situations

Initially H5N1 was only very deadly for farm chickens (almost 100% mortality rate). Humans could only become infected through eating uncooked chicken meat and even then it was hard to become infected, but this H5N1 Bird Flu virus is very capable of mutating into a deadly virus for humans.

(ie. changing to a form that can pass from human to human as easily as a common cold or flu).


The bird flu virus H5N1 had previously emerged in 1968 in a few places around the world, mostly in developed countries and was quickly discovered, contained and eradicated by culling millions of farm chickens before it mutated. In 1997 in Hong Kong, 18 people were infected with H5N1 and 6 died. All of the infected people ate contaminated chicken meat. Hong Kong experienced another smaller outbreak in 2003 that was believed to have originated from China.


By February 2004 the H5N1 Bird Flu virus was discovered in chicken farms in 12 different countries (North and South Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, North and South Korea). The H5N1 Bird Flu virus was also being found in ducks and geese. There were 34 associated human cases of which 23 were fatal.


These very high death rates alarmed members of the World Health Organisation which then convened in Geneva, March 2004, to work out various strategies for dealing with this present problem and the very likely possibility of a future global pandemic. 100 experts from 33 countries were involved. The main concern for the World Health Organisation (WHO) was the fact that the bird flu H5N1 Bird Flu virus was being discovered in so many underdeveloped countries. Many did not have the resources to monitor and to implement strategies to contain the virus. Others were reluctant to cooperate with the WHO and some just blatantly lied that they did not have bird flu in their country. This allowed the H5N1 Bird Flu virus the opportunity to mutate further.


In January 2005 there were new outbreaks in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia (127 infected, 63 dead from 2004 to August 2005). The virus had evolved to limited human to human infection and is now infecting clusters of people. The H5N1 Bird Flu virus has also infected pigs, cats and tigers.


In May 2005, a new outbreak of a different deadly strain of the H5N1 Bird Flu virus occurred in China. It was reported that 8000 wild waterbirds from a lake died from the virus. At the time there were also unconfirmed reports of at least 120 peasants becoming infected and dying from H5N1, possibly from eating the dead infected birds. The hundreds of thousands of remaining waterbirds are now migrating all over the world, spreading this new lethal strain of bird flu to other countries.


So far, only domestic and wild birds in Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, Romania and Turkey have died so far. The first infected human has just been reported in Turkey. India, Laos, Pakistan and Europe are expecting to be infected with this strain of H5N1 later as the infected migrating birds reach them. Australia, Alaska and North America are also waiting. This H5N1 strain is very different from the Vietnam strain therefore the planned Vietnam vaccine may be ineffective against this strain.


The situation in China appears serious but little can be confirmed because of China’s lack of cooperation with the WHO. Other countries are also reluctant to pass on bird flu details, as it would drastically affect their economy. Others are too poor to monitor H5N1 effectively. It is also possible that an initial H5N1 outbreak in humans may be misdiagnosed.


SARS was a totally different type of respiratory virus. It began in China and then spread to the Chinatowns in Canada through immigration. China still denies having SARS. China is also denying the existence of bird flu H5N1 victims yet unconfirmed reports suggest otherwise. India is expecting the H5N1 Bird Flu virus when China’s H5N1 infected geese migrate into India. India’s large population, poverty conditions, limited health resources and unsanitary hygiene will make containment of any H5N1 outbreaks almost impossible to contain or even detect. This will also be the case for many South East Asian countries.


During September 2005, 87 people in Indonesia were suspected of having been infected with H5N1. Of these 16 have died so far. The world is presently watching this latest outbreak very cautiously.

As the Northern Hemisphere approaches it’s winter flu season, more frequent and larger human outbreaks will be expected. If the H5N1 Bird Flu virus does not turn pandemic this year, then the chances of a pandemic the following year becomes even greater as the H5N1 Bird Flu virus will have more opportunities to mutate.


Some people find it hard to understand what the fuss is all about. When they hear that only 65 people have died in an area containing billions of people. The world’s population can be compared to a very large dry forest. It only takes one tiny spark to start a huge uncontrollable bushfire. At present the small number of human bird flu outbreaks occurring in Asia are the equivalent of little sparks and these sparks are becoming more frequent over a larger area.


Previous Bird Flu Pandemics

All past pandemics have originated from bird viruses that had adapted to humans. Recent research shows that the Spanish Flu simply evolved into a human pandemic whereas the last two pandemics, the Asian Flu and the Hong Flu combined with a human flu enabling them to spread from human to human very easily. The present H5N1 Bird Flu virus is evolving in a similar way to the Spanish Flu.


The 1918 Spanish Flu H1N1

The Spanish flu was first recorded in an army fort in Kansas, America, in the spring of 1918.

It then spread throughout Europe during WW1 in 1918, killing millions, including many soldiers. So many soldiers died from the flu on both sides that historians believe that the war was shortened because of this. There was a severe shortage of soldiers left to fight in the war. Spain was the first country that experienced a severe pandemic wave, hence the name of Spanish Flu.


The pandemic then returned to the eastern coast of America in October 1918 (Autumn/winter) by returning soldiers. This was a severe wave. It spread throughout America within 3 weeks, killing a total of 650,000 Americans. Finally it spread throughout the world. The second and third minor waves occurred in 1919 and 1920.


Australia only received the 1919 minor wave as quarantine measures were in place and only 12,000 died. The virus had evolved to a less deadly strain by then. 50 to 100 million people died worldwide from this pandemic. Recent research from archives place the death toll closer to 100 million. It had a 50% infection rate and a 5% mortality rate. (At these rates in 2005, 10 million Australians would become infected and 500,000 would die. The present H5N1 Bird Flu virus has a mortality rate of 50%)


During the Spanish Flu 50% to 70 % of infected pregnant females died.


