Posts Tagged ‘H5N1’

A Collection of Thoughts

Apr 26th, 2009

A few thoughts this week, mainly as none of them were substantial enough for a full blog post.

Swine Flu

Jumping in first on the topic which is most likely to generate general interest, I’d once more like to point people at the post I wrote covering the H5N1 virus. Anton Vowl, over at ‘The Enemies of Reason’ also has a bit to say about the way the media are treating the incident, namely: Aaaargh! We’re all gonna die! Noooooooooooo!

Still, I suppose it makes a break from everyone being unemployed and moneyless.


This week I joined many other internet geeks, reminiscing about Geocities. This week Yahoo! announced that it would be closing the long running web host. In the mid to late 90s, Geocities provided the free, simple to use web space which played host to many a first website, including my own.
The sites were, on the large part, terrible. They had garish textured backgrounds, which made it difficult to read the text, and which often had noticeable seams, or induced stereoscopic effects. Animated gifs were used unnecessarily, with no concern for anti-aliasing and annoying, repetitive midi files played automatically in the background. Some text would blink on and off,whereas other text would scroll incessantly.
Most of these crimes against web design are long since extinct, confined only to MySpace and a few unread blogs. Sure, garish talking flash ads still do their own part to ensure that the web is that bit more annoying to surf, but they are an external influence, not something added directly by the site owner. In the Geocities era it was still terribly annoying design, but it was OUR terribly annoying design, and part of me will be sad to see the back of it.

New Phone

This weekend also saw me upgrading my phone, as well as spending several hours trying to convince three that I really didn’t need two accounts with them. I realise that I should probably have followed their usual upgrade protocol, but the handset I wanted wasn’t in stock, and at the time they implied that meant I’d have to choose another handset. Turns out I could have still chosen the handset I wanted; it would just have taken a bit longer to arrive. When I tried to close the old account they decided to explain all this to me, and encourage me to take the new handset back, to allow me to obtain a new, identical, handset in its place, with all the heading off to strange delivery depots that this entailed. Sure I could keep my number, but considering that I had already sent out masses of text messages giving people my new number, this no longer seemed like such a benefit. I was also unconvinced by the fantastic benefit of the loyalty points I had accumulated, when I realised that the 32p per month saving on my tariff seemed to mysteriously match up with the 2.5% reduction in VAT, which three don’t remove until the final stage of the billing process. It took me a while to convince the ‘customer retention program’ of this, and involved being on hold for an hour to an empty office. Thanks three.

The main reason I was upgrading was to take advantage of an included data-plan, without any increase in my monthly payments. The ability to access the internet on the move would be incredibly useful for things like Google maps, price checking, and of course, twitter. As an added benefit, three also offer unmetered Skype traffic, , which is bound to prove useful.

When I entered the store I was interested in looking at the INQ1, which the three brochure had advertised as the only phone on the plan. The handset looked functional enough, and felt solid in the hand, but I was a little bothered by style, which felt as though it was aimed at a market a good few years younger than me. There was also the concern that many of the features were very embedded in the phone, and although accessing facebook while on the move is a nice feature, I’m not sure that I need it tied in to the very centre of my handset.

Instead I went for the more adult looking Nokia E63. I’ve had good past experience with Nokias, and hoped that the Symbian operating system would prove a bit more flexible than the INQ1’s proprietary system. The WiFi support in the E63 will also be a nice feature to take the load off my, admittedly huge, data allowance.

I had mistakenly believed that the E63 had an inbuilt GPS reciever, after misunderstanding an entry in the menu. However, on subsequently playing with it, I have discovered that its Mobile mast triangulation system is stunningly accurate, and Google maps was able to place me at the correct corner of a crossroads.


Apr 6th, 2006

With the BBC reporting a possible case of H5N1 found in a dead swan in Scotland (Only a few miles from me incidently) I thought I’d post a few thoughts I’ve been having.As yet it hasn’t been confirmed that this is a case of H5N1, but just of the same family of viruses.

As well as the undue panic ispired in some sections of the populations, some people appeared to have taken the opposite tack. “Pah!” they say, “A complete waste of time. They spend so much time focusing on brid flu and it will come to nothing, just like SARS. Its all unecessary fearmongering.” Now, I’m not about to deny that certain sections of the media have got carried away, but I will argue that health officials are taking a thoroughly sensible approach.
The treatment of bird flu (H5N1) by the world health organisation and other health officials is exactly as it should be. They have identified a virus that poses a possible threat in causing a global pandemic and are carefully monitoring its progress and studying mutations. This has two benefits, firstly it will allow a rapid response should the virus mutate or recombine with a human flu virus. A rapid response will hopefully contain an outbreak, reducing the need for vaccines and anti-virals, and will also help the deployment and development of drugs as necessary. Secondly, even if H5N1 never mutates, something else eventually will. The study of the spread of H5N1 will allow better prediction with regard to future outbreaks and also in identifying possible endemic viruses early in their life. This is especially relevant when it is realised that the 1918 flu virus began as a avian strain.

Of course, if the virus does mutate and the WHO is successful in containing the virus, then they will be accused of scaremongering and wasting time.

At the moment H5N1 hasn’t mutated, and so now it not the time to run around like headless chickens panicking. (A fault, partly, of the media) Conversely however there is a threat, and it is one worth monitoring. Even if this one doesn’t come to anything, one eventually will, and the more we can learn now the better.

I also wish to add that even without human risk, this virus is of concern to poultry farmers. (Foot and mouth for example harmed the livestock industry and posed no threat whatsoever to humans.)