The Spanish Flu was different to other influenzas at the time in that there was a very large number of unexpected deaths from healthy young males as well as the normally expected rate of deaths from the young and the old.


These healthy young people (from 17 to 40) suddenly died from their immune systems over reacting to this new virus. This is called a cytokine storm. (see important information on this in Symptoms)


The Asian Flu (H2N2) occurred in 1957

The Hong Kong Flu (H3N2) occurred in 1968

Both these pandemics first emerged in south east Asia. A combined total of at least 1.5 million people died from both these mild pandemics.



Bird Flu - What Could Happen?


The World Health Organisation had announced in August 2005 that they have not been successful in containing the H5N1 in Asia and that a pandemic is imminent. The Northern Hemisphere will soon be approaching their normal winter flu season from November to March. Since the H5N1 Bird Flu virus thrives in colder weather, is still rapidly evolving and will be endemic in many under- developed countries, it would not be unreasonable to expect that the H5N1 will have many opportunities to evolve into an efficient human to human transmission pandemic this year.


From the World Health Organisation convention in Geneva 2004, the conclusion was reached that the “H5N1 Bird Flu virus would not be able to be contained once the virus mutated to a form involving efficient transmission from human to human. The pandemic will have to run its course. All countries are under prepared to cope with a large scale deadly influenza outbreak that is expected from this H5N1 Bird Flu virus. There are not enough staff, hospital beds, medical supplies, antiviral drugs or vaccines to help most of the people who will be affected by this virus.” This is in developed countries. Medical help in underdeveloped countries will almost be non existent.


The most immediate impact on everyone during a pandemic is that the hospital and medical services will be quickly overwhelmed and will be unable to cope with the many seriously infected people with bird flu. The World Health Organisation has stated that this will be the situation in every country for the first wave (which may last between 3 months to a year. 2nd and 3rd waves may occur during each yearly flu season.). There will not be enough hospital beds, medical staff, antiviral drugs, or vaccines to help everyone or even the majority that are sick.


When the pandemic occurs you will most likely be told to stay at home and deal with it yourself if you or members of your family become infected. The Australian government’s contingency plans even allow for forced quarantines, even of whole towns and regions. Hospitals will not have the room or the staff to admit you. Supplies of antiviral drugs and vaccines will be very limited, non-existent or ineffective once a pandemic begins. Do YOU have enough food and medical supplies to care for your family? Do you know what to do if a member of your family becomes infected with bird flu? Do you know how to avoid being infected yourself? This is an extremely frightening situation that most people simply do not want to think about.


The Health Department of Australia has a very comprehensive contingency plan in the event of an avian influenza pandemic. However, there are still serious concerns about Australia’s ability to cope with a pandemic. Many Australian hospitals are already on the verge of being unable to cope with a normal flu season let alone a pandemic. During a pandemic many Australian hospitals will be inundated with impossible numbers of patients to accommodate. The president of the Australian Medical Society told the Courier Mail on July 30, 2005 that “Queensland hospitals did not have the capacity to cope with an (pandemic) outbreak.”


On 31 August, in a public statement, The Australian Health Minister Mr Abbott states, “ Since 1998 all Australian Governments have been preparing for a flu outbreak that might, if not prepared for, overwhelm the health system. Those preparations are far from complete.” At the time this was announced Australia was considered to be one of the most prepared countries in the world.


Unfortunately, Australia’s Contingency Plan for an Influenza Pandemic has no provision for adequately educating people on how to look after themselves during a severe pandemic when the Health Care systems are overwhelmed. Parents taking their sick child to a hospital will be sent home to care for the child themselves. All they will receive is a piece of paper instructing them on basic infection control procedures.


From page 43 of the Australian Contingency Plan. “Patients who are suspected to be infected with influenza because they are symptomatic need to be isolated from others. This will occur either in the home or a health care setting and will be for the duration of the infectious period. This is to prevent them from infecting others. Patients and their families will be given educational materials which will include advice about infection control practices that can prevent/reduce transmission between the patient and others.”


Should a child become infected this would become every parent’s worst nightmare of being unexpectedly turned away from the professional help of a trusted Health Care system and being forced to suddenly nurse their extremely sick and possibly dying child at home. Adding to this nightmare would be the feeling of helplessness and despair caused by the lack of necessary supplies, relevant knowledge, first aid experience and emotional preparation to adequately deal with this sudden horrendous situation. As a DIRECT result of being unprepared even more family members will become infected and die needlessly, further adding to the horror.


They will at least need to be given food, masks, goggles, gloves, gowns and disinfectants to avoid infection themselves. If the family is quarantined it will be impossible for them to buy this essential life saving equipment even if they were available. If there are no provisions for supplying these items to all infected families then the Australian government needs to inform and encourage the public on what to buy beforehand as is done for severe storm or bushfire preparation.


Dr David Nabarro, former head of the World Health Organisation’s crisis operations stated in an interview with Ontario News on Oct 2, 2005 that “we’re dealing here with world survival issues or the survival of the world as we know it.” He later suggests that 5 million to 150 million people could die from this potential pandemic and that “a lot of people are going to suffer a great deal who are going to live. And we need to plan about how we’re going to minimise that suffering and get those people through so they don’t die from other collateral damage related concerns. Like lack of other medications. Lack of food, water.”


The above statement was made not long after researchers discovered that the present H5N1 Bird Flu virus is similar to the severe Spanish flu virus and not the milder Asian or Hong Kong Flu pandemics.

Potential consequences from a severe pandemic may be areas of mass starvation, economic collapse of some countries, disease outbreaks caused by breakdown of social services and political upheavals causing many more deaths. Long term economic depression is very likely for most of the world and is predicted by many business organisations.


A recent survey taken by New York health care workers showed that only 48% would show up for work during a SARS outbreak. This is a good indication of what to expect during a severe H5N1 pandemic. This rate of absenteeism would also apply to essential service workers and would most likely be much higher in reality.


It would be realistic to allow for panic buying and hoarding of food and other essential supplies. This would empty supermarket shelves and create food shortages. Power blackouts may be common and may take longer to restore. Fuel supplies could be rationed. Shopping malls, work places and schools may be closed in an effect to prevent the spread of a pandemic. Law and order may also break down in some areas. If the world does experience a severe pandemic then not only will the direct effects of the pandemic be catastrophic but also the aftermath may not be much better either. If the pandemic is mild it is possible for it to be contained by government authorities. There is also a small chance that the H5N1 Bird Flu virus may evolve to a relatively harmless flu before it turns pandemic.


Avoiding bird flu infection

Flu viruses can be transmitted through:

A) breathing in Bird Flu (Avian Influenza) contaminated airborne aerosols. These are very small particles of water in the air that are contaminated by viruses. These very small aerosols can also enter the body through the eyes. For these reasons masks and goggles must be worn near infected patients. When patient infected with Bird Flu breathes out, coughs or sneezes airborne aerosols are scattered in the air. Leave windows open if possible to allow contaminated aerosols to disperse outside. Use a fan facing the open window to assist this dispersal. Infected people must be encouraged to cough into a tissue that is then carefully disposed of. Cover cuts and open sores. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth. In one hospital, the only hospital staff that were infected during the SARS outbreak were those that did not wear a mask.

B) droplets from coughs and body fluids. Fluids from the nose, mouth and eyes from a patient infected with Bird Flu will be contaminated with the H5N1 Bird Flu virus. Always use masks, goggles, gloves, gown and cap when near infected patients and always wash hands with alcohol afterwards (even light bleach followed by soap if no alcohol is available). Stay at least 1 to 2 metres away from a suspected infected person when talking.

C) contact with Bird Flu infected people or Bird Flu contaminated objects by small particles. 1gram of chicken manure contains enough Bird Flu viruses to kill 1 million chickens. Infected animal and human fluids and wastes are just are deadly. Avoid unnecessary contact with Bird Flu infected animals or humans. Wear full protective equipment when cleaning suspected Bird Flu infected animal enclosures, particularly chicken pens.

D) water contaminated by the Bird Flu virus. Boil all suspected Bird Flu contaminated drinking water. Water collected from house roofs or open ponds, lakes and rivers maybe infected from bird droppings. Do not bathe or swim in open ponds, lakes or rivers where waterbirds gather.

E) eating or handling infected chicken meat or eggs (or pigs) The H5N1 Bird Flu virus will be destroyed by complete cooking. It will survive in undercooked meat and eggs. The surface of raw chicken meat and eggs may also be contaminated with small particles of chicken manure.

F) chicken and pig farms. Bird Flu contamination may occur on feed sacks, egg cartons, all associated animal equipment and transport vehicles. The H5N1 Bird Flu virus may also be found on feathers and dust particles contaminated by chicken droppings. The H5N1 Bird Flu virus may also be transmitted by flies, beetles and other possible insect vectors found associated with farms.

G) other types of birds or animals. A large variety of both wild and domestic birds are susceptible to the H5N1 Bird Flu virus, especially turkeys, ducks, swans and geese. The H5N1 Bird Flu virus has also infected and killed tigers, leopards, cats, and pigs that have been given infected chicken meat to eat. There have been no official reports of other animals being infected. However, as mentioned earlier, it is possible that other animals (including family pets) or insects may act as carriers, transporting contaminated particles such as chicken droppings to other locations, birds, animals or people.

H ) wind. Contaminated dust and feather particles maybe blown by wind from infected chicken pens to people or water collecting and storage areas. Relocate pig, chicken and other bird pens downwind and well away from a house.

Practice extreme hygiene during a H5N1 Bird Flu virus outbreak. Wear masks, goggles, gloves, cap and gown in suspected infected areas or near infected people.


Always sterilise all clothing, linen and objects that have been in the same room or area as an infected person, bird or animal. Wear protective gloves when handling, washing and sterilising potentially infected material. Wash and disinfect hands often.

Boil drinking water if in doubt of it being contaminated.

Extreme hygiene is one of the best defences against infection. Always wash and disinfect hands thoroughly, especially before eating, if the H5N1 Bird Flu virus is about. Wash and disinfect hands frequently with 95% alcohol or with a light bleach solution and then with soap after possible contamination.

Encourage infected people to cough into a tissue and dispose of carefully.


The H5N1 Bird Flu virus can be destroyed by:

Bleaches containing Chlorite (chlorine) diluted 1 part bleach to 5 parts water

95 % alcohol (eg. methylated spirits)

Disinfectants containing formalin or iodine

Acidic environments. During the SARS outbreak many people boiled vinegar 24 hours a day so

acidic vapours were always present. I do not know how effective or harmful this was. Vinegar might be suitable as a disinfectant.

Heat. Boiling water is an effective way to clean and sterilise contaminated equipment and clothes. The virus can survive 4 days in water at 22 C and 30 days at 0 C. It can survive for 3 months in bird manure. The earlier strain of H5N1 Bird Flu virus could be destroyed in 30 minutes in hot water at 60 C.

It would be expected that the worst waves of a pandemic would occur in the colder autumn or winter seasons and only minor waves occurring during the hotter summer period. This was the case in America during the 1918 Spanish Flu.

Commercial Antivirals

Although antiviral drugs (especially Tamiflu) are being stockpiled in some countries, these will most likely be given to front line health workers and/or some infected individuals only. There is not enough for everyone. (Australia has 3.3 million doses for only 1 million people for 6 weeks) In any case there is evidence that stronger doses are needed for longer periods than is recommended. One strain of the H5N1 Bird Flu virus has already mutated to become resistant to Tamiflu. Under normal conditions Tamiflu only provides 70% protection. There is only one pharmaceutical company making Tamiflu and it is not possible for them to increase production significantly. For an excellent Tamiflu/Relenza alternative try some of the natural herbal antivirals listed here.

Relenza is another suitable antiviral but again production limitations exist.

It has been confirmed that another strain of H5N1 is already resistant to two other antiviral drugs but both of these antivirals have proven severe side effects.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) also admits that vaccines will not be of any help initially either. An influenza vaccine takes about 6 months just to develop from a known strain of the virus that is not mutating. It can take up to a year to reach full production. This H5N1 Bird Flu virus is still mutating into different strains. A vaccine developed from an earlier strain could very likely be useless for later mutated strains. There are several deadly strains of this H5N1 Bird Flu virus existing now that have only recently mutated, particularly in China. China is withholding samples of these strains from WHO. The present vaccines are based on samples of H5N1 Bird Flu virus obtained from Vietnam in April 2004. Recent research by WHO has found that some strains of H5N1 Bird Flu virus isolated in Vietnam in 2005 are significantly different from the 2004 strain, creating doubt about the current vaccine’s effectiveness.

It costs a fortune for pharmaceutical companies to mass produce a vaccine for a specific influenza virus. It is not good business sense to mass produce a vaccine that is useless and not wanted. The method of vaccine production has virtually not changed since 1957 and is based on egg incubation. It is expensive, time consuming, limited in production outputs and is prone to contamination. New and promising DNA based vaccines made from cultivated bacteria are still in the experimental stage and may take years to be available.

The U.S. military is at present investigating an antiviral called Tarvacin which its makers (Peregrine Pharmaceutical) claim is able to very effectively destroy almost all types of viruses, including H5N1 and has very few side effects.

Infected people surviving the bird flu become immune to that particular strain in future. These people may be asked to be frontline workers during the pandemic.


What are the Symptoms of Bird Flu?


The incubation period of H5N1 Bird Flu virus varies from 2 to 10 days. That is, symptoms appear 2 to 10 days after the virus has first entered a body. A person can be contagious without showing symptoms. An adult is still contagious until 7 days after fever stops and must remain isolated. Children 12 and under are still very contagious for 21 days from the beginning of illness. Keep the patient quarantined during this time.


Symptoms of Bird Flu

Infected people may have some or all of the following symptoms:

Mild cold, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath.

Fever greater than 38 degrees Celsius

Diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Mild to severe respiratory distress. needing ventilation within days.

In very severe cases large amounts of mucous accumulate in the lungs limiting breathing. Patients can ‘drown’ in their own mucous within 10 to 20 days. This may also involve secondary bacterial infection.

Laboratory tests have shown an early onset of lymphopenia, which is an abnormally low number of lymphocytes in the blood.

Complications also included renal failure and multi organ failure.

Other symptoms have also occurred through H5N1 bird flu infection leading to many incorrectly diagnosed patients including encephalitis, dengue, gastrointestinal disorders and cholera.

A very common symptom of the 1918 Spanish flu was the cytokine storm

Cytokine Storm

During the 1918 Spanish Flu a large number of deaths in very healthy young people (16 to 40 years) was attributed to a cytokine storm. This is when a very healthy immune system desperately over reacts to the invading virus. During other types of influenza the white blood cells produced by the immune system will release a variety of natural antivirals called cytokines that attack the invading viruses. The H5N1 Bird Flu virus is different to most other influenza viruses in that it is immune to at least two of these cytokines, named TNF-a and IL-6. The body’s immune system over reacts by increasing production of these two toxic and inflammatory cytokines until they begin damaging the body’s own tissues, the lung tissue in particular. The lung tissue expands and then collapses and the patient slowly suffocates to death in a few days. (Pubmed PMID 12195436)


In severe cases bleeding may occur. This is due to the inflammatory cytokines weakening and damaging the capillary walls allowing blood to leak out. Dark patches can appear under the skin. If too much blood is lost then the body may go into shock. It is important to prevent the patient from dehydrating as this could make the situation worse.


What to Buy for Bird Flu


Adapted from guidelines from the World Health Organisation on infection control.


At least buy masks, goggles, gown, gloves, disinfectants and food.


Face shield/ goggles - The H5N1 Bird Flu virus is capable of infecting people through the eyes. Normal swimming goggles are a good alternative.


High efficiency masks - MUST be Type P2N95. (95% efficiency) These can be bought at a Medical Supply store or from a First Aid Equipment supplier for approximately $45 for 20. It may be possible to recycle masks. Normal surgical masks, dust and paint masks are almost useless therefore are potentially dangerous to use. Rubber masks with organic gas filters are a safe alternative if you are unable to obtain high efficiency masks. These cost approximately $45 from hardware stores. Buy extra filters as they may need replacing.


Disposable gloves and gloves for cleaning


Long sleeved plastic gowns - Plastic raincoats with plastic pants could be suitable using elastic to seal arms, body and legs. Can be disinfected in light bleach solution and then detergent after each wearing.


Theatre cap (plastic shower caps)


Shoe covers - plastic bags over shoes and sealed with large rubber bans or elastic.


Fan Heater - For heating room


Bag valve mask (‘ambo bag’) - For emergency breathing relief if the patient becomes too tired to breathe by themselves. Obtainable from First Aid suppliers and costs about $70


Enema kit - For weak dehydrated patients.


Fan - Place on window of patient’s room facing outside and seal around sides with tape if possible. When turned on (no heat) it can create a negative air pressure in the room. Helps prevent virus escaping to other rooms.


Alcohol based hand wash - Alternatives could be Methylated spirits or light bleach solution followed by soap. It is extremely important to sterilise yourself after each visit to prevent spreading the disease to other members of the family.


Soap - Preferably antiseptic soap or alcohol based gel soap


Thermometer - Must be sterilised after use.


Disinfectants - The virus is killed by chlorine or 70% alcohol. Bleach solution (1 part to 5 parts water) is very good for most jobs except metals. Methylated spirits contain 95% alcohol but let it dry. Avoid flames. Expect supplies to be depleted in the stores.


Plastic spray bottles - To assist with disinfecting.


Washers, sponge, towels - For both patient and carer


Wash basin




Drinking water and glass - For patient


Toilet pan, Toilet paper


Large disposable nappies - For seriously ill patients or invalids


Plastic sheeting - To cover bed mattress (shower curtains will do).


Plastic buckets - For cleaning, bathing


Large bucket with lid - For collecting used protective wear, patient linen, towels etc for washing and sterilising. Soak in bleach solution, then wash. Always wear gloves when sterilising.


Foot operated garbage bin - Near patient


Heavy duty garbage bags - For waste disposal


Plastic bags For lining contamination bins


Tape For sealing fan and door


Shower curtain A shower curtain could be placed over the outside entrance of the

patient’s door to act as a second barrier to prevent airborne viruses escaping. Also over mattress to prevent it being contaminated.


Candles, matches, flashlight For power blackouts


Water, Food For quarantines or for food shortages caused by panic buying


Soups During recovery




How to Care for a Bird Flu Infected Person at Home


The most important thing to remember is that if you are actually in a situation of caring for an infected patient at home, then whatever care you give them is going to be the best care and treatment they can get anywhere at that present time. Whatever you do will always be better than no care. The fact that a person cares enough to care for a patient always gives the patient extra strength to heal themselves. Even simple occasional touching the patient assists healing.


The patient is placed in an isolated room, preferably with washable floors.Remove flies from rooms. Flies have recently been found to carry H5N1.


Keep the patient’s room temperature very warm by using a heater. A fan heater may be best as the hot air may help destroy airborne viruses.


Monitor a patient’s temperature often. The body is creating a higher body temperature in a last desperate effort to kill off the virus. Too high a temperature for prolonged periods can permanently damage the brain or other organs or cause death. If the patient becomes too hot, strip the patient and continually wipe the patient’s body with a cool wet washer or sponge. Turn the heater off and turn the fan to direct cool air on the body while you are sponging the body. When you feel the body getting cooler and remaining cool stop and begin to keep the body warm again by covering with blankets and turning the heater on again. This cycle may continue several times until the patient’s temperature stabilises. In hotter climates the heater is still useful but no blankets are needed.


In severe cases infected people often die because they become too tired to breathe. These people would normally be placed on a hospital ventilator to help assist their breathing. A manual Bag Valve Mask (used by ambulance personnel) operated by a family member for a few hours at a time would help the patients lung muscles to continue working by allowing them to rest occasionally. (Everyone can run 20 km if they have a rest now and again.) CPAP machines for snorers are better.


If the patient is vomiting or has diarrhoea and is too weak to drink then dehydration (lack of water) can make the illness much worse. The patient will also not be able to keep their medications, water or nutrients in their stomach. Water can be given to an extremely sick patient through enemas. Penetration into the rectum does not need to be far. Dissolved medications and nutrients can also be given this way and are absorbed efficiently and quickly. This is also a survival method if adrift at sea with no water. Seawater can be applied even with a douche. The freshwater is absorbed through the rectum and the salt is left behind in the colon.


Flu patients must have plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.


Soups are excellent for people recovering. Stock up on food supplies and other necessities in case stores close or you become quarantined. 3 weeks normal food and 6 months cheap bulk food (rice and flour). Don’t forget your pet’s food.


Setting up the patients room

Adapted from the World Health Organisation guidelines on infection control.

Preferably a small room, isolated, containing a single bed and with a non porous floor.


The following equipment is needed in the patients room:


Hand basin - or shallow bucket with large container of water

Soap and disinfectants - methylated spirits or standard 5% bleach diluted 1 to 5

Foot operated bin lined - with plastic bag lining with extra bags available

Plastic bags for waste

Drinking water and glass

Tissues - Tell patient to cover mouth and nose with tissue when they cough.

Thermometer - This must be sterilised (using alcohol) if it is to be used by another person.

Face mask - Patient wears when visitors enter room. (surgical type masks to contain particles)

Fan - Place in window if possible and sealed with tape. Turn on to create a negative pressure in the room when you are in the room.

Fan Heater - For heating room and killing virus contaminated aerosols

Face washer - Avoid patient leaving room for showers or toilet. Wash patient down in room.

Sponge and towel - For cooling the patient during a high temperature fever

Toilet pan - Human wastes can be disposed of down normal toilets. Disinfect

Toilet paper - Human wastes with strong bleach solution before leaving room or disposal.

Nappies - Large disposable nappies may be needed for invalid patients.


Clean room daily with disinfectant (bleach solution).

Full protective clothing to be worn at all times when entering the room.

Keep doors closed at all times and outside windows open.

Outside the room

Large bucket with lid for contaminated equipment, materials, protective gear, patient clothes or linen.

Shower curtain over door to create a double barrier.(optional).

Safety procedures after leaving the room

Seal door if possible.

Remove all protective clothing very carefully and place in a plastic bag in a bin with a lid.

Remove gloves, wash and disinfect hands, then remove goggles, gown and lastly mask.

Wash hands and face with alcohol, and then with soap.

Check temperatures of other family members twice daily.

Contaminated clothing and equipment in the bin needs to be soaked in disinfectant then washed before reuse (or boiled if appropriate). Wear gloves when sterilising.

If the infected person needs to leave the room they must wear full protective clothing so as to not contaminate anyone or thing. Other family members need to vacate the area.


How to Survive the Bird Flu

Social distance and Isolation


If you caught a cold or flu last season you are a candidate for being infected with bird flu. You will need to change your social and hygiene habits. H5N1 is a flu and will spread like one, mainly by close contact with infected people.


Avoid crowded situations and events. Schools, festivals and work places will most likely be banned. Always wear a 95% efficient mask in public places and goggles if you need to. Keep your distance from suspected infected people (1 to 2 metres). Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Disinfect yourself and your clothes immediately on returning home to avoid infecting others.


It would be appropriate for very young babies, pregnant or breastfeeding females, very elderly people and other immune compromised people to remain isolated as much as possible during the duration of the first pandemic wave or until an effective vaccine becomes available. The mortality rate in the 1918 Spanish flu was almost 70% for pregnant females. The effectiveness of current vaccines being made now is in doubt.


The strategy that I am using is to store 3 to 4 weeks of normal tinned and dried food in case of forced or voluntary quarantine or shortages due to panic buying. I will also have 6 months supply of cheap bulk food such as rice and flour just in case the worst scenario occurs. This will give me some breathing space to adapt to changing circumstances. I live in an area where water supply and heating is not a concern.


Preparation and Planning

People’s lives will be significantly affected in some way. The first stage of preparation is to rationally assess your own particular circumstances in a realistic way. Think of what you need to have or to do in order to survive and to minimise the potential trauma during and after the pandemic. As with a severe storm it will be impossible to know exactly when the pandemic will start or how severe the pandemic will be. For potential survival circumstances a person is wise to plan for the worst case situation because it may be too late to change preparations whilst the pandemic is happening. To do this successfully a person need to be informed.


Begin buying your supplies now in case shop supplies dry up from panic buying or disruption to transport systems etc. Prepare yourself emotionally for a potential worst case scenario occurring in your family. Make your survival plans now while you have the time to carefully think about them. Decisions made in stressful circumstances are often flawed.


Serious consideration will be needed for planning for alternative birthing centres. Since 70 % of pregnant mothers died during the Spanish flu hospitals overflowing with bird flu patients would be one place to avoid. Adequate first aid supplies will be needed at home if the health systems become overwhelmed. Important renewable prescription drugs may need to be stock up in advance if doctor services are stretched.


Consideration is needed for young children and the elderly. Plans need to be made in case their parents or carers are too sick to care for them. Similarly for people in institutions such as prisons and nursing homes.


Since schools are renown spreading diseases they will be the first to be closed. Plans will be needed to look after the children if both parents work. Working parents will need to have strategies for not bringing the disease home with them to their families. Shopping for food in crowded supermarkets will involve some risk.


Possible secondary impacts from a severe pandemic will be the operations of business and services. Tourism, restaurants, theatres and other businesses catering for large crowds will be the first affected. Trade with other countries will slow down especially if countries totally close the borders. A global depression would be unavoidable which will then affect almost everyone.


Any of the following services could be disrupted causing severe hardships – electricity, gas, water, sewerage, garbage collection, mail service, telephones, television, computer networks, council services, fire, ambulance, police, emergency services, courts, transport, pension and unemployment services, banking services, funeral and mortuary services and many more businesses and services we take for granted.


During a severe pandemic it will be unlikely that most families will be able to remain totally isolated even if they have sufficient provisions. Desperate people may intrude upon your privacy looking for supplies. Unprepared neighbours, relations, friends or just desperate people may call on your family for help.


It is normal healthy human behaviour to help others from suffering. Think about having extra supplies on hand to help those around you who were not prepared for a severe pandemic. Ultimately a community that works together has a better chance of survival. This is why I am helping you to become prepared instead of keeping this information to myself. It’s a better way to live.


Improving your immune system naturally

As with most influenza viruses the best defence is to have a strong immune system through a

healthy body. Start improving your health now by eating wisely and through exercise. Since commercial antivirals and vaccines will not be available to most people for the first wave of a pandemic we will need to rely on popular folk medicines and natural immune boosting foods to help us during a severe pandemic. Popular folk medicines are often proven effective more times than not.


Since there is little profit for drug companies to research these common folk medicines and foods there is only a small amount of scientific data available validating their effectiveness or not. Most of this scientific data usually does not include data from expensive human trials. Using a combination of folk medicines and associated scientific research it is possible to determine whether a particular folk medicine may be a potential helpful substance against H5N1 infection. It is still better than nothing.


Some research needs to be undertaken to show that the folk medicine being used will not potentially make the condition worse. This situation is a real possibility. For example, some very good antiviral folk medicines normally used for alleviating common influenzas stimulate the production of the toxic cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. These folk medicines may actually make the H5N1 influenza infection lethal buy creating a cytokine storm. It has also been shown that some folk medicines adversely affect the effectiveness of other drugs. Check with your doctor about this.


During infection these natural folk medicines can usually be increased without causing damaging side effects, unlike many commercial drugs. Actual dosages may be obtained at the health or chemist stores where these folk medicines can be purchased.


Three strategies for reducing infection by the H5N1 Bird Flu virus

1) Reducing the viral load

The initial numbers of invading H5N1 Bird Flu viruses need to be reduced so the body’s own defence system will not be overwhelmed. This means to destroy as many invading H5N1 Bird Flu viruses as soon as possible as they enter the body to make it easier for the body’s own immune system to cope. This is usually achieved by using commercial antiviral drugs. Since the commercial antivirals, Tamiflu and Relenza, will most likely not be available due to limited supply and production, then people will have to resort to natural antivirals found in common foods. The only other two commercial antivirals available have a history of serious side effects and are not recommended by the World Health Organisation as a treatment.


Start building up the natural antivirals in your body. Having a build up of antivirals in the body during a flu season will decrease the viral load that your immune system has to destroy. The antivirals only help the immune system to cope and not be overwhelmed by a sudden large amount of completely new viruses that the body has not yet developed antibodies for. Natural antivirals only last for about 3 hours in the body so regular doses must be maintained. Eating different antiviral foods at different times can do this. (see Folk Medicines)


2) Reducing the production of the inflammatory cytokines TNF-a and IL-6

The production of the immune systems natural toxic and inflammatory antivirals (cytokines TNF-a and IL-6) needs to be suppressed to prevent death by a cytokine storm.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu, large numbers of very healthy people died from a Cytokine storm. (see Symptoms) Finding suitable substances that may reduce a cytokine storm would be a priority for most people.

Foods and folk medicines that stimulate production of the toxic inflammatory cytokines, TNF-a and IL-6 in the immune system would need to be avoided. Other foods containing chemicals that will suppress the production of these two inflammatory cytokines may be beneficial providing they do not totally suppress the rest of the immune system’s production of helpful cytokines.

(increased inflammatory cytokines are also associated with migraines)


3) Boosting the Immune System

Finally the immune system needs to be boosted without increasing the toxic cytokines TNF-a and IL-6.There are many natural foods that help boost the body’s immune system. However, some of these need to be avoided as they also increase the production of TNF-a and IL-6 cytokines. Some foods simply supply the immune system with the appropriate nutrients for antibody production. There is only recent research on these nutrients, called glyconutrients. Adequate supply of these nutrients facilitates the healing process.

Other natural foods may stimulate production of helpful cytokines but not the inflammatory cytokines. These are the substances that could be appropriate as a natural medication.



Folk Medicines and Herbs to use and avoid with Bird Flu - Tamiflu and Relenza Alternatives


Below is a list of foods that are said to contain substances that are natural antivirals, immune boosters or they decrease cytokines TNF-a and IL-6.


Tamiflu and Relenza are not only expensive, but is also in short supply, and in times of a pandemic we will need to rely on what mother nature has to offer.


Alternative medications that are most likely to help us during a severe pandemic

Garlic (allicin) - Very effective antiviral. Best if fresh (raw) and crushed. Must be consumed within 1 hour of crushing. Dosage is initially 2 to 3 cloves per day but later reduce until no body odour occurs. No toxic effects noted. (Pubmed PMID 9049657)


Vitamin C - Boosts the immune system and is an antiviral by blocking the enzyme neuraminadase. Viruses need neuraminadase to reproduce. There are anecdotal stories of people taking large amounts of Vitamin C (children ½) surviving the Spanish Flu. Research shows that it may reduce the production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. A study on 470 people involved giving the test group 1000 mg hourly for 6 hours and then 1000 mg 3 times daily after reporting flu symptoms. Symptoms decreased by 85%. (Pubmed PMID 10543583, 634178, 16169205, 12876306)


Green Tea (possible Tamiflu/Relenza alternative)- Very effective antiviral. Also decreases the production of the cytokine (catechins) TNF-a. Inhibits neuraminidase. May have antiviral activity that is equal to other antivirals such as Tamiflu ( Pubmed PMID 16137775 )


St Johns Wort (Hypericum) - Very effective antiviral. Also decreases the production of the cytokine IL-6. Hypericum is an extract from St John’s Wort. There have been some very successful field trials in commercial flocks infected with H5N1 in Vietnam. (Pubmed PMID 7857513, 11518071, 11362353, 7857513, 11518071)

Vitamin E Immune booster. Also decreases the production of the cytokine TNF-a. (Pubmed PMID 155882360, 10929076) Experiments involved using mice. Very suitable for immune compromised people, especially the elderly. Effects enhanced when taken with Vitamin C.


Apple Juice - Antiviral. Fresh apple juice including the pulp and skin has greater antiviral activity than heated commercial apple juice. More research is needed. Effectiveness on H5N1 is unknown (Pubmed PMID 32832, 12452634)


Resveratrol - Antiviral. In addition to inhibiting neuraminidase, Resveratrol also sends a message to cells to stop manufacturing viruses. This is a proven antiviral found naturally in red wine, peanuts, mulberries, Japanese Knotwood root (richest source), raisins and red grapes.

Resveratrol supplements are relatively inexpensive, are more stable than wine and is available in liquid form for absorption in the mouth. No toxic effects noted. (Pubmed PMID 1583880, 12817628, 15985724)


Scuttellaria (Skullcap)- Antiviral. A herb used as a tea. It has no side effects and is also a mild tranquilliser. Research suggests neuraminidase, which is a substance needed by the H5N1 Bird Flu virus to reproduce, may be inhibited..


Cranberry Juice - Early research shows that it may be an antiviral, making viruses less able to invade or multiply. Effectiveness on H5N1 is unknown (Pubmed PMID15781126)


Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)- Decreases the production of the cytokine TNF-a. Also boosts immune system. The number of white blood cells was significantly increased during treatment. No toxicity was noted. (www.uspharmacist.com..id 844)

(www. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez..t_uids=10962207) Active constituents can be found in the leaves, bark, vine, and roots. Water extraction from bark used.

Children and pregnant women are to avoid. Has a potentially damaging effect on the DNA of proliferating cells (cancers, foetuses, growing children)


Curcumin (Tumeric Spice) - Decreases the production of the cytokine TNF-a. This is the yellow compound in turmeric spice. Research shows that this may be very good for preventing a cytokine storm although this is not proven (www.pdrhealth. com/drug_info/cur_0087), (enzy.com/abstracts/display1961)

Must be taken with food or gastritis or peptic ulcers may occur.

Pregnant women and feeding mothers should avoid this. The medicinal properties of curcurnin cannot be utilised when used alone due to rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal wall. When combined with Piperine found in black pepper the absorption is increased with no adverse effects.(www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/pip_0322)

Obtainable from health stores in tablets, liquid, capsules already combined with piperine. Dosage is 500mg to 4000mg daily.


Astragalus root (Astragali Radix) - Boosts immune system (Pubmed PMID15588652)


Tea tree Steam Inhalation - Reduces the cytokine TNF-a. Add 2 drops of tea tree oil in a bowl of steaming water. Cover head with a towel and inhale for 5 to 10 minutes. Relieves congestion and fights infection. Its effectiveness is unknown. (Pubmed PMID 11131302)


The following substances may be best to avoid during a H5N1 pandemic:


Elderberry juice (Sambucal) - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. This substance is very effective against the common flu but may not be desirable for the H5N1 Bird Flu virus. Increases in these cytokines may trigger a lethal cytokine storm. (Isr Med Journal2002 Nov;4:944-6)


Micro Algae (Chlorella and Spirulina) - Increases production of cytokine TNF-a (Pubmed PMID 11731916)


Honey - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6 (Pubmed PMID12824009)


Chocolate - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6 (Pubmed PMID 12885154, PMID 10917928)


Echinacea - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. Although it is often used for normal flu, research shows that it may increase the chance of cytokine storms for H5N1 (Pubmed PMID 15556647, 9568541)


Kimchi - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6 (Pubmed PMID15630182)


Dairy products & Bananas - These foods increase mucous production.


Link to comment

Thanks for taking the time to put this all in one stream Teaberry, this has to be the most complete work on the bird flu that I have seen to date. I have it saved and printed out.


Notice the 10th line from the bottom about Sambucol, I know a lot of posts here on Mrs S have been about this elderberry extract.


Link to comment

Teaberry this is a good find. I'm not sure of his accreditation as he is a biology teacher not a research biologist but the information seems consistant with what research I've been doing. It certainly seems to be a fairly thorough research on the subject. I noticed that he has elderberry and some of the other immune inhancing herbs listed as those that might be counter productive to the Avian Flu,(including honey and chocolate



Link to comment
Elderberry juice (Sambucal) - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. This substance is very effective against the common flu but may not be desirable for the H5N1 Bird Flu virus. Increases in these cytokines may trigger a lethal cytokine storm. (Isr Med Journal2002 Nov;4:944-6)

Does this mean we shouldn't use it?
Link to comment

I'm glad you all are finding the information useful. My dh found it last night when I showed him Darlene's information about the Russian scientist warning it could be one step away from mutating. I especially appreciate the description of how best to sanitize and hopefully care for a family member without getting personally infected.


Personally I am planning on setting up a consultation appointment with my doctor to ask what he knows about the cytokene storm and reactions to different substances. He's pretty good about staying abreast of alternative remedies and such so I'm hoping he can be helpful.


It can be confusing. I agree. I've heard everything from A to Z on masks and would like to get more definitive answers on that too. I read somewhere that the mask should only be worn by the sick person to help keep from spreading the virus. Then another article said for healthy people to wear a mask everywhere they go! I tend to opt for the latter as it's harder to lose with that option, but I'm sure not having a false sense of security while using it either.


I do know this: If this BF happens most people around us all will still be in denial while we're all taking it seriously. I bet my dh will have to just tell his boss he must take time off work for vacation because the company won't take BF seriously if it's gone human-to-human in another part of the world. The American mentality seems to be that bad things always happen "someplace else." People may think they're safe for weeks or months because of the ignorance on this issue. We may all find ourselves wearing masks days before other people begin to, if we're out in public at all.



Link to comment
Elderberry juice (Sambucal) - Increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. This substance is very effective against the common flu but may not be desirable for the H5N1 Bird Flu virus. Increases in these cytokines may trigger a lethal cytokine storm. (Isr Med Journal2002 Nov;4:944-6)

Does this mean we shouldn't use it?
I am confused..

From what I've read, it depends. We just don't know yet.

I am of the camp that believes that using elderberry before symptoms occur, if you've been exposed, could keep the viral load down enough to avert a cytokine storm.

Others see that as too risky. It's a gamble each person will have to decide for themselves. Unfortunately, we won't know for sure until it's too late.
Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.